I feel some Stoke fans have gone into a serious state of worry, seeing as we have not completed one transfer and, unfortunately, today were at the end of a 3-0 second half thumping. But it is essential that we remember that preseason is no way an indicator of things to come.
The match began with the Potters lining up in an unusual 5-4-1. Wilson, Wollscheid and Muniesa played in the centre of defence with Butland behind and Johnson and Pieters at wing back. The midfield was made up of the deeper sitting Adam and Lecygne, who had Imbula ahead of them and Bojan ahead of him. Joselu rounded up the formation as the lone striker. Ultimately the formation was not hugely successful as both Johnson and Pieters seemed to struggle to get into advanced positions and this left us very short of width in attack.
The first half was not a very eventful one. Burton settled into the game quicker and had the larger share of attacking play but struggled to create anything of note and Butland had little to do other than collect stray crosses that were floated into the box. Stoke meanwhile passed the ball from centre back to centre back to centre mid to goalkeeper to centre back to full back to… You know how it goes. Bojan was coming so deep that at times he was level with the two outside centre backs, as previously mentioned the formation did not suit the side, and they struggled to create any substantial play. However minutes before the break Joselu broke free of the defence and slotted the ball home, only to be called offside. The highlight prior to the break had to be the appearance of two cult legends in Mama Sidibe and Dionotan Texiera, both eagerly welcomed by the fans.
Stoke City had to come from behind to end their winless streak today and push the club to ninth spot in the Premier League, as they overcame West Ham United 2-1 on the final game of the season and the final game at the ‘Britannia’ Stadium. It seemed that the Potters’ dismal form would continue when Michail Antonio poked West Ham into a first half lead; but a charismatic second half turned it all around as goals from Giannelli Imbula and substitute Mame Diouf ended the 15/16 season on a high.
Hughes made a couple of notable changes to the XI that lost against Crystal Palace last week: Shay Given returned in goal for Jakob Haugaard, Philipp Wollscheid was reinstated to the defence as Phil Bardsley made way, utility man Geoff Cameron shifting to right-back. Jon Walters was preferred to Xherdan Shaqiri on the right-wing, Bojan started ahead of in-form Charlie Adam and the striker’s dice was rolled again and landed on Joselu, replacing Peter Crouch. The most significant absentee was for West Ham, who had Dimitri Payet out injured.
Stoke’s dismal April form has slouched it’s way into May as the Potters lost 2-1 to Crystal Palace in London this afternoon. Stoke looked to be back to winning ways after Charlie Adam’s goal midway through the first half, but a sub-standard second half saw Dwight Gayle score two goals to secure his club’s mathematical safety and extend Stoke’s winless run to nine games.
Since impressing Hughes sufficiently last week against Sunderland, the Stoke team was unchanged, with Marko Arnautovic passing his fitness test and Bojan remaining on the bench. Peter Crouch and Adam did enough last week to encourage Hughes to reward them with another stint away from the bench.
Palace started the more offensive team in the first half: it only took two minutes for Whelan to bring down Yannick Bolasie just outside the penalty area and collect a yellow card for his troubles. The resulting free kick was hit straight at Xherdan Shaqiri, the deflection off him nearly diverting past Jakob Haugaard into the net, luckily for Stoke it spun wide. Minutes later, Phil Bardsley brought down Gayle, who then appealed for a penalty; however not only did the referee let play continue, the contact was outside the area regardless. Palace kept charging at Stoke who had no choice but to sit deep and absorb the pressure, it was enough to restrict the Eagles enough to not trouble Haugaard too much.
Improved Potters disappointed right at the death
It just wasn’t to be for Stoke City today as they were left heartbroken right at the death, drawing 1-1 to Sunderland at the Britannia. A much improved Potters performance was rewarded with a Marko Arnautovic goal in the 50th minute and, despite a valiant effort to keep Sunderland at bay, a Jermaine Defoe injury time penalty was enough to reignite Sunderland’s survival hopes. Stoke created much more chances, looked more defensively sound and were generally revamped compared to the previous three games; but a host of missed golden opportunities and a couple of defensive scares all but foreshadowed a blow such as this.
Mark Hughes decided to juggle with his starting XI options once again: Jakob Haugaard kept his place after being substituted on last week, Geoff Cameron moved from midfield and filled the gap in central defence after Phil Wollsheid dropped to the bench, Erik Pieters returned rested ahead of Marc Muniesa, Charlie Adam filled the vacant midfield position, Xherdan Shaqiri returned to the side in place of Mame Diouf and Joselu made way for a rare outing for Peter Crouch.
Stoke conceded four goals for the third consecutive game as Manchester City cruised to a 4-0 win on Saturday afternoon in Manchester. There was little evidence of an upturn in form for the Potters after crushing defeats to Liverpool and Spurs in the build up to this game as Stoke couldn’t force another shock win (or goal) against City; meanwhile Fernando, Sergio Aguero from the penalty spot and two goals from Kelechi Iheanacho sealed another defensive nightmare. To compile the defeat further, before the game news broke that Ibrahim Afellay would be out until the end of 2016 with a knee ligament injury that occurred in Friday’s training, while Shay Given had to be substituted at half time with Haugaard coming in his place.
Stoke were forced into changes for their starting lineup once again as Geoff Cameron moved into the midfield for the injured Afellay as Bardsley came in, Mame Diouf came in the for the injured Xherdan Shaqiri and Joselu replaced compatriot Bojan.
“Outplayed”. “On holiday”. “T*ss”. Just a couple of the many angry views from disappointed Stoke fans on social media after this game.
Stoke conceded four goals for the second time in just over a week as they slumped to a sorry 4-0 loss against a magnificent Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night. Daring flashes up front were too few and far between for Stoke to challenge the Spurs goal, meanwhile Harry Kane and Dele Alli both bagged braces. Neutrals will admire the magnificent attitude, wonderful flair and defensive solidarity of the away team, but those connected to Stoke must worry about another terrible display from a team that look impotent, dejected and didn’t give any indication that there will be an upturn in form any time soon.
There were changes aplenty to the team that started at Anfield last weekend: Shay Given (happy 40th Birthday in advance) came in for Haugaard, Muniesa for the suspended Pieters and fit again duo Whelan and Arnautovic replaced Bardsley and Crouch, Bojan moving into the false nine role and Cameron to right back. It looked like an eleven who would be certain of solving the problems that surrounded Stoke against Liverpool and could cause Spurs an upset in their title charge.
Dismal defending results in Anfield anguish
Stoke City lost 4-1 this afternoon to fellow Europa League chasers Liverpool and makes that prospect look very bleak for the Potters with Stoke being overtaken by Liverpool in the table, leaving them ninth. Liverpool didn’t need to get out of second gear to comprehensively see off Stoke with the possibility of a reverse 6-1 thrashing well on the cards. A headed goal from Bojan midway through the first half cancelled out Alberto Moreno’s long range effort, but a Daniel Sturridge header followed up by two goals from Divok Origi was enough to take advantage of a Stoke defense that was less than convincing throughout the 90 minutes.
Stoke started the game with Peter Crouch up front ahead of Joselu, a surprise to many after encouragement from Mark Bowen in the week for the Spaniard to carry his momentum into the final games of the season. Xherdan Shaqiri and Ryan Shawcross came in for the injured duo of Glenn Whelan and Marko Arnautovic, with Geoff Cameron moving from centre-back into defensive midfield.
The beginning of the game showed signs of promise of Stoke in attack: Shaqiri looked to have Moreno’s number and tried to pick his way through the Liverpool defense. However, Bardsley gave away a seemingly needless free kick on Stoke’s right hand side which Liverpool took quickly, taking the majority of the Stoke players off guard. Alberto Moreno picked up the ball and sent a strike towards the Stoke goal and, despite none of his defenders helping out by not reacting to the play, deputy goalkeeper Haugaard saw the shot fly past his left hand side and crash into the net. Many thought that the big Dane could, and possibly should, have prevented Liverpool going into the lead in the 8th minute.