Does Tom Ince’s recent performance against Leeds change anything?
No, it really shouldn’t. The fact that Tom Ince’s performance on Tuesday’s friendly against Leeds filled the scoresheet should really not change our thoughts on him going into the 2020/21 season. Yes, he played well, and you always want to see players perform well going into a season. That being said, Stoke have a better starting lineup without Ince, especially as Tyrese Capmbell grows more and more comfortable on the right side.
Some background – Ince came over during the summer of 2018 under Gary Rowett for a 12.32mil fee and has netted 9 goals and assisted with 11 in 81 appearances across all competitions. That stat line is less than stellar, and looks even worse when isolated for last season as he had just 3 goals and 2 assists in 40 appearances. Ince will most likely go down as a key member of the group of underwhelming big name signings that have plagued the Potters for years.
Key Takeaway – The most encouraging thing we should take from the Leeds match is that Ince seemed to produce from the left side and looked comfortable there. James McClean will surely occupy this spot to start the season, but after him it’s less clear who would be next in line. You would have to think the competition right now is between Josh Tymon and Ince to come on as a sub or to keep McClean hungry for minutes. The fact that he was on the left on Tuesday confirms that O’Neill is toying with this idea.
Complicating things further for Tom Ince is that Tyrese Campbell has taken hold of the right side and seems to have Michael O’Neill’s favor there. In fact, Ince was on the bench for 3 of the last 5 games during Stoke’s all important relegation battle last season. One other possible story line to look out for is if Thibaud Verlinden can return from injury and compete for playing time on the right wing. One could easily imagine a scenario where Tymon and Verlinden could be favored as options off the bench for their overall pace and willingness to compete for minutes. Getting Tymon and Verlinden minutes could also increase their likelihood of staying long-term with the club – something that has to be on the mind of O’Neill as he continues to trim the crowded Stoke roster.