It’s safe to say it hasn’t been the greatest month or so for Stoke. The last five games have resulted in a hat-trick of 3-0 defeats and exits from both cup competitions.
It might sound like common sense with the facts above, but the period has seen a huge problem with not only keeping goals out, but scoring them at the other end.
The former you can sort of understand with captain Ryan Shawcross out injured, Geoff Cameron on the sidelines, Marc Wilson a long-term absentee and Phillipp Wollscheid not looking 100% fit.
A lack of goals however is inexcusable. The last five games have seen Stoke score just one goal which was arguably offside, with no goals at all scored in the Premier League.
The Potters are blessed with the likes of Bojan, Shaqiri, and Marko Arnautovic just to name a few, and not only is it the lack of goals that is worrying, but it’s also the inability to create chances.
If you are creating plenty at least you know that eventually a goal will come, but it’s when the fans aren’t having anything to shout about which is the time to worry, a position Stoke are in now.
Many say that Hughes doesn’t know his best team, but one thing for sure is that he doesn’t appear to know his best centre-forward. The Welshman has started with a mixture of Bojan, Mame Diouf, Joselu, Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters up top throughout the campaign.
A ‘false nine’ formation saw Stoke stroll through both Manchester clubs at the Brit, but this side of Christmas Stoke have scored just six goals in ten Premier League games. It doesn’t sound good, does it? It’s not, and it certainly hasn’t been good to watch.
Last weekend’s game against Everton was effectively over within the first half an hour, and the most frustrating thing about it was that the Toffees didn’t have to work at all for any of their three goals, with one coming from a penalty, another from a corner and the third a mistake giving Aaron Lennon a free run on goal.
Without meaning to sound like Tony Pulis, the priority is to be able to defend well, because if you keep a clean sheet then you are guaranteed at least a draw.
The lack of goals has been hugely disappointing, but at least you know the talent is there, and sooner rather than later the goals will come.
Defensively however, Stoke rely way too much on Ryan Shawcross. Not only is he very good, he makes everybody around him look good too. There’s no doubt that despite the ray of expensive attacking talent up front, Shawcross is Mark Hughes’ most valuable asset.
The bid to change things round starts at Bournemouth on Saturday, a real tough fixture, as they all are in this division. Eddie Howe has his side playing some great football, and the Potters will need to be on their game if they want to get anything out of it.
The season is far from over and Stoke can still finish in a record league position, and let’s hope a free week with no midweek games has helped the team recover, allowing them to get back to winning ways this weekend.