Harry Souttar is Stoke’s best option as a central defender in a formation that uses 3 or 5 at the back. It’s that simple. Right now, Danny Batth has occupied this role, but he has had a pretty poor run of form lately and was involved in both goals conceded on Sunday’s loss to Brentford. Since O’Neill has started at Stoke, he has made a point to reward form and effort. This is his chance to stay true to that message and give Harry Souttar consistent starts as he has looked great all preseason and during last weeks 1-0 victory over Wolves.
Making this choice even easier should be the fact that Stoke has consistently used 3 center-backs featuring both Souttar and Batth down the middle so a swap would be relatively easy. One key distinction is that Batth and Chester seem to be a fixture to go along with Souttar and Collins. Looking forward, I’d predict to see Souttar and Collins against Gillingham. If they continue to show their skill and form tomorrow, I would hope to see them featured again on Saturday against Preston.
Souttar’s steady rise has flown under the radar for Stoke as he has really been overshadowed in a lot of ways by the emergence of Nathan Collins. By all accounts, Souttar had a remarkable season out on loan last year at Fleetwood, and has also recently been heavily pursued by Portsmouth. Stoke have an obviously crowded back line that involves Chester, Batth, Martins Indi, Shawcross, Collins, and Souttar. O’Neill’s hesitancy to loan out Souttar this season, despite the crowded squad, indicates that we will see him featured more this season, the question is how much.
Another factor to consider in formation. All of this really hinges on O’Neill continuing to use 3 center-backs. Souttar would probably struggle to see time in a 4 at the back formation, and seems better suited for the center role in a 3 or 5 at the back formation. If Stoke continue to struggle to create and score, you have to think that formation changes are coming so this is something to keep an eye on.
Going into our match against Gillingham tomorrow, all eyes should be on Souttar if he is in the lineup. If he continues to perform, O’Neill should stay consistent and reward him with consistent starts in the Championship going forward.