Search For A Stoke City Star – Orjan Nyland

With only a couple of weeks until the transfer window opens the footballing rumour mill is beginning to build into a crescendo of speculation. In keeping with this tradition I will be giving you my run down on the players who are being linked with a move to the Bet365. This time a player who may only be being mentioned to put pressure on Derby County:

Orjan Nyland

nyland

Current Club: Ingolstadt

Position: Goalkeeper

Possible Price –  Probably less than the four million pounds Derby are asking for Grant

Anybody else interested: Southampton and Everton

Giraffe or Lemon:  This season has been a Giraffe for Ingolstadt but would the Premiership jungle be a little too much for him.

Where Would He Fit In:

Initially for Grant if Derby continue to play hardball but when Butland returns would only be number two

Do We Need Him:

If Grant doesn’t join permanently then yes, both Given and Haugland have shown they are not up to the job of replacing Butland. If Grant does sign then no.

Who’s place would be under threat:

Again it all depends on the Lee Grant situation. If Grant signs then I can’t see this deal happening but if Stoke can’t reach an agreement then Grant will be the one who makes way for Nyland

Verdict: Probably more a rumour to assist in Stoke’s negotiations with Derby more than anything else but of he was to join would be an improvement at number two. The question then would be could he deputise as well as Grant has done for Butland.

Advertisements

Stoke City 2 – Leicester City 2

With Christmas approaching some might say Mark Hughes had been sampling the sherry a little early, whilst others might have wondered if the Stoke boss had been visited by the same spirit of inspiration that brought about the tweak in formation. Whatever the reason Stoke lined up without the suspended Arnie and surprisingly without his partner in crime, Shaqiri. With neither of Stoke’s flair players on the pitch, the question about how Stoke were going to create any chances against last season’s champions seemed a pertinent one.

Yet any concerns about Stoke’s creativity seemed to be banished in the opening exchanges as Allen and Bojan combined, in a sumptuous move, to tee up Super Jon who could only manage to volley the ball into the goalkeepers relived arms. At the back whilst Vardy, Slimani and Mahrez’s pace were forcing the Stoke defence to drop deeper and deeper you had the feeling Shawcross and Bruno, screened by the returning Glanda, were more than capable of dealing with anything Leicester managed to throw at them.

Then, just before the half hour, came the incident which will define this match, James Vardy’s dismissal for a two footed challenge. Was it a red card? I know a lot of people are shocked Craig Pawson decided to dismiss the Leicester striker but Vardy did jump into the tackle, he did go in with two feet and if he had connected he it could have been a career ending tackle. The fact that he didn’t connect shouldn’t be taken into consideration, whilst I don’t believe there was any malice Vardy made a mistake and should be punished accordingly. Thankfully he didn’t connect but if you still think he shouldn’t have been sent off, try and imagine what you would have been thinking if his feet had connected a couple of inches higher?

With Leicester feeling aggrieved, and down to ten men, their sense of injustice began to boil over as Danny Simpson handled Bojan’s chip into the penalty box and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. Again, for some strange reason, this incident has brought about a good deal of debate with talk about Simpson’s hand being in a natural position but in my all my time watching football I can’t remember too many defenders defending as if they are doing the Flamenco!

From the resulting penalty Bojan scored and this triggered a meltdown in Leicester’s discipline as one after another players got booked for dissent or silly tackles. With Leicester imploding Stoke managed to get the second their dominance deserved when Allen pounced on a rebound after Schmeichel’s save, just before half time.

Leading two nil against ten men Stoke must have felt comfortable but with comfortable comes complacency and as Stoke seemed content to sit back on the lead Leicester began to smell blood and their ten men began to dominate Stoke’s eleven. However it took a substitution masterstroke from Ranieri to finally make the breakthrough as the explosive Demari Gray’s found his fellow substitutes head as Ulluo benefited from the new technology that tells the referee in seconds whether the ball had crossed the line.

Back in the game Leicester began to pile forward and it was evident they had sussed out Stoke’s weakness to the cross as ball after ball pinged into the Stoke boss and in the 88th minute it was Daniel Amartey who benefited from Grant’s failure to collect the high ball. Grant has been magnificent deputising for Jack Butland but if there is one area of his game that lets him down it is how he deals with crosses. Too often he decided not to come and when he does he either looks spectacular or foolish. And whilst Grant has been one of the major reasons for Stoke’s climb up the table it is fair to say Butland would have dealt with both of the crosses that led to Leicester’s goals with ease.

 

After two drawn games and two red cards Stoke now travel to Liverpool and Chelsea and even the most optimistic of us would find it hard to believe we are going to get anything from these games but even so we must look to compete and with this in mind there are a few things that need to be taken into consideration:

  • Super Jon played as well as Super Jon can play once again but the need for a centre forward is evident, especially as the Wilfried experiment seems to be over.
  • Behind the striker, in Stoke’s current 3-4-3 formation we need creative players and whilst Bojan showed glimpses in the opening exchanges he is nowhere near the player we saw a few years ago and Allen looked marginalised without Arnie or Shaqiri which makes the decision to leave Shaqiri on the bench baffling.
  • At 2-0 and even at 2-1 Stoek should have been pushing for the third goal which would have finished the game, instead we sat back and were punished. Against ten men we should be looking to dominate not hold on.
  • With Leicester in the ascendency and with his team not creating anything against ten men why bring on Charlie Boy when we should have been looking at the pace and creativity of Shaqiri or Ramadan. Hughes’ substitutions are predictable, unimaginative and worryingly at least five minutes too late. We need to be proactive not reactive.

Stoke Giraffe of the Week           Glenn Johnson

Stoke Lemon of the Week           Lee Grant

Match Ratings

Lee Grant – 6                        Maybe a shock but he really should have done better with both of Leiceser’s goals.

Glenn Johnson – 8              You get the feeling Johnson is the glue which is making Stoke’s new formation work.

Ryan Shawcross – 7             Unlucky not to keep Leicester’s first out.

Bruno Martin Indi – 7         Looked good for an hour but will not be pleased that the man he was brought to replace outmuscled him in the air.

Erik Pieters – 6                     Why has no one else noticed most of the goals Stoke concede emanate from the Dutchman’s flank

Glenda – 6                             Showed why he is an upgrade on Charlie Boy but started to panic as the game got away from Stoke

Giannelli Imbula – 8           Another good game from Stoke’s record signing and looked the most likely to break down Leicester’s stubborn defence.

Mame Diouf – 7                   Did enough at wing back but didn’t attempt to beat his opposite number once during the game.

Bojan – 6                                A surprise inclusion and did well for half an hour but faded from the game as it wore on

Joe Allen – 7                         As usual worked hard but became marginalised without the movement of Arnie or Shaqiri

Super Jon – 7                        Worked hard, as usual, and is probably Stoke’s first choice forward at the moment but that doesn’t say much

Substitutes

Charlie Boy – 6                     Came on to steady Stoke’s defence but could only watch as Leicester dominated!

Ramadan – 6                        Sadly, once again, didn’t have much time to make any impact.

Manager

Mark Hughes – 6                  Unusual starting XI but sadly a predictable insipid set of substitutions

Referee

Lee Mason –  7                      Got the sending off and penalty spot on but maybe should have sent off at least one of the Leicester players who were on yellow cards in the second half.

A Bag Full Of Lemons – Week 15

This is getting quite boring, yet another week where my score of 46 was around the average score of 48. However, this time I am the one who has to take the blames as my gamble on Iheanacho backfired spectacularly!

16-12-16

With my captain not playing and my midfield and forward line misfiring I am delighted at how my defence managed to dig me out of a hole and my Giraffe of the Week goes to Virgil van Dijk. At the other end of the scale I am resisting the temptation to give myself the award and instead my Lemon of the Week goes to Roberto Firmino not so much for the performance but for not managing to get at least an assist against Middlesbrough.

16-12-16-after

Another week and another rejigging of my forward line with Shane Long being brought in, mainly due to Charlie Austin’s injury which I suspect will give the Irishman a decent run in the starting XI.

The Plight Of The Kiwi Stokie

As usual Stoke’s game against Southampton was last in the Match of the Day running order but by all accounts it was a pretty drab affair and maybe this time it can be overlooked. Personally I wouldn’t be able to tell you because here in New Zealand, if you can believe it, the Stokie is looked down upon even more than their British cousins by the television schedulers.

BeIN Sports have the rights to show Premiership football here in New Zealand and they have committed to showing every match in its entirety. Of course this is good news but in the case of Stoke versus Southampton this means the match will be shown a full twenty-four hours after it had finished. Twenty-four hours where it is impossible not to find out the result, and of course Stoke versus Southampton is the last of Wednesday’s matches to be shown.

So next time you moan that Stoke are being shown last on Match of the Day spare a thought for your kiwi cousins.

A Bag Full Of Lemons – Week 14

Another average week with my team only getting three more points than the average of 46 with Coutino’s absence being a big blow.

12-12-16

From Lemon to Giraffe, Romelu Lukaku¸ wins the Giraffe of the Week despite being in a losing team. At the other end of the scale there were a number of players who vied for Lemon of the Week but I am giving it to Gareth McAuley for picking up a yellow card in what was otherwise an impressive display against Chelsea

12-12-16-after

After last week’s rejigging to bring in Kelechi Iheanacho I am now able to bring my Stoke contingent up to the maximum allowed of three by swapping the injured Coutinho for Xherdan Shaqiri who goes straight into the team in place of his team mate Ramadan Sobhi. After their lacklustre display against Leicester I am expecting Manchester City to bounce back against Watford and this is why I have decided to take a gamble and make Iheanacho my captain!

Arsenal 3 – Stoke City 1

As Stoke looked to end their Arsenal hoodoo, Mark Hughes brought back Joe Allen for the unlucky Walters and decided to stick with the 3-4-3 formation which had previously seen off Watford and Burnley. With no Super Jon the captain’s armband was passed to Charlie Boy and once the match commentator informed us that it was the Scot’s birthday everything felt right with the boy as if this confirmed his theory that, in the absence of The Captain, the honour to lead the team was being based on star sign rather than footballing ability.

Indeed, this theory seemed to be confirmed as Adam misplaced a pass early on which led to Arsenal rushing forward to attack Grant’s goal and, maybe buoyed by this mistake, it was evident Arsenal had been told to press the Stoke Captain quickly every time he received the ball. Yet despite Stoke’s midfield’s tendency to give the ball away needlessly it was Stoke who looked the more dangerous in the opening exchanges with Arnie being Arsenal’s tormenter in chief as he twice laid the ball back only for Joe Allen and Shaqiri to fluff their lines. There was even a potential goal of the season contender as Muniesa forced Petr Cech to tip over after a perfectly struck volley from what seemed like the centre circle.

It was therefore no surprise to anybody, apart from the Christmas Grinch on the Arsenal touchline, when Stoke took the lead after Xhaka assaulted Joe Allen in the Arsenal penalty area and Adam stepped up to stroke the resulting penalty home. Should Xhaka have been sent off? Initially I thought no but after seeing the replays, which Lee mason didn’t have the luxury of to be fair, it is clear Xhaka deliberately elbowed the Welshman and who knows what the result might have been if the Swiss midfielder, who was easily Arsenal’s best player, had been sent for an early bath. And of course on the side line the Christmas Grinch clearly thought Lee Mason got it wrong, presumably believing that Allen should have gotten his face out of the way!

One nil up at the Emirates might have seemed a dream scenario and things might have been different if Mustafi hadn’t injured himself a few minutes before Stoke took the lead but with Bellerin coming on at right back Arsenal began to look a lot more potent and Pieters in particular will not be wanting to see the Spaniard anytime soon as Bellerin continually looked to join the attack. Potent as he is going forward Bellerin may be the weakness in the Arsenal defence that other teams will look to exploit because he does leave the Arsenal right exposed as he looks to influence the attack.

But it was the Spaniard’s attacking intent which finally undid the Stoke defence three minutes before the interval when his low cross was met superbly by Walcott who volleyed past a helpless Grant in the Stoke goal. 1-1 quickly became 2-1 five minutes after half time when Pieters, out of position after receiving treatment, could only watch on as Ozil ghosted through a disorganised defence to head past a stranded Grant.

Even a goal behind you still felt Stoke had a chance even after Grant made a smart save from Oxlade-Chamberlin and if Mame had managed to do better with a free header from six yards out we might have been lucky enough to see the Christmas Grinch throw a festive tantrum. Instead Stoke seemed to lose a little spirit after this miss and to shake things up Mystic Mark decided to turn to one of his go to men in Two Meter Peter and if Crouch’s first touch, a downward header, had sneaked in we may have talking about a substitution masterclass but instead the truth was as soon as Stoke introduced the veteran striker they began to fade from the game.

And it was left to the Arsenal sub, Alex Iwoba, to put the final nail in Stoke’s coffin as he steered a low shot past the diving Grant and into the bottom corner to seal yet another defeat for Stoke at the Emirates.

This game was always going to be difficult and in the main Stoke can take some comfort in the way they created chances against a team who are going to be up near the top of the table come the end of the season but as we enter a hectic festive period there are still a few points to consider:

  • It seems 3-4-3 is here to stay, at least until the Captain returns, and so the next question has to be who gets the nod to play in the front three. Arnie played well, at least for the first half, in the false nine role but at home where Stoke will be expected to attack a more dedicated striker will provide a greater threat. At least for the Southampton game I would bring back Super Jon.
  • I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record once more but why is Adam still playing when Glenda is fit again? The Scot may be our best striker of the ball we have but he gives the ball away too cheaply to play the covering role in front of the defence. Arsenal clearly noticed he could be ruffled and every time Charlie Boy received the ball he was closed down quickly. A tactic I am sure Southampton and Leicester will have noted produced dividends.
  • Another broken record moment! When we bring on Two Meter Peter we are broadcasting to world how we are going to change our game plan and being honest it is not working. It was good to see both Ramadan and Ngoy getting onto the pitch and both fit into the way we were playing, and creating chances, much better than Crouch.
  • Although he doesn’t get the Giraffe of the week the improvement, in such a short amount of time, in Mame’s defending has to be noted. His last ditch sliding clearance shows he is willing to do the dirty work which playing wing back entails.

Stoke Giraffe of the Week           Bruno Martins Indi

Stoke Lemon of the Week           Charlie Adam

Match Ratings

Lee Grant – 8                        A couple of memorable saves and once again couldn’t do a lot with any of Arsenal goals.

Glenn Johnson – 7              An off day for the usually impressive Johnson

Marc Muniesa – 7                Defended well enough and, as always, was eager to join the attack.

Bruno Martin Indi – 9         Giraffe of the week for the second match in a row and getting a permanent deal for the Dutchman has to be Stoke’s number one priority in January.

Erik Pieters – 6                     Must be having nightmares about the pace of Bellerin but showed if you push the Spaniard back he is not the best defender in the world.

Charlie Boy – 5                     Captain for the day, still gave the ball away too cheaply and this weakness in his game is beginning to be spotted by the opposition

Giannelli Imbula – 6           Looked good bringing the ball forward but, like his midfield partner, gave the ball away too cheaply and too often.

Mame Diouf – 7                   Played well at wing back but loses a point for not even getting a free header on target.

Shaqiri – 6                             Not the little Swiss’ best day

Arnie – 7                                Looked at home playing as a false nine in the first half but ran out of steam in the second

Joe Allen – 8                        Ran all over the pitch and his knack of being in the right place led to Stoke’s penalty

Substitutes

Two Meter Peter – 6            Could have been the ultimate impact player if his first touch had gone in but in the end didn’t bring much more to the party

Ramadan – 7                        Didn’t have much time to make any impact.

Julien Ngoy – 7                    Like Ramadan didn’t have long on the pitch but good to see a product of Stoke’s academy getting their debut

Manager

Mark Hughes – 6                  I’m more convinced after this display about the change in formation but the reliance on substitution by numbers is beginning to grate

Referee

Lee Mason – 7                       Maybe could have sent Xhaka off but the man in the middle didn’t have the benefit of television replays that we did. Otherwise refereed the match well.

Search For A Stoke City Star – Manolo Gabbiadini

With less than a month to go until the transfer window opens the footballing rumour mill is beginning to build into a crescendo of speculation. In keeping with this tradition I will be giving you my run down on the players who are being linked with a move to the Bet365. This time a player whose name stirs memories from the other end of the A50:

Manolo Gabbiadini

manolo

Current Club: Napoli

Position: Centre Forward

Possible Price –  Around twenty million pounds

Anybody else interested: West Ham amongst others

Giraffe or Lemon:  On current form a Lemon

Where Would He Fit In:

Would be a straight replacement for Wilfried

Do We Need Him:

Seeing as we have already loaned out one out of form European striker the obvious answer is no but if Wilfried does decide to cash in on the riches of the Chinese League we would be at least one player short up front.

Who’s place would be under threat:

Wilfried would be the obvious choice but if Hughes decided to keep the Ivorian as well, both Super John and Two Meter Peter may be looking for new clubs

Verdict: Whilst the deal may be a lucrative one for the player and his agent the amount of money that would likely be involved and the fact Gabbiadini is out of form means this is not the deal Stoke should be looking to make.