Snart lördag och dags för vår tredje sista ligamatch för säsongen, en match som är väldigt viktig för oss i kampen om CL-platserna. Precis som senast ställs vi mot ett lag som kämpar för sin överlevnad i ligan, Stoke är nämligen riktigt illa ute i bottenstriden och behöver plocka en hel del poäng under de avslutande omgångarna för att hänga kvar. Adam Hindhaugh(@stokieadam) redogör i omgångens Q&A om hur man gått från att vara ett svårspelat mittenlag till ett bottenlag med ena foten i The Championship:
1. You are currently in the relegation battle after many years as a solid mid table team, why do you think you are in this position now?
There has been complacency amongst the clubs hierarchy. There are many factors that have contributed to the clubs down fall. Mark Hughes inherited a very strong, stable, hardworking and fit team from Tony Pulis and set about evolving the way in which we played making a few key signings such as Marko Arnautovic but keeping the structure of the side the same. Hughes then set about trying to slowly replace the team he inherited and this was when the problems started. We had an encouraging first 18 months under Hughes, however, the more players who were brought in, the more problems arose. Recruitment has been a real issue with many expensive signings not working out for example Imbula, Berahino and Kevin Wimmer, costing upwards of £40 million. The DNA of Stoke has disappeared; we became too easy to beat, conceded far too many goals, didn’t address the key areas in the Summer and the team seemed to be lacking in fitness. Behind the scenes, there seemed to be a lack of togetherness and willingness to battle to get us out of the mess.
2. Paul Lambert replaced Mark Hughes in january, what has he changed since he arrived?
Paul Lambert has instilled discipline into the team and seemed to have harmonised the group of players to make them fight for each other. The players seem to be fitter and has made us harder to beat. We don’t concede as many goals as we previously did, however, we also don’t score enough. Performances haven’t really improved but the players seem to be trying more than they were. There are games we should have won, we have lost a lot of points from winning positions and Lambert hasn’t won the games we should have won.
3. Do you think you will get enough points to stay up?
Not now, no, Sunday was massive and it was a game we should have won given the first half and the chance we missed jut before half time. That would have put us right back in contention and given the fixture list for teams like Huddersfield and with us having to play Swansea and Palace, there was still a chance. Given the goal difference, we are now too far behind to make an impact in my opinion. It would take an unlikely victory at Anfield to kick start the season again.
4. If you should go down, how do you rate your chances to get back to the Premier League? Who will stay and who will leave?
I think it will be tough. The ownership of the club need to take stock, admit where the mistakes were made and invest to get the team back in the PL. Starting the season with Paul Lambert in charge will also not instill confidence amongst the supporters as he hasn’t had the required impact we were all hoping. I imagine some of our key players will leave including Butland, Shaqiri and Allen for starters, however, they should recoup finances from those 3 deals to reinvest in the playing staff. The owners may use any funds to soften the financial blow of exiting the PL though. I hope we can keep the likes of Shawcross, Martins Indi, Bauer and Ndiaye and build a team around those 4.
5. You have a few ex-Liverpool players in your squad, how good are they nowadays?
I like Joe Allen; he gives his all in every game and without him, we may already be down already. He epitomises everything about how Stoke City should be. He hasn’t contributed as much going forward as he has done in previous seasons but has had to carry the midfield on his own for the majority of the season due to him having Fletcher and Adam alongside him for large parts. Adam has let the club down in key moments this season and will probably end up leaving at the end of the season, You cant question his commitment, however, he now lacks ability and fitness and this contributes to mistakes he makes. He had an unfortunate double penalty miss in the home game v Brighton and then followed this up with a straight red against Everton.
6. Who is your player of the year and why?
It will be between Allen and Shaqiri. Shaqiri has created and scored in many games this season and has single handedly kept the season alive, however, he doesn’t always turn up when you need him but in his defence, he is only as good as the players around him and for the most part they are poor. Allen a different type of player and tried his hardest in every game, his work rate and dedication can not be questioned and it will be between these 2.
7. How do you think you will lineup on Saturday and what kind of game do you predict
I predict we will get beat, probably by around 2-0 or 3-0. I cannot see us scoring. We are really short on options and have to win the game. With this in mind, we played 4-4-2 on Sunday so could do the same with 2 wingers and Crouch partnering Diouf up front