Manuel Pellegrini’s side were out-played in every department as Marko Arnautovic scored twice from assists from the excellent Xherdan Shaqiri, and could easily have had a couple more at a windswept Britannia Stadium.
City’s defence have recorded just two clean sheets in the last 18 matches, after not conceding a goal in their opening five games of the season, and it is no coincidence the absence of captain Vincent Kompany to injury has affected their stability at the back.
But Hart, returning to the side after injury himself, and captaining in the absence of Kompany, believes they have enough quality to cope without the influential Belgium international.
“We’ve got a great squad and Vinny is a massive part of it but Nico (Otamendi), Martin (Demichelis) and Manga (Eliaquim Mangala –– suspended for the Stoke game) are good centre-halves,” he told CityTV.
“After a 2-0 loss, it’s probably easy to say, but we’ll stick together as a squad, work for each other and get through this.”
A fourth away game without a win — and the third in a row on the road without a goal — has seen City overtaken by Leicester and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League.
Hart admits they have to raise their game, starting tomorrow when they host Borussia Moenchengladbach needing a win and a favour from Sevilla to top their Champions League group — from which they have already qualified — to give them an easier quarter-final draw.
“At the level we’re playing at, we need to turn out performances of seven out of 10 at least every wee, and rely on some players to produce eights and nines,” added the England international.
“That’s how we should be playing, and we’re not. Credit to Stoke. I thought they deserved to win.
“Conditions were tough but that’s English football — it’s not like the wind got up four seconds before kick-off — we knew what we were coming into and Stoke knew what they were coming in to. A few lads are feeling it from the amount of games we’re playing but that’s not an excuse.”
Stoke’s US international Geoff Cameron helped keep Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva and Raheem Sterling in check at one end and suggested Stoke’s all-round performance was near perfect.
“You can’t say anything badly — we all played really, really well,” the 30-year-old American said.
“We worked for one other, pressured, made it difficult for them and dominated the play. We could have had more goals, more opportunities.
“Saying that, we kept a clean sheet, got two goals and are happy with the performance — two wins back to back, both at home, and we’re improving our home form.
“We know how difficult it is to play a team like Man City and the quality of players they have, but I think we nullified them and we were fantastic.”
Mark Hughes’ decision to utilise Bojan Krkic as a striker, with Arnautovic, Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay in behind, was a bold move, yet it paid dividends.
Cameron and Glenn Whelan provided the defensive protection in midfield and Cameron praised those ahead of him on the pitch for proving to be constant menaces.
“It allowed them to have the freedom. They pressured the ball. When the midfield slid over, we nicked the ball and then our first pass was to their feet, and they were running at them.
“When you’ve got their defenders running towards their own net, and we’re running with the ball, it’s always difficult. I thought we did that fantastically.
Those three guys — they gave them hell all game and they created a lot of things — Marko was unlucky not to finish with a hat-trick but I think everybody put in a performance, everybody did their jobs and worked for one another.”
Butland, Johnson, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Cameron, Whelan, Shaqiri (van Ginkel 77), Afellay (Walters 85), Arnautovic, Krkic (Joselu 72).
Hart, Sagna, Demichelis, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho (Delph 56), De Bruyne, Silva (Jesus Navas 62), Sterling, Bony (Iheanacho 57).