Why Stoke can’t just “get rid”

Recently many fans have begun to turn on certain players, demanding they be replaced. But this fails to recognise that Stoke have transitioned as a club and the current crop of players are not as replaceable as the former individuals who made up the side.

In our most recent history the side has been made up of players who were somewhat easily replaced. Take for example Liam Lawrence, a key player in gaining Stoke’s promotion and securing our position in the league. But when he began to fall out with management and disrupt the harmony of the side he was swiftly replaced with Jermain Pennant, and Stoke were none the worse for the ordeal. Yet the current squad are of such a high quality of player that they will not be replaced with such ease.

Erik Pieters

Pieters is statistically one the best defenders in the Premier League. No defender tops his successful tackles made (72, only Everton’s midfielder Gueye has more) with the nearest competitor being 19 tackles behind the Dutchman.

Pieters made a costly mistake last weekend against Chelsea, which ultimately cost the Potters a point against the Champions elect. Yet this was his first defensive error of the season, currently 68 defenders have made one or more of these such errors, everyone makes mistakes.

Obviously Pieters is weak going forward, his crossing of late has been absolutely appalling, I’m not contesting that, but replacing his defensive output will be nigh on impossible. There are only two left backs (Fuchs and Monreal) to have completed more interceptions than Erik, and neither of them would be interested in a move to Staffordshire.

Do I think that Erik Pieters needs competition for his position? Of course, he is perhaps too comfortable with his place in the side. But it is not his fault that he is the only recognised left back we have, and selling him and signing another would simply replicated this problem.

Instead management should have been working closely with Pieters to find a solution to the issue that is his attacking output. We are unlikely to be able to sign someone much better than Erik Pieters, so we must an approach of improving and developing our own rather than looking elsewhere.

Xherdan Shaqiri

The criticisms being labelled against Shaqiri are verging on ridiculous. The Swiss international has recently gone through his longest injury absence since signing for the Potters. Yet some have taken to questioning his attitude suggesting he does not wish to be playing for Stoke, and arguing it’s pointless having a player who is never fit.

This, quite frankly, is bulls**t. Shaqiri has been available for 70% of matches since signing for Stoke last summer (54 out of 77 matches). And to question his output is ridiculous, he is clearly an improvement to the side. Stoke have gained 58 points from the 40 league games Shaqiri has played in, this is one of the best points totals for anyone in the side during this period.

I feel rather secure in saying that there is little to no chance that Stoke can replace Shaqiri with someone of likewise ability. In Ramadan Sobhi Stoke have a player who could grow into this role, but still remains someway off it, and his recent performances have shown promise, but certainly do not come near to the near god like performances that Shaqiri has provided.

It is bizarre and disheartening to see fans turning on players in this manner. Especially when the root causes of their drop in popularity can be traced back to issues outside of themselves (for Pieters it is a failure of management to assist him in his crossing woes and for Shaqiri it is clear that his fitness regime needs adjustment). Stoke are currently blessed with a crop of international stars the likes have never been seen before in North Staffordshire, do not quickly wish them away as their likes may never be seen again.

Written by Tom Thrower

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