After the Whistle 10/09/16

Beginning to become a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? Today (Or yesterday depending on when this gets put up), a second half capitulation from Stoke saw Spurs as the away side romp to a 4-0 victory. After what seemed like a very promising first 20 minutes, Stoke decided that they wanted to make my job a rather easy one, and once the first goal had gone in there was never really any sign of us getting back into the game.

Usually when I sit down to write these blogs I have to take some time, usually about 10 or 15 minutes just to finalise what the five points that I want to pick apart are… not the case today. The following five issues with today’s game flow right off the tongue, so let’s not waste any more time and get straight down to it…

Issue 1 – Team selection

Mark Hughes has never been known amongst Stoke fans for being one to always play the side that everybody wants to see on the field. In fact, sometimes I’m sure he picks his team just to throw a curveball, when what’s needed instead is consistency. However, his continued obsession with not making the most of Bojan is leading me to believe that he’s just starting to take the piss.

On his day, Bojan can be our best player. He has shown it against Arsenal and Spurs to name just two, and yes whilst he hasn’t been at his best since his return from injury, he also hasn’t been given a solid run of games where he has played the full 90.

The inclusion of Walters out wide was also a weird one for me. A big deal was made out of the Ramadan Sobhi signing (And our Egyptian fans would argue that he’s worth the hype), and yet the young out and out winger is being placed on the bench, with Walters (The much much older striker) being started out wide. However, with that being said Walters was definitely not the worst inclusion in today’s team, and that brings me on to point number 2….

Issue 2- Whelan

Mark Hughes seems to have an obsession with playing the Irish central midfielder, yet every game he continues to show why he adds absolutely nothing to our team. Today he was tasked with sticking tight to Dele Alli, and he failed on almost every account. Despite his experience, Glenn was made to look foolish today on more than one occasion. The first of which was when Whelan decided that he had about 20 seconds on the ball longer than everyone else knew he would have and he promptly lost possession to Alli. That alone is bad enough, Glenn should be aware of his surroundings and should be able to make the space that he does have work. What made the situation worse, however, and this is something that Whelan is a frequent problem with Glenn, was that he then proceeded to throw his arms and blame Indi for the mistake, signalling that he should have been closer. No Glenn. Stop pointing, stop complaining and accept that you are prone to making mistakes.

Whelan shouldn’t have been starting today in the first place, any other combination than Allen, Imbula (Who also wasn’t great again today) and Bojan is wrong. But now that he has consistently been our worst player since the season started, hopefully, Hughes will have the balls to finally drop him.

Issue 3 – Creating chances

This is becoming all too common in these blogs. Once again Stoke fell victim to the fact that we find it impossible to create chances when we finally reach the final third. A large part of this I would put down to the fact Hughes left our most creative player on the bench, but hey ho what do I know?

It is all very well and good that we’ve signed an outstanding striker for the season in Bony (He was arguably our best player), but he simply wasn’t being fed the ball enough.The fact that we played Whelan and Walters is instantly hindering our ability to make those chances, and combined with the fact that our full backs are neither amazing at defending nor putting the ball into the box and we’re left with a real conundrum. Our only creative outlets are Allen, Imbula and Arnie in this situation and two of those are supposed to be Central Midfielders, that’s just mind-boggling to me.

If we feed Bony the service that he requires then the goals will come, and as I said earlier in the first 20 minutes we looked good. Bony’s link up play and ability to hold the ball up for others was first class. Hopefully, that will continue to build over the next few weeks and we can start putting balls into the back of the net.

Issue 4 – Chasing a game

Can anyone remember the last time we went behind in a game and came back to win it? It’s probably far more recent that I think it is, but nothing stands out to me. Once the team goes a goal behind (Which is happening all too often at the minute) they seem to lose whatever drive they had and everything starts to fall apart.

The problem here is that there’s no real solution for it. If the players don’t have the confidence in themselves then you can’t force it to appear. I think Hughes sees that too which is why he clearly told the players to go out there and give it their all for the first 30 minutes and try to nick the first goal.  Unfortunately, this often leaves the team highly exposed at the back (Especially the massive gap left by a wandering Whelan) and teams of any skill level are finding it easy enough to pick us apart on the break.

Issue 5 – Hughes Out? 

Controversial topic number 1 of the season. I warned about this the other week and I feel like at this stage the writing is already written on the walls for how a large portion of Stoke fans are going to start reacting towards Hughes. Having been a fervent supporter of Hughes throughout his tenure at Stoke, even I am beginning to question how long we keep him in the role.

Before those who are still stood by his side start throwing bricks (Or harsh internet words that make the baby Jesus cry), hear me out for one second… 3 wins since February

3 wins since February

26 goals conceded in our last 10 league games

7 goals scored in those 10 league games

6 Premier League wins in 2016

Those statistics are awful, there’s no discussion. With that being said I feel as though which side of the fence you fall on in regards to Hughes Out is going to depend on whether you believe that our form at the end of last season should come into the discussion. Having spoken with other Stoke fans (A mix of Hughes Out and Hughes In supporters), those who want Hughes Out are arguing that we SHOULD be considering what happened at the end of last year, and those who say give him more time are saying that we should conisder this season as entirely separate. I for one believe that time is running out on Hughes and that last season’s poor run at the end should not be ignored.

Let us know what you think, how many more games should Hughes be given? And should we be looking at last season’s end form to help lead the discussion? Until next week, enjoy the highlights on Match of the Day I guess….

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