Stoke Needs to Get Nick Powell Going

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Nick Powell of Stoke City during the Carabao Cup fourth round match between Aston Villa and Stoke City at Villa Park on October 01, 2020 in Birmingham, England. Football Stadiums around United Kingdom remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Visionhaus)
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 01: Nick Powell of Stoke City during the Carabao Cup fourth round match between Aston Villa and Stoke City at Villa Park on October 01, 2020 in Birmingham, England. Football Stadiums around United Kingdom remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Visionhaus) /
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Stoke Needs to Get Nick Powell Going

Nick Powell has the potential to be the best player in the Stoke squad, and that should not be a particularly controversial take. Powell, coming off a recent match tying goal against Birmingham, has 1 goal in 5 matches so far this campaign and has seemingly struggled to get going. Just looking back a few seasons, you can clearly see that the production and quality is there. Powell has proven over and over that he can produce at the Championship level. On top of this, Powell is still only 26 and should still have plenty of positive years left in his play.

20/21 – 1 goal in 5 matches

19/20 – 5 goals and 5 assists in 30 matches

18/19 – 8 goals and 7 assists in 32 matches

17/18 – 15 goals and 8 assists in 45 matches

16/17 – 6 goals in 22 matches

It’s also clear Michael O’Neill values Powell’s skill, as he has always been in the first team mix. Anyone who has watched Powell knows that he has the skill and creativity Stoke often badly need to create chances. Not only can he thread balls through to forwards, but he can finish around the net, and also has a knack for drawing fouls in dangerous areas that lead to chances.

What seems to be dragging Powell down this season is fitting into O’Neill’s formation.

Powell thrives in a system where he can be an attacking midfielder and sit in a number 10 role. He simply has not been able to play in that role in an extended run this year. With 5 at the back and two forwards, having a true number 10 just hasn’t happened. If the struggle to score continues, perhaps O’Neill could switch to a 4-2-3-1 system which would let Powell get back into his true role.

I think Michael O’Neill actually has been proactive in tweaking formations to bring out the best in his players. Despite the lack of scoring, it’s hard to argue that having 5 at the back has made us particularly hard to score against. What remains to be seen, is if he is willing to make a switch just to bring out the most in a single player. I’d argue that the risk might be worth it. Powell can score and create for his teammates. He also has the potential to be the most productive player on this team – it’s hard to argue around using a formation centered around bringing out the best in that player.