This Saturday against Cardiff City will mark the un-official kick-off to the second half of the season for Stoke City — A second half of the season that will decide the true fate of whether or not this current season was a successful one for Stoke City.
Over the first half of the season, The Potters dealt with some big high points and also some very low ones. At one point, it appeared Stoke City might be heading towards a top-ten position on the Championship table at the World Cup break. And at other points, it looked like The Potters might also be destined for relegation position at the World Cup break.
In the end, Stoke City ended their first half of the season sitting at 17th on the table with 25 points. That puts The Potters within reaching distance of promotion, but also still in a position where there’s nothing to chance relegation wise in the second half of the season.
A big piece of determining where Stoke City finally land on the table and even where Stoke City find themselves on the table now in December, was and is going to be individual efforts.
So in the spirit of the final days of the World Cup break for Stoke City, let’s hand out some first half awards…
The Potters Mid-Season Awards:
First Half MVP, Lewis Baker:
Baker takes home the team’s most valuable player award for the first half of the season. Mostly because he was by far Stoke City’s most productive attacking player. Baker so far this season leads the team with 5 goals, while also being tied for the lead on the team with 3.3 xG (expected goals).
On top of leading the team in goals and xG, Baker has also been a huge contributor to the team with his set piece ability. Jordan Thompson has taken some corners this season, but for the majority of the season it’s been Baker taking set piece opportunities. And he’s been very good at them with his service.
Final point to add to Baker’s first half MVP case, is he’s been a constant in the club’s starting XI. With so many injuries around the club at different times, Baker has been the lone midfielder on the team to see minutes all season.
Best Attacking Player, Tariqe Fosu:
It would be easy to throw Baker into this category as well, but based on pure attacking threat, we’ll give Fosu this one. Although Fosu doesn’t have a ton of stats to show, Fosu has been one of the club’s best attacking players when he’s started.
Fosu so far this season has only racked up one assist. But, it’s been what he’s down on and off the ball in attack that has given Stoke City a different attacking element. Fosu on and off the ball has given opposing teams an extra wrinkle to think about when he’s been in the teams starting XI.
Simply put, when Fosu has started, he’s been the most dynamic player on the pitch for The Potters in attack. Even though his 1.8 xAG (expected assisted goals) isn’t a very high number, it’s still second on the team.
The trickiest part of the equation for Fosu in the second half of the season is how many games does he start? When Josh Tymon is healthy and the other team’s forwards are healthy, the team’s wing-back positions and winger positions are very crowded.
Still though, Fosu should be applauded for how he’s played when he’s seen minutes for Stoke City this season so far.
Best Defender, Ben Wilmot:
If flashy is what you’re looking for, then ignore Ben Wilmot. Everything Wilmot does is far from flashy. But what Wilmot does do, is consistently make the plays that need to be made. And that’s why Wilmot takes the team’s best defender award for the first half of the season.
Very rarely has Wilmot made a mistake or mistakes this season from match to match. For the most part, Wilmot has been a constant and solid presence in Stoke City’s backline.
You then add in his team leading 44 interceptions, 25 tackles, 66 clearances, and 31 blocks and you have yourself the best defender on the team in the first half of the season.
Most Underrated Player, Phil Jagielka:
Jagielka takes the teams most underrated player award because of what he did near the end of the first half of the season — Which is stabilize the team’s backline. Even with Wilmot as the team’s best defender in the first half of the season, Stoke City needed someone else at center-back to help stabilize the team’s backline.
That’s exactly what Jagielka did. Without Jagielka, Stoke City’s already poor defense in the first half of the season may have been worse. When Alex Neil essentially benched Aden Flint, Stoke City were in need of another center-back to help provide some glue to the club’s backline.
Again, that’s precisely what Jagielka did and why his contributions won’t show up on a stat sheet. With Harry Souttar returning to health, Jagielka’s starting position is in serious doubt. But for Alex Neil, a veteran presence like Jagielka on his bench has to be calming.
Second Half Awards Predictions:
There’s sure to be plenty to break down when Stoke City’s second half of their season ends next year. For now though we’ll settle with some quick second half away predictions, based off of what we know about this roster right now: