Ipswich Have a Nailed-On Win This Saturday - Notes for Stoke City
Friday, 15th Feb 2019 11:10 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“God, it’s tough right now”, “I just want this season to be over”, “You know when you have that gut feeling that we aren’t going to score, never mind win. I have had that feeling for the last 12 games. Hardly any of the players seem to be up for a fight and it’s game over as soon as we go a goal down.”
These are anxious times for Potters. They have won two of the 11 league games since December’s 2-0 win over Town and have failed to score in their last four matches. This poor form has seen the club drift to 17th in the table, lose to Shrewsbury in the FA Cup and see manager Gary Rowett dismissed.
“We seem to be in freefall at the moment”, “There isn’t a manager in the world of football that can get these idiots playing cohesively”, “This season is most certainly a write-off now. It’s going to take massive work to either get rid of all of our existing players on good wages or get them into shape.”
“I just hope that the cushion on the relegation zone doesn’t evaporate within a few weeks”, “We are lucky to have the number of points we already have. We can lose our remaining games and stay up”, “I looked at the league table this morning and don’t think we’re out of it. We’re absolutely rancid.”
“Changing manager every few weeks doesn’t work””, “Sacking managers has got us into the mess we find ourselves in. You could argue we would still be in the Premier League if we hadn’t sacked Mark Hughes”, “It’s utterly depressing. I could weep for the amount of money we have wasted.”
“We’re in for a long ride before this gets better”, “We’re no great shakes but the improvement is there for all to see. It will be a very gradual process but we are moving forward”, “I will take slow improvement now. We need to get to the end of the season. It’s not great but it’s where we are.”
“Will Jones be under pressure this season? It certainly hasn’t been a very good start”, “We all knew that he was picked for the long haul. We knew that it would be difficult getting this team playing on the front foot. Some fans need to get a grip and get behind him”, “He will have free rein for now.”
The 45-year-old left previous club Luton in early January to become Stoke’s fourth manager in just over a year. He has immediately introduced the 4-4-2 diamond system along with the brand of high tempo passing football which brought great success at the Hatters but this will take time to perfect.
“I will be honest. Jones is worrying me. There are moments of naivety at this level and his random experiments every week are worrying me. I’m not sure he has the pragmatism to turn this around. He is shoehorning players into his preferred system rather than using a system to suit his players.”
“Jones is looking for players who will put the team first, which is limiting his options right now. He hasn’t had a great deal of time”, “I would prefer that he instilled an understanding of how he wants his players to play and not always chop and change. Consistency will benefit us in the long term.”
“Jones has no experience of this league, which is a very tough one, and seems out of his depth”, “I don’t get the love-in for this guy. He is lower league and commands no respect.”, “He’s flying by the seat of his pants”, “He has looked like a rabbit in the headlights ever since the Shrewsbury game.”
Very Unstructured Random Football
“Wow, this is bad. The diamond doesn’t work and we need more width”, “No one understands the system”, “Our shape is terrible, more gaps than Swiss cheese”, “I don’t want to hear ‘it’s a work in progress’ anymore. There is no real progress and something else seems to be worse every week.”
“We look like a bunch of players who have just met for the first time. We struggle to do the basics”, “We are so amateurish with the ball with no idea how to use it”, “Pressure from fans led to Rowett’s sacking. Now we have a new manager trying to play his style and formation with Rowett’s players.”
“We have no presence in midfield, just three small vanilla players who excel at absolutely nothing”, “The diamond creates lots of space and you can see how it can be good, but you need players who can pass and trap a ball, beat a man and run relentlessly. At the moment we are playing aimlessly.”
“Why do we stand off teams when we have eight players around the opponent on the ball?”, “I still think there is quality in the squad, but we’re in dire need of passion and confidence”, “It feels like players are carrying too much pressure. Key moments in games are being decided by our mentality.”
Jones’s starting XI (above) at Wigan had a familiar diamond shape. With no natural left-back in the squad after Erik Pieters’s departure on loan to Amiens in January, midfielder Sam Clucas covered in this role. Winger Tom Ince played in behind the two strikers instead of playmaker Bojan Krkic.
“So, we have abandoned the diamond, hopefully for good.” With Wigan having too much space and opening Stoke’s midfield and defence up, Jones switched to a 4-5-1 midway through the first half to improve Stoke’s solidity. Right-back Moritz Bauer also replaced Tom Edwards who injured his elbow.
“It’s so simple to score against us”, “Our centre-backs are slow and none of our full-backs are good enough defensively”, “If everyone is on their game, we have a chance. If one piece of the jigsaw falls apart, our lack of pace and physicality at the back are exposed and then it’s Russian roulette time.”
Many Potters feel that keeper Jack Butland has regressed this season with his handling of crosses and routine shots now suspect. Danny Batth is seen as a like-for-like replacement for veteran Ryan Shawcross, who has increasingly struggled for pace as has his fellow centre-back Ashley Williams.
“It was a great decision to let Erik Pieters go.” Tom Edwards and Moritz Bauer are good attacking right-backs who occasionally lose position, but the left-back role is more problematic. Bruno Martins Indi loses concentration while Sam Clucas has struggled with the role both with and without the ball.
“Our problem is there for all to see. Be it a diamond or the 4-1-4-1 we ended the Wigan game with, that midfield is absolutely horrific. It will be fixed in the short term by Charlie Adam but it needs an overhaul this summer”, “Adam is the one man who can take responsibility and control the midfield.”
Peter Etebo is seen as the most comfortable with the box-to-box role in the diamond but Joe Allen is less effective for all of his industry. Ryan Woods has struggled the most, having to curtail his instincts to move forward at the base of the diamond while his passing has also lost some of its effectiveness.
Tom Ince has struggled to adapt to the more congested playmaking role and most Potters think that Bojan Krkic will play there in the long term. Potters were baffled by Jones’s decision to move James McClean into the front two when the left winger has struggled to score or assist since arriving in July.
“Four games without a goal, we need quality in the final third.” Sam Vokes is seen as a target man to add aerial strength and a focal point. Benik Afobe should be his natural partner, but fans wondered why defender Shawcross was sent on as a late attacking substitute ahead of him against West Brom.
Stoke’s one victory under Jones was over Leeds last month. The manager switched system partly to protect the lack of pace in the centre of defence. “Until he gets the personnel to suit his beloved diamond shape, I would be tempted to go with the 3-5-2 that brought us our only win under Jones.”
Wigan 0 – 0 Stoke
“A resilient good display which at least breaks our run of losses”, “Not the most scintillating football but we ground out an away draw with a clean sheet”, “Overall a big improvement on recent games. It would be great if we could finish a chance once in a while”, “Well, it’s nice not to lose for once.”
“This is grim.” Potters were anxious about the amount of space the hosts were afforded in the early stages but the switch to a 4-5-1 settled the nerves even though they lacked any cutting edge. “What a poor game of football that was. Both teams were hopeless”, “It looked like a relegation battle.”
Stoke 0 – 1 West Bromwich Albion
“That was embarrassing”, “Our passing was awful and every pass was played behind the intended player”, “It was absolutely woeful, there was no positive to take from this”. “Another game where we give a soft goal away, and don’t have a meaningful shot on goal. League One here we come.”
“We couldn’t pass the football, it was too predictable.” Dwight Gayle nodded in from close range to notch his 16th goal of the season on 25 minutes to win a game of few chances for the visitors. We looked better after the break but still couldn’t figure it out when we got near their 18-yard box.”
“That has got to be the easiest 90 minutes West Brom will play all season. They barely got into first gear, let alone out of it”, “West Brom were no great shakes but they didn’t have to be. They looked like they could deal with everything we came up with”, “We didn’t look a threat to score all game.”
Jones’s line-up (above) included McClean in a front two but his substitutions were noteworthy with Saido Berahino, who has been a fringe player, and Bojan appearing midway through the second half. The introduction of Shawcross for Ince in stoppage time with Afobe on the bench alarmed fans.
Hull 2 – 0 Stoke
“This club is a laughing stock”, “We were too sloppy in decent positions and our inability to put the ball in the net cost us”, “That’s the Stoke we have come to know regardless of the manager”, “We’re in a rut to end all ruts. This is relegation form and we have to start planning for next season now.”
Jarrod Bowen had put the Tigers in front with a curling freekick on 44 minutes before debutant Sam Vokes missed a penalty two minutes later. It was Stoke’s fifth miss from seven spot-kicks taken in the league this season. Kamil Grosicki slotted into the corner for Hull’s second goal on 64 minutes.
“This is absolutely brainless football”, “We were so superior in every aspect of the game until Hull scored but the game was gone in a minute with their goal and our missed penalty. It’s a recurring nightmare”, “The whole club is damaged and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.”
“Debuts for Vokes and Batth.” Jones started his two January arrivals in a game which saw Martins Indi switch to left-back and Clucas play in a holding role. Bojan started in the playmaking role behind Vokes and McClean.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Jack Butland has regressed to a Championship standard keeper.” The 25-year-old ex-Birmingham man “doesn’t command his area of come for the ball. His distribution is very patchy. He’s a fine shot stopper but isn’t doing enough”. “His panicky flapping antics do change the tone of our defending.”
“There’s so much to complain about that Butland’s appalling displays are going under the radar. He is panicking under simple crosses and can’t stop routine shots or set pieces”, “His poor kicking alone is enough for top clubs to lose interest, but his poor command of his area will also put suitors off.”
“Tom Edwards makes himself available and puts in some excellent crosses.” The 20-year-old youth product “is a breath of fresh air at right-back in what has been a calamitous defence”, “He is our best crosser of a ball and should be taking corners too”, “It’s a shame he’s not blessed with electric pace.”
“Edwards doesn’t always raise his head to look for options and his crossing can be inconsistent”, “I still think he has no idea when to get tight of drop off. He’s always a penalty or a foul just waiting to happen. Hopefully he will learn with experience, but this is a basic skill for any half-decent full-back.”
“Moritz Bauer was our most consistent performer in the second half of last season.” The 27-year-old Austria international and one-time Grasshoppers Zurich right-back “gives off the right vibes with his pace but is never in the right place”, “He can’t defend and also doesn’t offer enough going forward.”
“Bauer can be like a speed boat with no driver”, “He looks good bombing down the flanks, but how many match-winning or game-changing goals has he created for us?” “He goes missing in games and his positional play and awareness are suspect. He seems to be pulled away from his man too easily.”
Bruno Martins Indi
“Bruno Martins Indi is only 27 and should be in his prime.” The Dutch international and former Porto centre-half “can’t mark a player or win a header, and he gives the ball away in pretty poor situations. It was very careless of him to give the freekick away for Hull’s first goal, leaving his leg dangling out.”
“Martins Indi gets pulled out of position too easily but at least he has a functioning left foot”, “He is slow and clumsy, and will never be an attacking full-back in a million years”, “I thought he might boss this division but his shocking positional play has been abysmal and has regularly let to us conceding.”
“Ryan Shawcross was a great player in his day and a legend in fact, but his day is gone.” The 31-year-old club stalwart of 11 years “is commanding in the air at crosses but my God is he slow. He struggles when players are allowed to run straight at him from deep but play to his strengths and he’s great.”
“Any system which asks Shawcross to try to play out from the back will not suit him”, “I hate it when he kicks the ball out of play needlessly”, “He’s so scared of being turned that he grabs his man or will drop three yards off him”, “It’s a shame but all good things come to an end and he needs replacing.”
“Ashley Williams, fingers crossed, will be gone in a few months.” The 34-year-old Everton loanee “is very weak and slow. He can’t pass or head the ball and he’s a centre-half”, “He gets shaken off the ball and is then too slow to recover”, “He’s laughable. If he was a vehicle, he would be a milk float.”
“I am impressed with Batth. He does the basics very well and doesn’t seem to make daft errors.” The 28-year-old January signing from Wolves “looks strong, and we look more balanced and in control at the back with him there”, “He likes a hoof, but he is a Shawcross upgrade rather than a partner.”
Danny Batth (Wolves)
“Although not the quickest, Batth looks a great deal more mobile and athletic than any of the other guys we have had at the back this season”, “He’s a monster compared with the other centre-backs. He organises the defence, knows when to drop off or close down, concentrates and wins the ball.”
“Peter Etebo looks to go forward with the ball and has a bit of pace.” The 23-year-old June buy from Portugal side Feirense and Nigeria international “is great running with the ball in a straight line but that’s it. His passing is poor and his touch is heavy. He can’t really tackle and his shots are wayward.”
“You know it’s never going to come to anything when Etebo gets the ball. He has good intentions but no end product”, “He is one of the few who has grasped the tactics of the diamond. He has been the only midfielder finding space and making things happen. He has shown some glimpses of his power.”
“Ryan Woods is on tricky ground given the manager is wedded to the diamond in the long-term” The 25-year-old ex-Brentford man “likes to receive the ball and keep it moving, but every time he gets to the halfway line, he turns towards his own goal, runs back with the ball and passes it even deeper.”
“Woods gives the ball away because he has absolutely no options. The lack of width in this system is a real problem for him”, “He likes to play it wide but he has no options but backward passes which are met by groans”, “He’s can move the ball precisely, but no team-mates are on his wavelength.”
“Sam Clucas turns attack into defence.” The 28-year-old August buy from Swansea “is a perplexing signing who is terrible this season regardless of formation”, “He looks like he’s playing in a different football match to everyone else”, “He couldn’t be any worse if you tied his shoelaces together.”
“A dustbin at left-back would be no worse than Clucas”, “He can’t even do the basics. His first touch has been horrendous, his passing dreadful and he has been very weak”, “He is really sloppy and his poor passing puts team-mates in trouble”, “Every pass is backwards and he makes no attacking runs.”
“I’m sure Bojan Krkic will start at the tip of the diamond as soon as Jones deems him ready.” The 28-year-old former Roma and Barcelona playmaker “is a good pass spotter and feeder to the strikers. He has linked play very well, turning defence into attack and playing great through balls or crosses.”
“The expectations on Bojan must be curtailed by his lack of game time”, “He gets the ball in the final third but there’s no movement for him. You could have Xavi pulling the strings in this team with no success”, “We look more positive when he plays. He’s intelligent enough to make runs off Vokes.”
“Allen tries but is ineffective.” The 28-year-old former Swansea man “can’t play the role of the deep midfielder as he lacks the discipline due to his desire to chase the ball”, “He’s at his best breaking-up play, closing down, hassling and making clean tackles in a disciplined way with a very good engine.”
“I have no idea what type of midfielder Allen is, and haven’t seen anyone explain the role he should play”, “He has done a decent job in front of the back four, but he has struggled to make any creative passes”, “He’s a top lad and a good pro, but in the wrong team and I say that with a heavy heart.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“The decision to play James McClean up front is hopefully an experiment which went wrong and will never be repeated.” The 29-year-old July signing from West Brom “kills our attacks and his very poor control of the ball lets him down”, “He’s okay when games become stretched but he is not a striker.”
“Show McClean on to his right foot and he’s so easy to deal with”, “The problem is that we’re asking him to play a role which needs two good feet but his right foot is only for standing on. Things break down when he is on the ball”, “He makes some decent runs and adds physicality to the front line.”
“Ince seems to go missing.” The 27-year-old July signing from Huddersfield “is creative as a number 10 but he only creates for himself”, “He’s the one player we have with pace but he is anonymous”, “It would help if someone told him he should be part of this diamond and not just play for himself.”
Sam Clucas and Tom Ince
“Ince is such a frustrating player. He is blessed with sublime skill and seems to be able to glide past players. What really annoys me is his defensive work-rate which is practically non-existent. He looks like he’s tracking back to tackle but when it comes to putting his body on the line, he just backs out.”
“I am past the point of thinking that Saido Berahino can come good.” The 25-year-old former West Brom man “seems to be getting a truce offered by some people because he looks lively and will run around”, “He is improved this season but still isn’t pulling up any trees. His weak pace is a problem.”
“At least Berahino can hold the ball up and he hasn’t got a bad first touch”, “He is slightly less poor than last season but that bar was set so low that it’s hardly praiseworthy”, “His wider approach play, holding the ball up and bringing others into play has been good, but he won’t progress us as a club.”
Benik Afobe (Wolves)
“Benik Afobe may not be Jones’s cup of tea but at least he knows where the net is.” The 25-year-old ex-Wolves attacker “is the only striker we have with a decent record, a bit of pace and an eye for goal. He needs to be playing in a system like this where he will get plenty of service and support.”
“Afobe has been dire lately”, “He needs to be sold in the summer. I thought he would be a decent player but he has been a massive disappointment”, “His touch has been poor, even playing hospital passes to himself”, “Maybe he will thrive having a proper target man instead of doing it all himself.”
“I didn’t realise what a unit Sam Vokes is.” The 29-year-old January arrival from Burnley “has given us the focal point Jones wanted. Centre-halves will know they have been in a game with him on the pitch”, “He’s not a prolific goalscorer but he will be an effective target man for a finisher to play off.”
Sam Vokes (Stoke City)
“The issue with Vokes is him mobility and the fact that he won’t score goals for fun”, “He wins a lot of headers but the second balls he generates aren’t being picked up. He needs help up top which he won’t get from McClean or Ince”, “He has hardly had a decent scoring opportunity since arriving.”
Potters’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich Town are comfortably the worst team in the league and it should be a walkover, so I predict another hard fought 0-0 and I will go for the dizzying heights of an entire three shots on target. It’s mental I know”, “When you say walkover, for them or us? just so we're clear”, “One for the purists.”
“I think we can score a goal in this one”, “We all know exactly how this one is going to play out. We could be unbeaten, top of the league and averaging three goals a game. Ipswich meanwhile cannot buy a win, are utterly dreadful and resigned to relegation, so a home win is absolutely guaranteed!”
“Lambert will have them pumped up for it and I doubt our gutless lot will have the stomach to fight for it.” With their poor form, very few Potters are taking a win on Saturday for granted. “They played very well against Derby so anyone thinking we just have to turn up to win will be in for a big shock.”
“Could you imagine the fun on here if we lost to the bottom side, managed by Lambert?” “He will be up for this game like no other, wouldn't you think?”, “He is ‘up’ for every game including last week’s one against his former club and local rivals, Norwich. He's as passionate a manager as you will get.”
“I saw a bit of the Norwich game at the weekend. Ipswich didn’t look bad after their early mistake. They were just awful in the final third, bad crosses and pass choices, a bit like us. They are looking a lot better than they were since Lambert has been there. Their defence is certainly a lot better.”
“It has been a proper derby this, eight yellow cards, fighting between the two benches and two members of coaching staff sent off and plenty of scuffles”, “Looking at the match statistics it was very even. It looks like Ipswich have the same problem as us in the final third of the pitch.”
“Norwich fans barely made a murmur all game though, despite all that and being 3-0 up. I always thought their fans were similar to Arsenal fans. They always turn up in good numbers but don’t make a lot of noise.”
The busiest Potters’ forum is the authoritative The Oatcake. Bolton Wanderers highlights are available on the Multimedia menu as well as Ipswich Town and for the whole of the Championship and other EFL leagues.
Photo: Action Images
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