There are losses and then there are embarrassing losses. For Stoke City at home Sunday against Watford, it was the latter. The Potters, coming out of the international break, slept their way through a 4-0 defeat to Watford.
It’s bad enough when you lose to a top-ten table at home by more than a goal. But it’s even more amplified when you get beat from pillar to post for a full 90 minutes, on the way to giving up four goals. That’s what occurred Sunday for Stoke City.
The Potters slid to 17th on the table with 12 points. They now prepare for a quick road match turnaround against Burnley Wednesday.
What Went Wrong for Stoke City
Nothing was clicking for The Potters at Bet 365 Stadium Sunday. Offensively the team looked very stale. Then defensively, the team looked completely lost at times. One might even say near the end of the match, Stoke City looked even disinterested defensively.
Outside of the team looking satisfactory on set pieces once again, there were no positive takeaways offensively, including:
- The team’s errant passes (only 66% passing accuracy)
- Individual decisions with which passes to make
- The slow prodding nature of how the ball was being moved around the pitch by Stoke City
- And, the lack of open-play creativity
Defensively it was also an array of issues for The Potters, starting with defending crosses inside the 18-yard box. Watford early and often went to work creating space out wide and then launching crosses into the box.
One of those crosses in the first half led to Watford’s first goal. Watford left-back Hassane Kamara placed a cross perfectly into the 18-yard box for forward Ismaïla Sarr to run onto for a header. On replay, it appeared Sarr may have been offside. But it was still a poor job defensively.
That goal summed up the rest of the match for Stoke City with defending crosses. First, Kamara was afforded too much space out wide to deliver the cross into the box. Then on the backside of the play, Stoke City’s backline failed to switch on to Sarr. Plus, goalkeeper Josef Bursik was caught in between as he was too far off his line but not far enough out of goal to challenge Sarr’s header.
Those same mistakes occurred over and over again. As did Stoke City’s inability to clear their lines in the box. Overall a super disappointing performance all around.
Who stood out for Stoke City against Watford?
Dujon Sterling, something to build off of: It’s hard to say anyone stood out positively for Stoke City in this match. But there were some glimmers of positives. One of those was Sterling in his debut. The Chelsea loanee looked rusty, but at times looked like someone who can provide a boost down the wings for Stoke City.
Sterling played a lot of the game inverted which could provide future rewards in attack. Interestingly, manager Alex Neil decided to play Sterling on the left side of his formation, instead of Sterling’s normal right side. That could change in upcoming weeks.
Sterling didn’t have a ton of impact in the game and somewhat disappeared in the second half. But his positioning and ability on the ball shined through on a few occasions.
Liam Delap, confidence building: Delap has not been consistent with Stoke City this season. Same can be said in this match. Delap didn’t make a huge impact up front. But Delap did start to show some more confidence against Watford.
That confidence came in the form of the runs Delap tried to make on and off the ball. Delap made a handful or so of powerful quick runs on the ball that were somewhat effective. It’s not about the effectiveness though.
It’s about those runs showing Delap’s possibly growing confidence on the pitch – growing confidence that could lead to a better-in-form player in the future.
Honorary Mentions, Ben Wilmot and Lewis Baker: Wilmot was Stoke City’s best defender of the match. That’s not saying a lot considering the final score. However, Wilmot did his best to hold the floodgates back.
Baker was great on set pieces again. Baker curled a beautiful attempt from a free kick from a long way out on goal. He also was decent with his crosses into the box. However, Baker will need to be better in open play moving forward and be a little more accurate with his crosses when needed.