The Defining Moment
Let’s not beat around the bush. Stoke’s start to the season was dreadful.
But there comes a defining moment in every campaign. Last season it was the semi-final defeat to Liverpool and this season it was Crystal Palace.
The matches in the aftermath of the 4-1 humiliation at Selhurst Park have seen a huge improvement. The EFL Cup tie against Hull might have seen Stoke lose, but the performance levels from the whole team were far better. On another night it could have been five or six to The Potters. Instead, it was a 2-1 reverse.
A good performance in midfield from Geoff Cameron saw Mark Hughes keep faith in the American for the next match against West Brom. It’s been an inspired decision to partner him in the holding midfield slot alongside Glenn Whelan.
The defensive mindset of both Cameron and Whelan has given Joe Allen the freedom to push further forward to devastating effect. Allen’s goal against the Baggies should have won the game, but whilst that draw felt like defeat, Allen’s equaliser at Old Trafford felt like a win.
And that feel-good factor bubbled away over the international break. Allen netted for Wales in that break before scoring a match-winning brace to help Stoke to their first league victory of the season against Sunderland.
Although the win didn’t lift Stoke out of the relegation zone, you could sense the shackles had been released. There was an air of optimism on the pitch and in the stands at the following match at Hull.
Sure, both Sunderland and Hull were poor opponents, but Stoke disposed of them in a professional and clinical manner. Xherdan Shaqiri’s double at the KCOM Stadium will be played on highlights reels for years to come.
So, whilst the start was poor, Stoke found themselves with a creditable nine points from nine matches- a far healthier looking return than three points from seven matches!
With an attractive run of fixtures until early December, you’d expect Stoke to rocket up the table and prove the pundits who tipped us for a potential push for Europe this season right.
On recent form, the likes of Allen and Shaqiri deserve to be on such a stage.
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