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First Team

🆚 Hot Off The Press: Stoke City

Martin Spinks of Stoke-On-Trent Live previews tomorrow's game

20 September 2019

Shrewd acquisitions and a first full season for Nathan Jones meant Stoke were touted as early contenders for promotion back to the Premier League. One would imagine that, from a Potters perspective, the less said about the start to this season, the better - can you pinpoint an area where things just haven’t got to plan for so far?

How long have you got? In a nutshell, the system and personnel just haven't gelled as quickly as the manager anticipated. Since then he's changed his formation around and made many changes from game to game in search of a winning formula. In fairness to him. he hasn't had a lot of luck either.

While they haven't always played well, some would say rarely, they could have done without hitting the woodwork twice at Charlton, or conceding a horribly deflected winner at Birmingham. He couldn't have legislated for the individual errors either, least of all from Jack Butland in goal, while an eve-of-season injury to skipper Ryan Shawcross has done nothing for the stability of the team, particularly its defence, nor the prolonged absence of Nick Powell since the first game of the season. 

The club seem to be sticking by Nathan Jones at present, but should things not kick into gear in the weeks after the international break, do you expect him to stay in the role for much longer?

He is under severe pressure, but more from the outside than from within the club, because despite sacking three managers in the space of 12 months they are not actually a sacking club. The owners have invested far too much in Nathan Jones to casually dispense with yet another manager and that is undoubtedly buying him more time than most, but you can't sit in and around the bottom three for ever, particularly given the expenditure and when you were expected to be challenging for the top six. 

How have the fans reacted to the below-par start?

Fans have not been happy because they were sold the idea of something far better than five defeats in their first six games, leaving many calling for the manager to go before the season has barely begun.

Former Brentford striker Scott Hogan is spending the season at the bet365 Stadium on-loan from Aston Villa – what have you made of his displays so far?

His chances have been limited, at the time of writing, but he has already shown glimpses of what he must have been doing regularly at Brentford. He was one of those hitting the woodwork at Charlton, then against Derby he laid dubious claim to the first goal before leaving no-one in any doubt about his finishing quality with his second. He's the kind of player who's got to shine to turn Stoke's season around. 

Jones’ implementation of the diamond system has often been discussed since he took over earlier this year, is that something they are likely to stick with for the Brentford game? If not, how do you expect them to set up? 

Impossible to say because he has been forced into compromising his beliefs a little because of early-season results and has, to be fair, gone with three centre halves when needed and tinkered elsewhere. He actually played his diamond system in his very first game (at Brentford) back in January, so it would be ironic if results forced him to do something different on his first return there some eight months into his reign.

What’s your score prediction for the game?

Play like last January and it could be worse than the 3-1 scoreline that day, but play to the potential of the ability in this Stoke squad and they can win it. Let's be optimistic and go 2-1 to Stoke.  

Join us at Griffin Park this weekend for the visit from The Potters with tickets starting at just £25 adults and £8 for Under-18s. 


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