Peter Smith gives an insight into the Potters
- Expert’s view on Stoke City
- Details what he expects from the Potters
- Watch the full feature on #HTTV
Stoke City reporter Peter Smith gave us the lowdown on the Potters ahead of Huddersfield Town’s trip to the bet365 Stadium this weekend!
A solid start to the campaign
The key thing for Stoke this season has been to be a lot more difficult to beat than last year, it was a very tough season and there’s definitely been progress. The summer signings have all come in and made a difference, adding experience to the spine, the likes of John Obi Mikel and Steven Fletcher in particular. They’ve kept clean sheets, been really tough to break down and they’ve got creative players in the team too like Nick Powell and Tyrese Campbell who have really made a difference. Everything’s starting to click together, there’s a real opening this season it feels like in such a tight Championship, if they get a good wind and a bit of momentum they could be right in there, but at the same time, they know if they lose a couple of games, they’re going to be looking over their shoulder.
Michael O’Neill’s impact
Michael O’Neill, when he came in, Stoke were probably favourites to go down but with pretty much the same squad, from November to the end of last season, he was able to pretty much have play-off form. This season, the squad’s a lot stronger I think, they’ve had to cope with injuries, but they’ve been able to take those blows and keep picking up results. He’s tried to keep a consistent starting XI as much as possible, so it will be interesting to see how much he can do that over the next few weeks with the games coming so quickly. They’re in a good place at the moment.
An attacking threat
Stoke look like they can score at any time in a match. They’re really decent on the counter-attack, got players who can create something out of nothing and they’re also very good at set-pieces. They’ve got a couple of players with really good delivery in Sam Clucas and Jordan Thompson, and they look a danger whenever they have a corner which is music to Stoke fans’ ears.
A goalkeeping debut on the cards
Adam Davies came in in July to replace Jack Butland, stepped up when Butland was injured, and he’s been terrific. He suffered a knee ligament injury in late October and is out for up to eight weeks, so Angus Gunn who came in on deadline day has stepped up but he also got injured over the international break and we’re told it will be up to six weeks for him. So, there’ll be a debut tomorrow, they’ve recalled Joe Bursik from Doncaster Rovers, he made his England Under-21s debut on Tuesday, so it’s been quite a week for him. The other option Michael O’Neill has got is a 19-year-old called Blondy Nna Noukeu who grew up in Belgium and has played for Cameroon Under-21s too and has this season been called up to the senior Cameroon squad. We haven’t been able to see them, especially this year when we haven’t been able to go to youth matches as well, so it’ll be into the unknown and everyone’s keeping their fingers crossed that they won’t have much to do tomorrow.
We’re not sure whether he’ll go with a back three or a back four – I imagine he’ll go with a back three to offer the young goalkeeper a bit more protection with James Chester and Danny Batth alongside Harry Souttar who’s been terrific this season. Wing-backs and John Obi Mikel sitting in the middle, Nick Powell floating around the top behind Steven Fletcher and Tyrese Campbell up top.
Watch the Pundit’s Preview below on #HTTV!