Quick thoughts on Stoke’s season opener against Millwall
Stoke City drew Millwall 0-0 in their season opener on Saturday. It was a choppy match with neither side getting many clear chances. Stoke led in most match stats including an 8 to 2 advantage in corners. Post-match Michael O’Neill shared his thoughts…
“Overall, I thought we were the better team in the game. I thought we had more opportunities, we had a lot of corners in particular in the first half and didn’t maximise some of the opportunities we had.” (StokeSentinel)
Late in the match new signing Jacob Brown was given a yellow card for diving on a play that easily could have resulted in a Stoke penalty. All five new signings made an appearance in the season opener with Steven Fletcher and Jacob Brown coming off the bench.
We went into the opener not 100% sure which formation O’Neill would use against Millwall. The 3-5-2 formation left player of the year James McClean on the bench and saw Morgan Fox and Tommy Smith as wingbacks. Going forward, we will really have to see if Fox/Smith can thrive in these roles. At times, they sat back on the outside and struggled to get forward enough without over extending. If this formation is going to be heavily utilized in the future, you have to think O’Neill is going to also give James McClean and Josh Tymon some looks on the left, both options have more pace and offensive upside. This formation also leaves little use for a player like Tom Ince which just further complicates his value to the club.
The back 3 – Martins Indi, Batth, and Chester were solid. Chester and Martins Indi really thrived in their outside roles and Batth was calm down the center.
Tommy Smith and Morgan Fox – It was clear the pair struggled to get forward and force Millwall’s back line to spread out and defend. Most of the match saw them hanging back which forced many build-up plays to end with unsuccessful long balls to Sam Vokes.