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.

Advertisements

Stoke’s Christmas Wishlist – The Engine Room

With less than a month left to one of the most exciting days of the year, yes the opening of the transfer window, I thought I would look at Stoke City’s current squad and give my opinions where we need to strengthen. This time the shield in front of the defence:

First Choice:       Glenn Whelan and Geoff Cameron

Reserves:            Charlie Adam

Any Others in or around the first team squad?

Ibrahim Affelay is close to returning to first team contention whilst both Joe Allen and Giannelli Imbula can play as a holding midfielder. Personally I believe Marc Muniesa should be added to this list as I think this would be his best position.

What about ones for the future?

There a number of young midfielders who could play this role such as Eddy Lecygne but Sergio Molina is probably the most suited and ready to progress to the first team squad.

Do we need to bring anyone in?

In the short term no, as can be seen we have plenty of numbers but if Hughes isn’t willing to gamble on Muniesa and Adam showing he is not suitable for this position then in the long term a younger version of Glenda would be a good buy if we could find the right player for the right price.

Do we need to let anyone go?

We are overstocked with players in this position and Affelay returns soon I would be tempted to try and off load Charlie Adam. Also Muniesa could be at risk but he does provide cover for other positions.

Have we been linked with anyone?

From the intriguing in Soualiho Meite to the improbable in Alex Witsel and back to the downright ridiculous in Xeka, this seems to be a position where there is a lot of choice in the market.

Any other business?

Stoke’s engine room for the latter half of the season will have a lot to do with if / when Affelay returns from injury. If he returns at anywhere near his best this shouldn’t be an area where Stoke gave to invest.

Stoke City 2 – Burnley 0

With Glenda and Joe Allen on the bench Mystic Mark decided to stick with the formation and, mostly, with the players who managed to put Watford to the sword. Was the reason because Hughes had one eyes on Stoke’s upcoming run of tough fixtures or did he believe he had stumbled upon a way to play which has currently become the vogue this season? Although I would like to say it was the former, sadly I believe it was the latter and I only hope after Saturday’s performance Stoke’s management team look at how we were overrun in midfield and realise with the personal they have available 3-4-3 isn’t the right formation for us just yet.

Admittedly Stoke look more dangerous with Shaqiri and Arnie playing closer to the centre forward but is more of a case that Super Jon has looked like a player with a point to prove in the last two games? And how he proved that point, after a deft back heel from Shaqiri to Mame, the Senegalese whipped in a beauty or a cross only for Walters to outdo both as he deftly diverted the ball past the despairing Robinson.

Maybe that goal went against the run of play as Burnley started the match determined to get a first away win of the season as they lay siege to the Stoke goal, aided by too many sloppy passes from the home team, with Charlie Boy being the biggest culprit. But as soon as Stoke had taken the lead they began to search for a second, with Stoke’s big two, Arnie and Shaqiri, being involed in almost everything good Stoke managed to produce.

And it was the Austrian who had a hand in the second as he raced down the left wing after Muniesa had brought the ball out of defence and when Arnie looked up, after skinning his full back, he was probably as surprised as anyone to see the Spaniard at the edge of the box calling for the return ball. Undaunted Arnie found Muniesa and whilst it may not go down as goal of the season the Spaniard’s volleyed finish will surely mean it will find a place in his own personal highlight reel.

At the other end Muniesa was perhaps fortunate not to be shown a red card as he tussled with the combative Andre Gray but looking at the replays it could also be argued that the Burnley was as much at fault for the shirt tugging which resulted in the free kick.

With the teams coming out for the second half it was clear Sean Dyche had told his players to revert to the intensity which they had started the match and to target Muniesa as the weak link in the Stoke back line as they pressed for a way back into the game. However, Bruno and the excellent Lee Grant in goal were more than a match for a Burnley team who, whilst they dominated the possession, were unable to create many, if any, clear cut chances. In fact, apart from an acrobatic paw to save an Andre Gray shot Burnley looked unlikely to score and maybe it was frustration which led to Ashley Barnes leading with his elbow to floor Bruno.

As the game petered to an inevitable conclusion both managers brought on players to try and change the flow of the game but whilst Dyche’s decision to bring on Vokes and ex-Stoke player Michael Kightly to try and win the game Stoke’s inability to kill the game off has to partly be put down to the insipid substitutions by Hughes which have become his trademark. Whilst Glenda added security in the middle of the park, why wasn’t Ramadan introduced after both Arnie and Shaqiri had been substituted? Surely the Egyptian’s pace would have provided more of a threat than that of Two Meter Peter!

Nineteen points and a place in the top half of the table proves those naysayers, who predicted a tough season for Stoke, wrong but having now played all but Southampton and Leicester of the teams below us in the table, the real litmus test of where we will finish the season is before us. With Arsenal away next up there are a few things which need to be taken into consideration.

  • Although I do not think 3-4-3 is the way to go with the current Stoke squad next week may be cause for the formation to get its third run out in as many weeks, especially if the Captain is still injured. Whilst Bruno is looking like an inspired signing he does not have the electric pace which would allow him to deal with the Arsenal flyers and maybe playing three at the back will somehow compensate for this disparity in pace.
  • I hope the only reason Charlie Boy played in place of Glenda was because Hughes wanted to make sure the Irishman was fit to play against Arsenal on Saturday. The Scot does not have the defensive mind set to play as cover for the defence and too often he gives the ball away cheaply. His performance against Swansea needs to be forgotten quickly and Mystic Mark needs to take of his rose tinted glasses and realise Adam has been a liability in the last three matches.
  • I know Muniesa has been given the Man of the Match award by the Sentinel but this can only be for his influence at the wrong end of the pitch. Too often he was bullied off the ball because he does not have the physical presence of, for example, Bruno and his wanderlust is causing problems. He is not a long term answer as a centre half and unless the club and the player agree to try him in Clumsy’s role I fear the popular Spaniard will have to be shown the door.
  • Mystic Mark’s substitutions are clearly being done by numbers, with both Shaqiri and Arnie replaced for Allen and Crouch we had no outlet down the wings as Mame was being pushed back and, as well as he played, Super Jon does not have the legs. Surely Ramadan’s pace would have terrorised the Burnley defence and if, as I suspect, they dropped back to compensate it would have allowed Stoke to clear the lines more effectively.

Stoke Giraffe of the Week           Bruno Martins Indi

Stoke Lemon of the Week           Charlie Adam

Match Ratings

Lee Grant – 8                        Yet again dealt with everything that came his way comfortably and his performances have made news of Butland’s injury setback bearable.

Glenn Johnson – 8              Quiet going forward yet effective at the back and alongside Bruno dealt with most that Burnley has to throw at them

Marc Muniesa – 6                Gets a point for the goal but loses it again for the wanderlust which led to it. Needs to think about defending first before he looks to attack

Bruno Martin Indi – 9         Another top notch display and Stoke need to snap him up before someone else realises how well he is playing

Erik Pieters – 7                     Is defending better at wing back but is less of a threat going forward

Charlie Boy – 5                     Gives the ball away to cheaply and often looks a passenger as the opposition passes the ball around him

Giannelli Imbula – 7            A few surging runs but what impressed me the most was his increased physicality

Mame Diouf – 7                   I still maintain he is defensively suspect but showed what a threat he can be with his cross for Super Jon’s opener

Shaqiri – 8                             When he was on the pitch Stoke looked like they were going to score, when he wasn’t they didn’t!

Arnie – 8                               Similar to Shaqiri, looks more dangerous playing closer to the centre forward

Super Jon – 8                        Typical Super Jon display with a less typical finish

Substitutes

Joe Allen – 6                         Didn’t really do anything when he came on to replace Shaqiri

Two Meter Peter – 6            I get confused whether Hughes is bringing on Crouch as an attacking option or to bolster his defence! Still won a couple of balls in the box though.

Glenda – 6                             Brought on to provide a little calm in the middle of the park

Manager

Mark Hughes – 6                  I was worried Hughes may have seen the Watford display and thought he had found a miracle formation and so it proved. Sadly he hasn’t and now is the time for the manager to be ruthless and replace the under performing players like Charlie Boy

Referee

Mark Clatterburg – 7           The best ref in the world? Probably but had an average day at the bet365.

Watford 0 – Stoke City 1

Allen suspended, no Clumsy or Glenda and the Captain and Phil Bardsley also injured. If ever there was a time for Mystic Mark to look into his crystal ball and come up with a spark of inspiration, it was Sunday and as the Boy and I sat down to watch the match we both wondered if Mystic Mark’s crystal ball had lost its connection. Mame at right wing back, three at the back and Super Jon up front! This was never going to work.

Yet work it did, from the kick off the enforced changes seemed to galvanise the Stoke team as they fought for each other and once they had imposed themselves on the game early on the football began to flow. Imbula, back in the starting XI, was the lynchpin as Arnie, Shaqiri and the two wing backs began to pass the ball around a bemused Watford midfield and it was Stoke who deservedly had the first chance when Mame’s overhead kick was blocked before Bruno and Super Jon saw their follow ups blocked.

At the other end of the pitch Lee Grant was having a quiet Sunday lunchtime although he did have to snatch a 25 yarder out of the air after Charlie Boy gave the ball away cheaply in the middle of the park. But this was an isolated incident and Stoke continued pressing forward with Arnie nodding a cross from the right only for Super to tamely head the ball into Gomes’ grateful arms. The Watford keeper was less fortunate moments later when Charlie Boy rose to meet Shaqiri’s header sending it towards the base of the post and Gomes was only able to parry the ball back into his own net.

The expected Watford response to going a goal behind spluttered into life briefly with the hosts crafting a couple of half chances but the improvised backline of Bruno, Muniesa and Johnson looked comfortable as Watford’s woes continued. In fact it could have been Stoke who finished the half with the next goal but for an outstretched leg denying Super Jon after some neat interplay between Shaqiri and Arnie. Could of then became should of almost straight after the interval when Arnie raced from inside of his own half and squared the ball to Super Jon who has to watch in agony as the ball rolled in front of him with an open goal beckoning.

In the stands the home fans began to turn on their own players as the match’s intensity began to fall and in response Mazzarri decided to throw on first Ighalo and then Okaka in a clear attempt to get the ball in and around the Stoke penalty box but Bruno and the boys were able to deal with everything Watford tried to throw at them.

Maybe Stoke were a little fortunate that the referee waved play on after a hopeful Watford penalty shout, I have seen them given before, but whilst Watford were doing all the attacking it was Stoke who were looking the more dangerous when they broke and it was from one of these quick fire breaks when Shaqiri outpaced Britto. The Watford defender, in desperation, tugged on the Swiss’ shirt earning himself a second yellow and for the remaining five minutes it was the visitors who looked to add to their first half goal with Pieters and Imbula having shots from distance.

This win, and especially the first half display, is a pleasant pick me up after the shambles in our last match against Bournemouth. Stoke dominated one of the teams who many expect to be in and around the bottom of the top half come the end of the season, with a makeshift formation and personal but next week’s game against Burnley is another we need to win if we have ambitions to finish above the likes of Watford so as always there are a few things which need to be taken into consideration:

  • 3-4-3 or whatever it was worked well as a one off and was, in hindsight, the best formation for the players available. It may also be the way Mystic Mark wants to go in the future, it did get the best out of Arnie and Shaqiri, but a lot of thought and hard work would need to be put in before it became Stoke’s preferred formation.
  • Whilst Mame was simply Mame, hard-working, willing to play anywhere and run down any lost cause to ask whether he is Stoke’s answer to Victor Moses is a little premature. Defensively Diouf was all over the place at times and before this experiment was repeated the player needs to undergo an intensive defensive boot camp
  • Even though I don’t expect Hughes to play the same formation next week I hope the manager took note of how much more effective Arnie and Shaqiri were playing further infield.

Stoke Giraffe of the Week           Mark Hughes

Stoke Lemon of the Week           Charlie Adam

Match Ratings

Lee Grant – 7                         Another confident display

Glenn Johnson – 7               His attacking instincts were stunted by playing as part of a back three but did his main job of defending well

Marc Muniesa – 7                Got the chance he wanted as if Stoke do go with a back three would look comfortable there.

Bruno Martin Indi – 9         Immense. In the absence of the Captain put in a captain’s performance

Erik Pieters – 7                     Solid if unconvincing

Charlie Boy – 6                     Maybe a little harsh seeing as he set up the goal but gives the ball away too cheaply to play so deep.

Giannelli Imbula – 8            More like the player we thought we brought in January

Mame Diouf – 8                   Too defensively suspect at the moment to make wing back position his own. Nether the less worked his socks off and posed real questions down Watford’s left

Shaqiri – 8                             Was more involved playing closer to the striker and provided a few moments of magic

Arnie – 9                                Back to his arrogant best, the only thing that is missing now is the goals

Super Jon – 7                        Another who ran his socks off but the chance at the start of the second half showed he is missing a yard or two of pace

Substitutes

Two Meter Peter – 7            Maybe Mystic Mark is right and Crouch deserves another year but only if he realises ten, fifteen minutes at the end of the game is all he is going to get

Manager

Mark Hughes – 9                  Tactical masterstroke or a message from the other side? Whatever prompted the team selection was inspired and showed good reactive thinking by bringing on Two Meter Peter to counter the threat of Okaka.

Referee

Robert Madley – 6                  It was clear from the start he was not going to accept any dissent, the difference between the two teams was Stoke realised this and even Arnie only complained to his team mates. Also stayed strong and didn’t give either of the two soft penalty shouts towards the end of the game.

What If Glenda, Clumsy And Joe Are Not Available On Sunday?

With Joe Allen banned and our two main defensive midfielders, Glenda and Clumsy, both doubts for the trip to Watford, Mystic Mark is going to have to look long and hard into his crystal ball to come up with a solution. As always, like any good football fan, I have my opinion on who, and who should be given the three midfield berths on Sunday:

In an Ideal World                                           Glenda / Clumsy / Imbula

I know this may come as a shock as the Frenchman has been doing his best impression of Where’s Wally of late but with Joe Allen definitely out due to suspension this may be the perfect opportunity to discover if a sojourn on the side lines has given Imbula the kick up the backside he needed.

If Glenda or Clumsy is Missing                   Glenda (or Clumsy) / Muniesa / Imbula

Muniesa has the defensive nous and technical ability to shine as a central defensive midfielder and he has to realise he is nothing more than a “just in case” player in his manager’s eyes when it comes to his preferred position of centre half. If Clumsy and / or Glenda are missing on Sunday this is the perfect opportunity for the Spaniard to audition for a role I believe he is best suited and if he succeeds he could become a long term solution to Glenda’s aging legs.

If Both are missing                                        Be Bold, Play 4-4-2 with Muniesa and Imbula in the middle

Watford are going to play with three at the back which will mean Wilfried will have a torrid afternoon if he doesn’t get any support. Playing two up front may be a gamble, especially at home, but if the Ivorian had another to pressure the defenders Stoke could defend from the front. My choice would be Mame because of his extra pace which would complement Wilfried’s physical presence.

Shouldn’t Get a Look In                               Bojan / Charlie Boy

Surely Bojan’s career at the Bet365 is almost over. He was once easily our best player but ever since he got injured he has been a pale imitation of that player and if he was a beloved pet you would be considering putting him down by now. Stoke must put all sentiment to one side and let Bojan return to the continent where the slower pace will hopefully allow him to influence games like he used to do for us.

In Charlie Boy’s case I also fear his days at the Bet365 are numbered simply because Joe Allen has been such a revelation since he joined in the summer. It was plainly evident on Saturday the Scot is not even a stop gap solution as a central defensive midfielder and he deserves to be playing football regularly instead of making first team cameos and the occasional appearance in the Checkatrade trophy.

Stoke City 0 – Bournemouth 1

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

Match Ratings

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

Substitutes

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.

Manager

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.

Referee

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.