After the Whistle – 24/09/2016

This is going to be one of the most decisive episodes of After the Whistle yet. Saturday’s performance did one of two things for you… The fact that we yet again failed to win, against what is a bang average/below average side, meant that you were pushed over the edge and can see no way back for Hughes. Or, you saw the positives and decided that because of the manner in which we went down fighting, and it gave you hope.

My name isn’t the Pessimistic Stokie for nothing, I’ll give you one guess which side of the fence I fell on…

Issue 1.) Set pieces

The biggest elephant in the room surely? Our failure to defend at set pieces has yet again cost us points, and these two points dropped could be the most vital that we’ve lost in a long time. I don’t know how it is possible for a team to be so poor at defending from a set piece, but team after team are taking advantage of it, and it should come as no surprise that Tony Pulis’ West Brom have done it again.

Marc Wilson left after saying we do no training at defending, whilst I don’t believe that, it is becoming a worry that despite multiple staff members coming out in the past few weeks saying how hard we are working at defending, we still have the very same issues time and time again.

Issue 2.) Failing to finish off a game

Just like against Hull in midweek we once again went 1-0 up against a lesser opposition. The only difference, this time, was that we had actually looked solid at the back all game and we had dominated up front. However, failure to push on and finish off a game came back once again to bite us.

In total, Stoke had 2 shots on target, given how much we dominated the game that simply isn’t good enough. Shaqiri looked incredible in his return match, and I genuinely believe that he put in one of his best performances in a Stoke shirt. However, the failure of our strikers and midfielders to do anything creative or with a killer instinct once inside the opponent’s final third really let us down.

For a team that has ambitions (Nearly impossible at this stage) of Europe, only recording two shots on target is a serious issue. Hughes (Or whoever comes in next), needs to start figuring out why we lack such an important killer instinct.

Issue 3.) Substitutions

Jesus christ I feel like I say this most weeks. Mark Hughes is the worst manager for making substitutions that impact our game in a positive way. Why bring Crouch on for Bony at that stage of the game when you could have brought on Diouf, and pushed Diouf out wide and brought on Crouch at a later stage when Shaqiri had to go off? However, it gets worse, because the fact that he brought Charlie Adam (Who was awful on Wednesday) on for Joe Allen blows my mind. If it was to sure up our defence then I would say that we should never feel safe enough to defend a one goal lead, two should be our minimum.

Hughes could have brought on either Imbula or Bojan (Who didn’t even play on Wednesday) and our team would have looked X100 better going into the final few minutes.

Issue 4.) Sobhi and Bojan?

Along a similar vein of argument, where the hell was Sobhi? After his performance against Hull there was absolutely no reason for him not to be included in the match day squad. And Bojan had been completely rested in midweek but still didn’t make it onto the pitch? It is decisions like these that seriously make me question whether or not Hughes is the right person for us anymore. He seems to lack a complete sense of tactics, or even an ideology of how he wants to play football anymore. Bojan was Hughes’ star player in his first year, now he is an afterthought.

The decision to put Charlie Adam in the squad over Sobhi, a ready-made winger (Which was exactly what we needed given that Shaqiri was just returning from injury and wouldn’t see 90 minutes) is absolutely unforgivable and I am of the firm belief that Hughes’ substitutions cost us that game.

Issue 5.) No clean sheet since March? Wow…

Who the hell would have thought this would be the case when Butland first got injured? Our inability to keep out the opposition is increasingly scary. Teams must be coming to the bet365 with the expectation of scoring goals, which should have every Stoke player livid. Our team needs to start finding the key to clean sheets, otherwise, our luck isn’t going to turn around anytime soon.

Admittedly our defence did look much more solid this weekend, however, this was no doubt down to the fact that Hughes played two CDM’s in Cameron and Whelan, rather than the usual one. So… Hughes nearly made a smart decision, however, playing two CDM’s stifled our creativity going forward, and when all was said and done we failed to keep the ball out of our own net.

It’s all looking pretty dull at the moment and I’ve ran out of excuses for saying #HughesOut, so I put the question to you all. Given how we have played recently and given our lack of clean sheets, what is the answer to all our problems? Should we replace Hughes with the likes of Mancini? Should we fresh some young blood in the team? Should we drop the Pulis era players? Let us know in the comments if you’re reading on Facebook, or drop us a reply if you’re on Twitter.

Written by Mitch Adams

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