After The Whistle
When the team sheet was announced I have to admit that I was amongst a large number of Stoke fans who were cautiously optimistic for our chances in this match. Unlike the Liverpool game, you could argue that this was an incredibly strong side we put out. Every player on our side is playing in a position that they’re either a natural at or as in Cameron’s case, has an entire season’s experience playing there.
So what went wrong? How did a team with such quality, with such experience, crumble so badly at the hands of a very good and young Spurs side?
Before the game, on my Twitter, I predicted a 4-1 win for Spurs. I don’t call myself the pessimistic Stokie for nothing. But never did I think that my prediction would be too generous to us. Conceding 4 goals in two games straight is embarrassing and there are some serious issues with our team…. Let’s take a look at them.
Issue 1: The Players are on holiday
I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again, every single player on that pitch (With the exception of Shay Given, who was left helpless by our defence, and Afellay who was the only outfield player to maintain some dignity) was playing as if their heads are on the beach. The team have nothing left to fight for and it has been showing for the past three or four weeks now.
With one win out of six you have to question the desire of the team to finish as high as possible. Let’s face it, Europe is done for, we’re now fighting to finish 9th, and with Chelsea hot on our tails I can’t even see us holding on to that position. Arnautovic seemed disinterested from the second he came out for the warm up, and that isn’t exaggeration.
No-one seemed committed, no one fought for the second ball, hell no one even put a foot or a head in to fight for the first one. You have to question the attitude of those players and if they continue to fight with the same commitment as today then you really have to wonder if we’re going to win again this season.
Issue 2: Our Defending
I said it last week and it pains me to have to bring it up again, but considering Hughes (more on him later) said that defending is something they’ve been working on all week, it only seems to have become worse. The gaps that Shawcross and Cameron left were horrendous, giving Lloris plenty of room to hoof his goal kicks upfield, skip out our entire team, find Dele Alli in a space all of his own on our back line and allow him to go on to score his first goal.
Prior to the last few weeks Wolly had been my controversial choice for player of the season, however at Liverpool and last night against Spurs, he was simply dreadful. His passes were going all over the place, he was seriously struggling to cope with the pace of the Spurs players who were relentless in attacking him.
Over at LB Muniesa was pretty ineffectual, however I would say that he was still the best defender we had out there. On one or two occasions he provided decent support going forward… and that’s about it I guess. However he was far better than our other fullback.
Geoff Cameron. The man isn’t made for the RB position, despite how many times he’s played there for us. I would much rather have seen Bardsley starting there for us. The amount of times that I saw Cameron bomb forward towards the Spurs final third, before suddenly hitting the breaks and turning, was infuriating. He was in part responsible for the space left on the back line and he was responsible for our stop start nature going forward.
I have nothing positive to say about his performance. I hate that I have so much bad to say about our defence again this week.
Issue 3: Mark Hughes’ post-match comments
I’m grateful that I’m not the only one who thinks this, because I consider myself an avid Mark Hughes supporter, and unless things take a drastic turn at the club I will not be one of the people joining the #HughesOut campaign. However, for once can the man step up and just admit that we played atrociously? Not once have I seen him step up and admit that. Yes he admitted that we were a million miles away defensively, but our defence wasn’t the whole problem. I feel that at this stage, either Hughes has given up on this campaign, or he is scared of upsetting the people in attack who he wants to convince to stay at the club (One of which is playing like he has already signed for another club, I’ll leave you to guess which one that is).
There were no apologies to the fans from Hughes which is something that grinds me as well. Despite the result, yesterday’s atmosphere was better than it has been all season and despite that result Hughes didn’t feel the need to apologise to the fans after conceding 4 goals in successive games? That’s appalling to me.
Issue 4: Our Forward Line
I may as well have split our entire squad up into three separate issues, because they were all that bad. However I’m going to let off our midfield players (Imbula and Whelan), because they were simply over run by the trio of Dembele, Alli and Eriksen. Not that this is a good enough excuse for the poor back tracking of Imbula, or the consistent back passes from Whelan.
Our forward line of Bojan, Afellay, Arnie and Shaq (Later Joselu), should have done far better however. We had two shots on target all game! Two shots! From 51% possession! Where have the days gone that we could beat the likes of Man City and Man U 2-0 at home in dominant displays? There is no chance of us seeing a performance like that again before the end of the season. I can remember roughly this time last year, maybe a few weeks earlier, we were all saying that it was only a matter of time before we gave someone a thrashing (And look what happened on the last day). There is none of that optimism around the club right now. We had a poor start to the season, a strong middle, and unlike the last two seasons we’re finishing it poorly as well.
Our attacking line up just aren’t linking up like they used to. No one is pressing the opposition back line, making runs in behind them and stretching them for players like Bojan to run into the gap they leave. It is poor to watch and embarrassing when we’ve spent over £30 million over the past two transfer windows.
Issue 5: Our remaining games
I’m going to do something different with this last issue and look to the future, in relation to the game that we’ve just seen. Given our performance yesterday, can you see us beating an in form Man City away from home? I can’t. Can you see us beating a Sunderland team fighting for their life? I can’t. Can you see us beating our bogey team Crystal Palace, who are just starting to find their feet again? I can’t. Can you see us beating West Ham, who are playing like one of the top clubs in the country? I certainly can’t.
I genuinely think that we have no wins left in our season. After a run of 1 win in 6 games we have set ourselves up appallingly for the run up to the end of the season, and after 3 such soul crushing defeats I really can’t see the team picking themselves up for the remaining games.
It would be an awful end to an indifferent season if we ended it on one of our worst runs in years.
At this point I just want the season to end, let’s get into that transfer window and bring in some fresh talent, preferably at RB, CM and a striker. Until we do bring in fresher and younger talent then I can’t see us maintaining the consistency over a season that is needed to make a serious attempt at the European places. Let’s just be grateful we had a decent cup run this year.
Written by Mitch Adams
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