Short or Long Term Problems? Tactics


Guest blogger Josh Flint concentrates on Stoke’s tactics of recent weeks.

What needs to change? Josh explains…

Against Crystal Palace, one of the bright spots in the team news was the return of the 4-2-3-1 shape we had used throughout Hughes’ tenure as manager.

Whilst a bit of tinkering was interesting to begin with- as we attempted a 4-3-3 shape- going back to basics made sense when looking for a win.

Across the five league games we have played so far, more so than any other season, we have appeared to be playing a possession based game rather than relying as heavily on the counter attack.

Whilst we still counter when possible, I believe the management team has realised that our forward line is not the fastest compared to the class of 2013-14 or 2014-15 and we are trying to break teams down.

Two of the biggest casualties of this change are Glenn Whelan and Bojan. Two players who are on opposite sides of the flair spectrum but both may be struggling to adapt.

In this system, a holding midfielder should be able to receive the ball in tight areas and redistribute the ball fast and with the best accuracy possible. Whelan is not doing this as well as he could. Adding into this his lack of mobility and his tendency so far this season to get caught in full back positions when opponents counter, he would benefit from a bench role for the time being.

Bojan on the other hand is able to take the ball in tight areas and redistribute the ball well though, from an attacking midfielder, we need more thrust from the little man. Runs into the box to take the pressure away from Bony, whereas at the moment it feels that Bojan wants to play as a third midfielder, drifting out wide and staying outside of the area for pot shots rather than actually taking on a central defender.

This seems like a simple case of being more brave on and off the ball- hopefully something that a run of games could remedy.

Otherwise, a spell on the bench could be on Bojan’s horizon again if he doesn’t affect the game from the attacking midfield role enough.

One player can be coached into form, which from a supporter’s point of view is encouraging, especially when the coach was an excellent forward player himself. On the other hand, Whelan is in a hard to coach place. As a ball-winner he is superb, yet his distribution work after winning the ball needs improving.

Across the Premier League, when players have hit a certain age in their thirties and their form only carries them across a smaller number of games, managers start to pick their time on the pitch more carefully than when they were in their twenties.

Supporters would see this as a good start from Hughes if he starts picking and choosing when to play Whelan rather than playing him every game and tiring him out like Jon Walters was several years ago.

After he missed out against Hull, it will be interesting to see if Whelan is restored to the line-up against West Brom.

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