With the World Cup break getting underway this week, Stoke City will now have about a month off from official Championship action. And with that time away from match play, manager Alex Neil and company should have plenty of time to diagnose some of the issues that have plagued the club over the past month — Issues that popped up once again Saturday versus West Brom and have pushed the club to where they are on the table.
Saturday’s 2-0 loss against The Baggies, marked Stoke City’s sixth defeat over the past month. A sixth defeat that puts The Potters at 17th on the table with 25 points going into December after the World Cup.
The good news for Stoke City though is that this year’s Championship table has been largely a tightly contested one. The Potters as of right now sit only six points from sixth-table Millwall. So, a good second half to their season could very easily put The Potters in a promotion playoff spot.
But (and that may end being a big but by season’s end), Stoke City will first have to find better results than they have so far this season. So how does Stoke City find those better results? The answer could be a largely basic one.
Biggest Overall Issue The Potters Have Faced So Far
When diagnosing a problem, it’s important to start with the biggest overall issue you’re facing. Not just the smaller underlying issues. The same can definitely be said for Championship clubs like Stoke City.
Now, that doesn’t mean those smaller issues can’t pop up and turn into a bigger deal. Or even mean those smaller issues end up being the biggest reason a club doesn’t succeed. But it’s important to look at the bigger snapshot, and for Stoke City that bigger picture means finding more consistency.
Consistency this season so far has remained Stoke City’s biggest Achilles heel. Can you point specific issues in the team’s attack being an issue? Yes you can. Can you blame the club’s poor defensive play, especially as of late? Absolutely.
But it’s a lack of consistency, that is the overarching theme around The Potters in and out of possession that has held them back this season so far.
The Importance of Consistency for Stoke City
Finding consistency can be a tricky proposition for any manager. After all, how does one measure consistency? Well, for starters consistency in the Championship really boils down to more points and better results. Which is why Stoke City’s results to begin with point to a lack of consistency.
Wins are always great and losses are always unwanted. But it’s draws that can sometimes mean being a bottom table club and a top table club. Stoke City over the past month won four matches, lost six, and drew only one time.
If Stoke City could have drawn in even two more matches this past month instead of losses, the club would be closer to the top ten on the table. Plus, draws have a way of keeping momentum going for a team and leading to more wins down the road in close matches.
And that’s where Alex Neil needs to look over the break to improve Stoke City’s consistency, the club’s close matches. Stoke City over the last month in their six losses, only lost by more than one goal three times.
That leaves three matches that Stoke City were seemingly in and couldn’t pull off better results. Even if those better results mean draws. If Stoke City can find consistency in even two or three more of those matches, the scenario The Potters are facing in the second half of the season could be kinder.
How Does Stoke City Find More Consistency?
Consistency for a club can come in a number of ways. The biggest one being basic fundamentals. If a team can do the basic things well, they’ll have a general sense of consistency in every match.
No matter how talented or untalented a team is, if you do the little things well and have good fundamentals, a club will find more consistency. Now, roster talent does play into having more consistency. The more talented your players are, the easier it’s going to be to teach and keep consistency with basic fundamentals. ‘
That’s where the upcoming winter transfer window will be big for Alex Neil and new Technical Director Ricky Martin. Stoke City will no doubt have to make some additions that we’ll outline in the weeks to come before the transfer window.
But sometimes you have to play with what you have. And the bottom line is, Alex Neil and Stoke City should have enough talent to find more consistency right now. So it comes down to getting the basics right.
Stoke City have a ton of underlying issues to work on in attack and defensively. A lot of those issues we’ll also dig deeper into in the upcoming weeks on All Stoke Up — As will Alex Neil and The Potters during upcoming training sessions.
However, it’s the basics that Neil can start with right away to help Stoke City be more consistent match-to-match. Those Basics include off-ball movement, basic passing, making runs, and keeping a high work rate on both sides of the ball.
If Stoke City can work on those areas and be more consistent in those areas, better results will come after the World Cup in the form of consistent results/points.