The story of Michael O’Neill’s brief spell in charge of Stoke City has been one of both promise and disappointment.
Results have certainly taken an upturn with the former Northern Ireland boss in charge and the Potters are now out of the relegation zone for the first time this season, but the unpredictable nature of the performances and results remains frustrating for supporters.
The recent 5-2 win over Huddersfield Town was one of the best displays by a Stoke side in the last few years, but it was followed up with a limp FA Cup exit against Brentford. While, O’Neill may have had an eye on the Milwall fixture, Stoke only managed two shots on target and conceded a very avoidable goal.
Given Stoke’s position in the league and the issues that exist within the club it is of course unrealistic to expect O’Neill to turn things around immediately. With five wins under his belt already, Stoke are a far improved side to how things were under Nathan Jones and their improved creativity has been clear. However, with Joe Allen, Tyrese Campbell, Nick Powell, James McLean and Tom Ince in the squad, you would still expect Stoke to be winning more regularly, rather than seeing every step forward followed by a step back.
Delving into the January transfer window can certainly help, although early moves suggest the club is more interested in selling off overpaid stars than it is bringing people in. A key challenge also faces O’Neill in terms of the future of Allen and Campbell, with both attracting outside interest. Both players are really key for Stoke and O’Neill and their loss could set the squad back even further.
O’Neill has done a good job with Stoke and things are improving, but as always consistency remains the integral piece in the Championship jigsaw.