No matter how you slice it, Saturday’s 3-1 win for Stoke City over Sheffield United was a really big win. Not only does the win move Stoke City up to 15th on the table, but it’s also a win against top-table Sheffield United.
For some, the narrative coming out of Saturday’s win for Stoke City will be that The Potters beat a depleted Sheffield United club. And some of those notions aren’t totally false.
Sheffield United were undoubtedly compromised on Saturday against The Potters. The Blades were missing numerous players due to injury and suspension. Plus, the team suffered some in-game injuries as well that further hampered the team.
However, that doesn’t change the fact that a wins a win. It also doesn’t change the fact that regardless of a team’s form, their place on the table is still their place on the table. Which for Sheffield United is 1st on the table.
That’s why Stoke City’s win on Saturday still signifies a great deal in the grand scheme of things. You can only play who’s in front of you and The Potters excelled against that club on Saturday.
How Stoke City Got the Job Done
In recent weeks, Stoke City in possession had looked like a work in progress. At times the team’s off-ball movement was lacking. The Potters also had long spurts of matches where they were too slow on the ball with passing and lacked creativity when in possession.
On Saturday, those issues were all but invisible with Stoke City. It wasn’t perfect for a full 90 minutes, but it was still a very good showing offensively for the team.
Stoke City were much better at releasing passes more quickly to teammates. The club also regularly would move into better spaces off the ball to receive passes and then push the ball out wide to Tariqe Fosu/Dujon Sterling.
These attacking ingredients baked up a better creative attack for Stoke City throughout the match when in possession. An attack that allowed the team to play on their front foot, pin Sheffield United in their own defensive third of the pitch, and most importantly create chances to score goals.
That creativeness all culminated on Stoke’s third goal late – when the club picked out four quick passes to unlock Sheffield United’s backline.
Defensively against The Blades, Stoke City carried over their Burnley performance and remained steadfast. Sheffield United had a few really good chances, including the goal they scored. But overall it was a solid effort from The Potters to defend the spaces out wide and keep Sheffield United from penetrating their 18-yard box too often.
Who stood out for Stoke City against Sheffield United?
Tariqe Fosu, stop him if you can:
Another match and another instance in which we’re highlighting Fosu as Stoke’s best player on the day. Fosu was great again on and off the ball for what was his best performance of the season so far.
Fosu made a goal-saving play in the first half by heading and clearing a ball off the line that was destined for the back of the net on a Blade’s corner. Then on the ball, Fosu was brilliant.
The actions Fosu took to stand out in this game were he:
- Showed off his dribbling ability beating defenders
- Demonstrated his vision of picking out passes
- Made fantastic runs off-ball
- And, even almost scored on the times he rifled the ball towards goal.
Fosu didn’t register a goal or assist, but he was Stoke City’s most important player in the match.
Dujon Sterling, the physical threat:
If Fosu was the team’s most important player on the day, then Sterling has to be the club’s next most important player. Sterling wasn’t as active as Fosu was, but he still made a huge impact.
Sterling showed his ability to carry the ball in space and deliver crosses or find the right pass. Off the ball, Sterling also made his mark by winning the ball back when called upon. What made all of that click for Sterling was his physicality.
Sterling showed off his size and strength throughout, on and off the ball. The Chelsea loanee is a big piece of the puzzle moving forward for Alex Neil.
Ben Wilmot, steady box-to-box:
Wilmot had a poor outing midweek against Burnley. Yet, he quickly erased that performance on Saturday. Early in the match Wilmot made a great run for the far post to find and bury a Jagielka cross for the teams first goal.
Then throughout the rest of the match, Wilmot was solid once again in Stoke City’s own 18-yard box. Wilmot put himself in good positions to defend any Sheffield United chances.
Phil Jagielka, the veteran:
Starting in place of Aden Flint once again, Jagielka didn’t budge an inch defensively. And offensively in attack, the 40 year old center-back showed he still has some assists and goals left in him.
Jagielka crossed a ball perfectly into the box far post for Wilmot on the team’s first goal. Later on in the first half, Jagielka would score his first goal since his days at Everton. Jagielka jostled and rose up perfectly to head in a Lewis Baker corner for the team’s second goal right before half.
Honorary Mentions, Tyrese Campbell, Liam Delap, and Dwight Gayle:
Tyrese Campbell: Campbell had a bad first half and seemed like he was on his way to a bad personal outing. But later in the second half Campbell turned things on and was able to create space for his own shots and find teammates with his passing ability – including assisting on the team’s third goal.
Liam Delap: Delap didn’t start, but he came on late and made his presence known. Delap positioned himself perfectly to score the team’s third goal and showed off good hold-up play in other instances.
Dwight Gayle: Gayle was the team’s one lowlight. Gayle had some little moments throughout the game that he did well in. Otherwise, it was another mostly quiet outing for him.