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Chelsea manager Graham Potter frustrated

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Chelsea manager Graham Potter frustrated with media criticism as he hit back at criticism

After a season of highs and lows, Stoke City are set to face their first Premier League challenge in four years this weekend. But fans won’t be able to look forward to facing Manchester United as much as they will be looking back on this season with some regret. Not only have the Potters fallen short of their ambitious 2016/17 goal scoring ambitions, but they’ve also been accused of being slow to adopt new ideas and strategies. In mid-October, a month before their first game against Manchester United, Potter was roundly criticised for allowing a ‘hopeful’ culture at the club to blossom into an old-fashioned West Ham team that struggled to score goals last season. So many fans have taken up the criticism that striker Javier Hernandez has been told he can only manage two goals a game.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the players

Stoke have hit their straps in their first season back among the top flight’s top teams, but the truly worrying aspect of the situation for the Potters is how little action there is on the pitch. Carrick, king of the man-marking, has been quiet this season, while captain Adam Smith has not featured for the side since New Year’s Day. It’s a similar story for the rest of the team, with Giggs, Deyner and Forrester struggling to even take a short free-kick.

As a fan, you would hope that you have a greater influence on the team than your manager does. It’s not often that you get to see your old team-mates in the stands, but that’s what the Potters are experiencing this weekend when they face Manchester United. With only two games to go before the end of the season, the club has not suited up the majority of their players since the beginning of the campaign.

Still not where they want to be

Stoke’s problems this season have been Brand new manager, new ideas, old-fashioned goalkeepers and a lack of goal scoring left-footers. While the former has been a cause for concern for the club, the latter has seen the Potters struggle with goalkeeping. While Giggs has made a significant impact at Old Trafford, it’s clear that his best position is either as a utility player or a ‘shackled’ goalie. While Forrester has been showing growing maturity at a crucial stage in his career, Hernandez has still been a liability when he’s not finding the back line desperate for space.

Still, United are a far more threatening opponent than any of the teams in the top flight. The Red Devils have won seven consecutive games and have racked up a record score-line of 10th in the Premier League. With such success, it’s not enough for Manchester City to challenge for the title this season, so United are in a good position to finish top of the table and claim the golden boot. In reality, there’s every chance of it being the other way around. United have shown that they can score goals with any team, against any team and in all shifts in the match. They’ve been dominant in the early stages of the match and then exploded into life as the game developed.

Look what you did last season

Stoke haven’t looked anywhere near as good as they did last season when they were at the peak of their powers. In fact, their relatively poor showing last season is a prime example of how the Potters can fall victim to the ‘new year, old habits’ problem that has dogged the club for the past few seasons. The 30-year-old striker has been struggling to find the back line this season, though, with several players struggling to make the most of their opportunities. Ominous for the future of the club, especially as With row is set to walk in the summer.

The real test for Stoke

Stoke need to perform at their best, not just against the best team in the world, but against the best team in the Premier League. They need to perform against teams that are not only competing for the title, but are also fighting for their place in the history books. The Stoke City story has gone from great to incredible, and now it’s on the line for the Potters to show what they can achieve.

Only time will tell

The draw for this weekend’s game against Manchester United was extremely close, with both Blues and Potters finishing as hosts. The result will certainly be decisive, but there’s a chance that neither table-topping side can match the intensity or finishing skills of the other. There’s also a chance that the result is enough of a knock-out, meaning that the teams qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League and Europa League this season. That’s not something that you want to happen, but then again, neither will it be?

This is just the start

Stoke have a long and eventful history, a rich and long-established club that has seen many changes in its history. It’s not unusual for the Potters to travel to Old Trafford for two or three games in a season, some of them being the most celebrated matches in the club’s history. This is the first of three meetings between the clubs this season, with the first game taking place in front of a sell-out crowd at The Valley.

United claiming back-to-back wins for a sixth consecutive season

The return of Coates, courtesy of a summer acquisition, should help the title race, but there’s also the matter of United finding a way back into the title conversation. They have not won back-to-back games since August 2011, when they were directly challenged by Inter Milan in the Champions League. The Potters have since had only one win from 15 matches, which came at home against Reading in May. While United haven’t ched up a win in front of their own fans in years, they’ve slowly been winning matches away from home. United are currently win less in their last five away matches, with all of their wins coming at Manchester City, Chelsea and Inter.

Reviews from where I left off

Stoke City were one of the best teams in the country last season, and they demonstrated that title guarantee by winning the 2017/18 Premier League title. To be honest, the highlight of the season for many was the final match of the season, which saw Stoke open themselves up to criticism for their lack of goal scoring. That said, there was also the cup final, where Stoke finally got their reward for the season, and of course, the final ever goal against Manchester City.

 This is just the start

Stoke City are in need of a positive change. A new manager, a new system, and a new look back-line are all what the Potters need to bounce back. Unfortunately, that will probably be the most difficult task of all for the club, as they have not won a game in the past two months. The next stage on the path to recovery will be a Europa League campaign, where the Potters will have to show the world that they belong there, and not just in the hearts of the crowds.

United claiming back-to-back wins for a sixth consecutive season

The United managers are not always the most popular figures in the Premier League, but there is no doubting the talent and quality that is in this team. Mourinho’s team were quite simply the best in England, and that is not changed this season. While United are very much a title threat this season, they are not in the same class as the Potters. Sure, they pressed extremely hard and were very physical, but they were also very unselfish with the ball. Man United were fantastic in their unselfishness, and their unselfishness is what made them so successful last season.

United claiming back-to-back wins for a sixth consecutive season

While United haven’t won back-to-back games since August 2011, they have certainly shown what they can do against the run of play. They have won five of their past six matches, including a crucial 5-1 win over Swansea City at the end of January. This shouldn’t be taken as a personal criticism, as it’s just that there’s no way that United could score against Stoke. No amount of damage limitation could stop United scoring, and their goal-scorer is arguably their best player, Rooney.


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