The Brentford Breakdown

What is happening at Stoke? Years and managers have been and gone but the same issues seem to persist and on this seasons showings so far, they show no signs of going away. Before any criticism starts though, Brentford are perhaps the most underrated team in the division and a draw although not ideal is far from a disaster.

The first two games have seen us face sides who use intricate patterns when attacking, finding space between the lines and are very adept at playing out from the back, three things we just haven’t managed to achieve yet. Being outplayed by these teams at the start of the season should be seen as a positive though as it highlights our shortcomings off the ball.A high press is key in the Championship because most teams aren’t’ very good under pressure, Leeds and Brentford notable exceptions, but once fitness levels increase and players begin to gel together, the ability to press as a cohesive unit will become more and more apparent.

However, schoolboy defending and an inability to cope with pace has been our achilles heel for years now. I am very sorry to all Ryan Shawcross fans out there, he is indeed a legend and shouldn’t be completely dropped from the squad but he is finished and has been since his back injury, but it’s becoming clearer each week.

His distribution was an issue once again, a consistent inability to complete simple passes put us under constant pressure and resulted in a pass completion rate of 42% which is quite frankly embarrassing. Equally poor were James McClean and surprisingly, Joe Allen. Nobody expected McClean to become the main man but so far he looks like he won a competition to play for Stoke.

I never thought I would see a worse crosser of the ball than Erik Pieters but it looks like he has been found. Meanwhile, Allen seems to have become some sort of parody of himself after being one of if not the only player to perform consistently this season. He was seen as the main signing of the Summer but so far this season his ball retention and breaking up of play have been relatively poor, particularly by his own standards.

Despite another poor display, the positives were clear to see. Firstly, Bojan. It was fairly obvious that he would be the main creator this season and that was the case on Saturday too. He changed the game against Leeds and the game changed when he came off against Brentford, presumably down to match fitness. Although the transition between defence and attack wasn’t too slick just yet, Bojan helped to advance the ball through the thirds in a way that nobody else could, with his understand with Tom Ince and Benik Afobe particularly good.

Secondly, a natural number 4 helped to create a little more solidarity in midfield but an upgrade on Darren Fletcher is definitely needed before the end of the loan window as Sam Clucas is not an ideal fit for that position. The first two games have been particularly difficult with the true test of the staff and the squad coming up over the next few weeks.

Written by George Eltringham

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