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On Stoke City and its underlying problems

Friday 16th February 2018

Having watched Stoke City this season there have been plenty of downsides. With the sacking of Mark Hughes well overdue, Paul Lambert has now taken the helm and now finds the struggle to survive a true reality. So what problems do the Potters possess and how can these issues be fixed?

The main issue throughout this campaign at Stoke has been the defence. Starting the season with five at-the-back consistently ended up letting in three, four or even five goals each game. This tactical error was hindsighted by many fans and they let Mark Hughes know that was a huge problem. Asking for a 4-4-2 went unnoticed or ignored by the ex-Potters manager which caused more disturbance at the club. Fans were becoming irate and it eventually got to a point where the board knew something had to be done.

It wasn't just the formation that was a problem. The man-management was poor to see. Players didn't actually know their roles on the field. Set-pieces. Players to cover when out of position. No urgency. The latter, as many other footballing fans would know would get anyone annoyed. With players not looking like they want to either be on the field or win games, there was a fiery backlash regularly from fans and they made themselves known especially at home in the Bet365 Stadium.

The sales of players meant going backwards in attacking areas. As if their problems weren't bad enough. They had the worst defensive record by any Premier League side and got rid of possibly their best-attacking player. This hit the fans hard as the said player was quoted saying that he'd only leave the club if "Real Madrid or Barcelona" would come in for him.

Now we are at a point where Mark Hughes has long gone and Paul Lambert is trying to make amends. With the resources and knowledge he has, you can tell he trying to make the best of what he has got. Despite not having much time in January's transfer window he did bring in Badou Ndiaye from Galatasaray. The Senegalese international has impacted quite positively already creating an assist for Xherdan Shaqiri against Bournemouth which unfortunately ended as a 2-1 loss. The attacking midfielder also nearly scored against Brighton which ended as a 1-1 draw.

With Lambert coming in he changed the back line from a five to a four. He also prioritized new signing, Moritz Bauer at right-back. The Austrian international arrived just before Lambert and has also made an instant impact. Creating attacking threats and crosses into the opponent's area. Something Stoke have been lacking recently.

The final problem Stoke have is a lack of quality in front of goal. Their star player is Shaqiri who has six goals. It says something when a star player is only on six goals. The go-to forward is obviously Peter Crouch but with his age, he can't play 100%  for a full 90 minutes. There is much reliability on him which will not guarantee Stoke goals. Crouch is more effective as an impact player off the bench.

Another striker issue is Saido Berahino. The 24-year-old has played two seasons without a single Premier League goal. Although he has appeared 13 times most of them have been from the bench. His total play time amounts to 441 minutes this season without a goal. It probably doesn't help the fact he is playing at Stoke City who are struggling anyway which has given him a bad rep.

There are many factors at Stoke that need taking into account. Some of which are obvious but others which pundits and other fans may not notice. It is just down to too many factors negatively. In their past three games home draws against Watford and Brighton as well as a loss away to Bournemouth after taking the lead is a key sign Stoke could be in big trouble.

Paul Lambert's side are next up against Leicester away. The result HAS to be a win otherwise there will be even more turmoil from the fans. If there aren't any positives in the next few weeks Stoke City could see some dark times ahead.

Jamie Kynaston

For my sins, I'm a season ticket holder at Stoke City, I have been proud to watch them for over 20 years. I follow most of the UK leagues and the major European ones too, and I've been told that I talk way too much about football.

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