Our first match back after an enforced break and those fans who felt the internationals could have a detrimental effect on our recent run of good form can sip their pints with a knowing I told you so expression on their faces. With Glenda picking up an injury whilst with the republic of Ireland and Clumsy’s knee still not up to ninety minutes, Joe Allen was forced to drop deeper whilst Bojan returned to the starting XI just behind Wilfried.
From the outset however it was evident that Charlie Boy’s sterling display against Swansea was a one off as he had his pocket picked repeatedly by the Bournemouth midfield whilst beside him Joe Allen looked out of his depth in the position he was supposedly brought to play in. With Bournemouth so dominant in midfield and Shawcross and co dropping ever deeper, scared to death by the pace of Wilson, it was no surprise when Wilson tore through the Stoke defence only to be scythed down by Shawcross before he could get his shot away. Make no mistake this should have been a penalty but the man in the middle, Roger East, somehow decided to play on.
In the end it didn’t matter as Nathan Ake was given the freedom of the Stoke penalty box as he rose to head in from close range to put the visitors a goal to the good. After the match Hughes told the press that his team were unsure of how to defend a free-kick from the by line, an excuse I wouldn’t accept from the boy’s team yet alone a Premiership club with ambitions of finishing in the top half for a fourth successive season.
Even after going a goal behind it took Stoke until the dying minutes of the first half to respond to the battering they were receiving with the midfield trio especially looking off the pace, whilst on the wings both Arnie and Shaqiri had forty-five minutes they are likely going to want to forget.
Surely things could only get better in the second half?
After only three minutes it looked like they were going to as Bojan reacted first after Federici acrobatically denied Wilfried a third goal in two home games. Picking the ball up on the edge of the penalty box the Spaniard felt Francis’ foot on his and jumped into the air, landing a perfect Triple Lutz before he crashed back down to the turf. Yes, the dive was excessive but despite what Eddie Howe thinks this was a penalty and when Bojan placed the ball on the penalty box you felt Stoke were back in the match. A minute later the ball was rebounding back of the crossbar and anyone who has watched Stoke regularly over the years knew deep down that this wasn’t going to be our day.
And so it proved even after Two Meter Peter and Super Jon’s introduction and a change of tactics to resemble Stoke in the Pulis era brought about much more of a goal threat. Shaqiri really should have scored after Arnie pulled the ball back to present the Swiss winger with a clear shot on goal and on another day Arnie’s shot from just outside of the box would have trickled the other side of the post. The final confirmation Stoke were heading for a first defeat since September arrived when Adam’s cross found the head of Super Jon rather than Two Meter Peter, who would surely have done better with the chance and when an injury time goalmouth scramble resulted in the ball being kicked off the line you knew the Cherries would be returning to the south coast with all three points.
With Stoke only dropping one place to 13th we really shouldn’t be too worried about not getting anything out of a match that on another day we could have won but with Watford and Burnley next there are a few things which need to be taken into consideration:
- A player’s true worth is sometimes only ever realised when they are missing and so it has proved with Glenda and Clumsy. With one or two of them in the team the gaps between the midfield and the defence suddenly shrink and Allen is able to play in a position that allows him to get past Wilfried. Hughes and his backroom staff need to move heaven and earth to get one, or both, of these players back into the starting XI
- A second quite game in a row for Wilfried highlighted by Bojan’s inability to get past him. If Allen isn’t available to play in the number 10 role Stoke need to find a plan B, maybe trying to get more balls into the box from wide areas.
- Charlie Boy had a shocker and it is evident he is not the answer if Clumsy and, or, Glenda are missing. A potential solution would be to play Muniesa in this role, he has the defensive ability and is technically proficient. I understand he is not keen to play in this role but he isn’t going to get into Stoke’s first choice team at either centre half or left back.
- If we really didn’t know how to defend the free-kick from which Ake scored then for the next week Stoke need to concentrate on defending set pieces. We have let too many goals in from set pieces this season and we need this to stop, now!
Stoke Giraffe of the Week Phil Bardsley
Stoke Lemon of the Week Charlie Adam
Lee Grant – 7 When called on did well and produced a couple of excellent saves. No chance for the goal
Phil Bardsley – 8 Sad to see the Scot go off with an injury as in the first half he seemed to be the only Stoke player who realised we were playing a game
Ryan Shawcross – 7 Should have been sent off for challenge against Wilson and should have scored at the other end.
Bruno Martin Indi – 6 Good on the ball and strong in the tackle, dropped a point because he kept on dropping too deep, in comparison to Shawcross, which allowed Wilson the freedom of the park
Erik Pieters – 7 A bit unlucky to concede the free kick which led to the goal. Had a good battle with the Bournemouth wingers and in the majority of cases came out on top
Charlie Boy – 4 Had a shocker.
Joe Allen – 6 Playing deeper his price tag looks more realistic than when he is playing further up the pitch.
Bojan – 5 Hasn’t really performed for the last eighteen months and maybe this match could have been his swansong
Shaqiri – 6 Should really have scored from Arnie’s pull back and whilst he huffed and puffed didn’t really influence the game like we know he can
Arnie – 7 Not his best game but as always he looked for the ball and ran his socks off.
Wilfried – 6 Had one good chance which led to the Stoke penalty but overall didn’t change his game enough to compensate for Bojan rather than Allen playing behind him
Glenn Johnson – 7 Subdued first outing after his injury
Super Jon – 6 Another who should have scored but didn’t.
Two Meter Peter – 8 Created havoc once he came on and with better service might have been able to snatch at least a point for the home team.
Mark Hughes – 7 Went to the well once too often with Charlie Boy and playing Bojan clearly didn’t work but kudos for not just throwing on Two Meter Peter but more importantly changing the tactics to get the best out of the big man.
Roger East – 4 To be honest I don’t think he was as bad as most people are saying but he was dreadful. Should have given Bournemouth a penalty and didn’t get a grip on the away team’s time wasting.