Well after all the waiting and anticipation, Saturday arrived and Stoke’s start to the new season was bitterly disappointing.
Firstly let me say I have absolutely no qualms about the result. Wolves were far better than us during the 90 minutes but I feel that says more about Stoke than it does about our Staffordshire neighbours. Had we turned up with any sort of performance I truly believe we could have got a positive result at the Molineux. Sadly we were awful and apart from Kenwynne’s early shot, we never really looked capable of getting anything.
I’ve never been one for knee-jerk reactions so an opening day defeat hasn’t sent me spiralling into a depressed state just yet. However there are points that need analysing after such a timid surrender.
One thing that I was very concerned about was just how leggy and one paced we looked for the majority of the game. TP is known for his love of sheer hard work during pre season and we have seen the benefits of this in past campaigns. This year by the gaffer’s own admission, the work the lads have done in the build up to Saturday’s encounter was tougher than ever and I just wonder if we had over-cooked them a bit?
Everybody knows that we are at our best when we play at a high tempo with lots of closing down and then forceful breaks when we get the ball. During the Wolves game however we looked slow and devoid of ideas when we did win possession back.
To be fair to the lads we started quite brightly with Kenwynne very unlucky not to score a terrific debut goal. Had that gone in I’m sure it would have been a different game but as we know things went from bad to worse shortly after. Once our record signing hobbled off we regressed badly and began hitting hopeful balls towards Mama who looks a shadow of the player who used to bully centre halves.
As many Stokies have been keen to point out our midfield is desperately short of any creative influence. On a day when Matty Etherington was not having the best of outings you couldn’t see where any flair was likely to come from when Rory, Deano and Whelan were our other midfielders.
I am a huge fan of Rory but he simply cannot play out wide, it’s not his fault he is picked there and TP needs to sign a quality wide player as soon as possible. As for the centre pairing, I have long had doubts about them playing together. Deano does a lot of good work for the team but offers little going forward whereas Whelan (albeit recovering from a knock this week) has looked distinctly average for some time. I can’t say he ever has really bad games but he just doesn’t give us any foothold in matches to allow us to dominate teams.
Although we defended poorly for both goals our back four (although not containing any full backs) I can live with. It is in midfield where the major surgery needs to take place. We clearly need a new wide right player and someone who can but his foot on the ball and control the tempo of a game. People may scoff but I would seriously consider taking Jimmy Bullard from Hull if he is fit and the deal could be structured in a way to suit all parties.
We have also once again been heavily linked to Hugo Rodallega. He looks a very good player (although I’m not sure how we would utilise him) and given Beattie has gone to Rangers and Kitson seems to have been written off, we could do with another striker.
As I have said, I am not going to panic after one poor performance. Everyone connected to the club knows that the display at Wolves was unacceptable and hopefully they will be going all out to put things right in our tough looking home game against Spurs on Saturday.
TP has plenty of work to do and hopefully we can get some fresh faces in by the weekend. Of course at this early stage of the season no game is a “must win” fixture but given we have Chelsea away followed by Aston Villa we could do with getting some points on the board sooner rather than later.