As the World Cup dwindles down to the final four teams, The Potters broke out of their World Cup break with a 2-2 draw against Cardiff City on Saturday — That now places Stoke City at 18th on the table with 26 points.
In Saturday’s draw, Stoke City showed both improvements from over the break, but also lackluster play that has previously plagued the team before the World Cup break. So have Stoke City improved over the break? Gotten worse? Stayed the same?
The answer to those questions is yes, no, and maybe. Here are three things we learned from The Potters first match out of the World Cup break…
Three Takeaways from Saturdays Cardiff City Draw:
Souttar’s Transition Back to Stoke City Will Take Time
There’s no question that Harry Souttar being back in Stoke City’s starting XI is a major positive. (If you do have any doubts, then look no further than Souttar’s play with Australia at the World Cup over the past month.)
Souttar’s presence in The Potters starting XI boosts the team defensively in a massive way. But after watching Saturday’s draw, it’s clear that Souttar and the rest of Stoke City’s backline is going to need some time to gel together.
Prior to Saturday’s match, Harry Souttar had only played one game with Stoke City since last November — Which is why it’s not a shock that Souttar and his fellow Potters center-backs/fullbacks, looked to be out of sync with each other at times on Saturday.
The key to any good defensive backline is communication and the ability to play together as a unit. Because Souttar has had limited time with Ben Wilmot, Josh Tymon, and many other defenders on the team, there’s going to be some rough patches defensively as a team for Stoke City.
Until The Potters fully glue together as a backline, expect Stoke City to have some questionable moments defensively over the next month. In the meantime though, expect Souttar to keep playing great individually and for Stoke City overall to still be better defensively from what we saw from the first half of the season.
Even if it means some rough patches here and there defensively as a team, while Souttar gets acquainted with his teammates once again.
Stoke City Found Better Attacking Positions
Stoke City in the first half of the season were very inconsistent when it came to scoring goals. A lot of those issues came from the team not taking up good enough attacking positions in their attacking third of the pitch.
At least for one game though, Stoke City against Cardiff City showed that over the break, finding better attacking positions may have been a focal point. Early and often on Saturday The Potters in attack pushed more players forward into the 18-yard box.
Not only did they push three or four players at a time forward into the box though but the team’s attackers also found better attacking positions in-between defenders. This was massive for Stoke City against Cardiff City, as attacking players were able to find themselves in more dangerous positions to shoot the ball on Saturday.
The result was two goals and many more dangerous chances for The Potters. If Stoke City can keep that trend up moving forward, two goals or more a match should be very viable.
Bonham Takes Over as Starting Keeper?
Probably the biggest lineup news to come out of Saturday’s match and Stoke’s friendlies before the restart, is that Jack Bonham could be The Potters number one goalkeeper again. Saturday’s start now gives Bonham starts over Josef Bursik in the team’s friendly against Nottingham Forest and Championship match against Cardiff City.
Could Bursik be dealing with a small injury? Yes, that’s always a possibility. But the fact that Bursik made the bench again for Alex Neil, could mean that he’s healthy and on the outside looking in for the moment.
The bigger question is probably why has Bursik lost his starting job? There’s always a chance the team’s overall results played into the decision. But overall Bursik was solid in the first half of the season for Stoke City.
So the more likely scenario is that new goalkeeping coach Jonathan Gould prefers Bonham to Bursik. No matter the answer, it will be interesting to see if next Saturday Bonham is in goal once again.