Stoke City must accept lowered expectations after poor start
Pundits had it down that Stoke City would run the Championship this season. But after nine matches the Potters find themselves hanging above the relegation zone. So where has it all gone wrong?
Although we are only just over a month into the campaign, Gary Rowett's side haven't really produced the goods. Many had backed them to produce from the get-go. They look great on paper, but the results haven't been acceptable. Nine points from as many games is immensely worrying for Stoke fans, as the expectation to do well is turning more into hope. With the joint-second worst defensive record in the Championship, there is certainly a cause for concern. Many fingers are being pointed at the players but also the manager too...
The most recent game ended in a 3-2 defeat at home to Blackburn Rovers. Stoke went 2-0 down during the first half. Not long after the second half started, Tony Mowbray's side made it 3-0. It wasn't until the 79th minute that the game changed. Stoke built up momentum and there was urgency for the ball. Who scored the goal to get them back into the game? Saido Berahino. After not scoring a league goal for over two years every Stoke fan was buzzing at the Bet365 Stadium.
Stoke's gameplay had changed around 75 minutes. Before that, there was no urgency. Passing around the back, side to side, no penetration up the field or making creative passes to advance an attack. The energy that Berahino showed lifted the fans in hope to take something from the game. Just a minute after Stoke's first, Berahino set up Tom Ince to make it 3-2. Could there be a comeback?
Stoppage time saw Berahino fouled in the area for a penalty. The perfect chance to make it 3-3. Surely it was in the script, right? Unfortunately not. The former West Bromwich Albion striker smashed the ball to the keeper's right and onto the bar. Perfect chance, completely wasted. Although the game ended 3-2 there was still sympathy for the ex-West Brom forward. However, knowing he got a goal and an assist is a sign of something to build upon. It's a step forward from how the club has been struggling; despite the loss against Blackburn.
One problem with Stoke right now is the mentality. The quality is there. Urgency is key and Gary Rowett needs to figure out who is actually his best XI because even that is still not clear. Consistency is another issue. More attacking players are needed and Saido Berahino should be given a real chance at starting a string of matches. He has an ability to press the opposition in their own half, as well as urging attacking play. There are many issues at Stoke right now but the players need to make it look like they want the wins. Instead of suddenly wanting it at around 75 minutes.
Yes, there have only been nine games played but after recent results, the neutrals should realise the troubles Stoke City already have. They are currently 10th favourites to go up still at 25/1. Despite being in 18th place. The next fixture is against Rotherham, away. The Millers are also on nine points but have scored less than one goal per game. Something Rowett will take into account when they arrive at the New York Stadium this Saturday.
At times, fans have been frustrated with substitution choices. On many occasions, Rowett has brought on players for ones who have been putting in good shifts. Instead of taking off players who have had poor games. These decisions could be the catalyst to backfire if games aren't being won or points aren't being picked up. If there is no end result at Rotherham there will definitely be a concern for the Stoke City boss as his job could be in jeopardy...