Quite a lot of people, including me, expected Stoke City to fight for the first place this season. They have an experienced Premier League squad, great manager and individuals that could easily fit in any Premier League side. So what went wrong? They had an awful start of the season, they looked unprepared and they were struggling to find a back of the net. That was not what everyone expected from Gary Rowett and that certainly wasn’t what people expected from Stoke City considering the players they have.
They needed a lot of time to get back in form, but they did it. People can once again talk about Gary Rowett and Stoke City after they’ve managed to get quite close to the play-offs. Of course, they are still nowhere near the first spot, but after that awful start, it’s great to see them back among the best teams in the league.
Good form has finally come?
Stoke City is unbeaten in their last ten matches. They are getting a lot of draws, but they don’t lose points against smaller sides like they did at the beginning of the season. There are still a lot of changes to be made in January, but they are finding their form and making their way to play-offs. Their best game recently has been at home against Derby County. They had a man down for more than 60 minutes, but they have still managed to score two and get a win against the team that’s fighting for the first place. It’s not only that they’ve managed to score two against Derby County, but they have also managed to show that their defence has improved from the beginning of the season and that they are well organized at the back now. They still concede a lot, but with attacking football that Gary Rowett prefers, it is reasonable to concede goals.
Reaching play-offs before January?
Stoke City should currently have only one goal, to reach play-offs before January. As I said, they have to make a lot of changes in January, but if they manage to reach play-offs before that, they can easily end up fighting for a straight promotion this season. They are still an excellent group of players and they are capable of achieving that, but they need to start winning more often. Considering that they are only 5 points bellow play-offs at the moment, they can certainly get the 6th spot in December. They won’t have a lot of easy fixtures, but neither will their opponents, so Stoke City needs to take an advantage of the current situation.
Stoke City needs a proven striker?
One of the changes that Stoke City needs to make in January is finding a proven Championship striker. Benik Afobe has scored only 1 goal in last 14 matches, and Saido Berahino has once again failed to show his full potential. With Tom Ince they’ve got a proven Championship goalscorer, but he is a winger and they need a proper striker if they want to get a promotion this season. As expected, Joe Allen has more attacking role once again under Gary Rowett, so even he is currently helping them to score. But in this system, they need more options in attack, as one goal is not enough to get a win when you are playing an attacking style of football.
Can they continue their unbeaten run?
Upcoming fixtures are not that easy for Stoke City, so I don’t expect them to keep their unbeaten run going. However, that’s not the reason for them to drop their good form. What they need to do is to win as much games as they can. The fact that they’ve managed to get a point in away game against Aston Villa can be a big boost for the team to continue that form. Games against Millwall and Bolton are the ones they need to win. If they manage to win more than two matches, they can easily reach play-offs by the end of December. The most important thing for them now is to continue their good form. They still have an excellent team and if they get the right signings in January, they can fight for a promotion this season.