The Prodigal Son Must Return

As everyone should have realised by now Mark Hughes is very much set in his ways. He seems to lack the capability of thinking through a Plan B and his in-game management is mediocre at best. Therefore it is more crucial than it has ever been that as a club we get everything right the first time around, whilst conforming to Hughes’ values.

I for one am an avid supporter of the Hughes Out club, I have been since the end of last season and the entirety of this one. However, it is clear that Peter Coates is going to give the man who broke us into the top half more time. So with this is mind I’ve been trying to think of ways in which our team can start performing well again, whilst being realistic with what Mark Hughes is actually likely to do.

It seems pretty obvious to a large part of our fan-base that Hughes has no faith in any of his strikers, however, the Welshman seems to have an odd affinity with our oldest striker, Peter Crouch. Having not scored a goal in the Premier league since our 6-1 thrashing of Liverpool in 2015 (Back when N’Zonzi still played for us) the 35-year-old striker is still finding his way onto the first team sheet ahead of younger strikers such as Bony and Diouf (Our top goal scorer in the one season he actually played consistently as a striker).

Whilst this seems nonsensical to most Stoke fans, after the impact that Crouch had on the game against Chelsea, it is unlikely that we’re going to see him dropped anytime soon (Although given Hughes’ lax attitude towards team selection this wouldn’t come as a surprise). So how do we make the most of a situation where our wingers play on the wrong sides to be able to cross the ball effectively, and our wingbacks aren’t natural to that role at all? Well, I believe the answer was seen during the build-up to our second goal against title contenders Chelsea. It was the link up play between Peter Crouch and the long forgotten Bojan which crafted enough space for a cross to be put into Crouch’s feet for a pretty simple goal.

This build up play reminded me of what we used to see during Bojan’s first season with the club, prior to his injury when he was hitting heights that he hasn’t quite seen again. During that first season the majority of his time he spent playing in the space behind Peter Crouch. The two would combine excellently, with Crouch’s hold up play and ability to move the ball out quickly, and Bojan making the most of that to run at the opposition or hurry the ball out to a dangerous position on the wings (Much like at Chelsea).

With AFCON just around the corner, it is imperative that we start to play in this way again. Bojan needs to return to our starting line-up and he needs to play behind Peter Crouch. I’m not a fan of Crouch, but I really do believe that if the partnership is given time again, then it will start to flourish, and unless new strikers are brought in, then a solid partnership over January is exactly what we need up front.

Playing the two men together won’t solve all our problems, but it will go a damn long way to helping.

Do you disagree? Or maybe for once people agree with me? Either way, sound off in the comments below!

By Mitch Adams

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