Giannelli Imbula, remember him? He’s only been out of the team for a few matches but he seems the forgotten man already. Is there any hope for the French-born midfielder?
Imbula arrived at the bet365 Stadium at the end of the January transfer window. He didn’t come cheap, either. Stoke broke their transfer record for the player, coughing up a total of £18.3m.
Making an instant impact, Imbula scored during a 3-1 over Bournemouth last season – two weeks after his arrival. Imbula also scored on the final day of the last campaign, in a 2-1 over West Ham.
Imbula was instrumental in the Stoke City midfield for the second-half of last term. Making 14 league appearances, Imbula earned instant respect from his teammates.
Geoff Cameron was one of those to approve of the signing, and couldn’t have given more praise. Imbula, though, hasn’t quite hit those heights yet this campaign.
Where has it gone wrong for Imbula?
Due to his impressive introduction last season, Imbula was one of those individuals that took a lot of the flak for Stoke’s stuttering start.
Fans knew he was something, something the team valued and needed. So when things weren’t clicking through August and September, Imbula – along with the likes of fellow big-names in Marko Arnautovic and Ryan Shawcross – took the majority of the responsibility on his shoulders.
Last season, Imbula arrived with no real pressure on him. Stoke City were playing well, playing decent, fluid football. He could enjoy himself and play his game.
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This season, however, things haven’t been so smooth. Maybe he can’t handle the pressure? Maybe he was looked upon rather harshly when things weren’t working?
It remains to be seen whether Imbula can reach the standard he was at last season. For Imbula though, a second omission from the match day 18 isn’t a great sign.
Hughes happy to bring Imbula back to the fold
While his first-team opportunities have been limited, his absence hasn’t appeared to hinder the team.
The two games he has been left out completely, Stoke City have claimed four points. Coincidence – more than likely, but the facts remain.
Mark Hughes however has given Imbula encouragement:
"[His reaction to being left out] has been good, excellent, in fact. He was clearly disappointed, but I needed to speak with him and tell him what he needed to do to get back to the player we all know he is.It’s about making sure he’s ready to go back in and his response has been fantastic."
It seems that Imbula may well be on his way to having another crack at getting back to his best. Let’s just hope, for both his and our sake, that he does.