Currently Stoke City are only four points above Huddersfield and Blackpool who sit in the Championship’s relegation zone. To add to those woes, The Potters are just five points above Wigan Athletic for last in the league — So why does Stoke City find themselves in this relegation fighting position at this point of the season? And how can the team improve in that area?
The first answer can be partly traced to the club’s continued defensive issues — The second answer can be a more complicated one. But, there could be one solution for that second question, that Stoke City might want to consider turning to.
Why Should the Potters Consider Using a Low Block?
Stoke City this past Saturday against Sheffield United conceded three goals to The Blades. Those latest three goals against, now give The Potters a tie for sixth worst in the league with 37 goals conceded — Which once again hammers home the point that Stoke City have been very poor this season out of possession.
And while we could spend all day going over each exact reason for those defensive issues, there could be one blanket tactic Alex Neil can turn to in order to fix these issues — That solution and tactic is using a low block more.
A lot of the issues Stoke City have been facing out of possession, such as marking issues and poor positional play can be somewhat corrected using a low block. This is because of how a low block can help take away the space your opponents have to work with in attack.
Basically, by using a low block, The Potters would be somewhat simplifying how they defend teams. Thus, giving the club less opportunities to not switch on to an attack properly or leaving space open for attack.
Again, with that simplification of defending opponents, Stoke City would be able to avoid some of the same mistakes they’ve been making over and over again.
Why Not Use a Low Bock?
So why wouldn’t Alex Neil and Stoke City want to switch to using a low block more? The simple answer is that it limits you in attack.
With a low block, you as a club almost immediately switch to a counter attacking mode all of the time — Which could lead to even less goal production for Stoke City in the long run. However, a counter attacking mindset might not be the worst thing in the world for The Potters.
Stoke City this season have been equally as poor in attack. So solving their out of possession issues, probably doesn’t fix their attacking issues and might even add to them. But with a counter attacking mindset, this could also give Stoke City more space in-behind their opponents backline.
So even in a scenario where Stoke City lose some attacking ability, a low block might even still allow them new opportunities in attack to exploit.
The bottom-line is promotion bound teams don’t use low blocks as often, unless they’ve accumulated a big lead. But at this point of the season Stoke City shouldn’t be focused on promotion. Instead, the club needs to fully focus on getting themselves out of relegation trouble first.
And by switching to a low block throughout a 90 minute match more often, the club can hope to play towards more low scoring games and sometimes draws to get at least more points down the stretch.
A low block won’t fix all of Stoke City’s issues right away. But it could help limit some of their same defensive mistakes that to this point haven’t been able to be corrected. And it will also help the club possibly gain more draws and points to avoid relegation in 2023.