As Stoke City edged ever closer to the first fixture of their sixth season in the Championship since relegation from the Premier League, other fans and I hoped to see some much needed improvement this time around. And that’s exactly what we’ve got so far in the form of two wins and a whopping six goals in two games, leaving the Potters hopeful that the mid-table curse may finally be no more, so let’s go through five early talking points for optimistic fans this season.
Vidigal is a Problem
Many weren’t sure what to expect with new arrival André Vidigal, however the versatile winger has hit the ground running, scoring the winner in their Carabao Cup clash with West Brom, whilst showing great positioning and awarenesswith his dangerous runs inside. All of which point towards him being a goal threat, bagging an impressive three goals in two games which City fans will no doubt be buzzing with.
Solidity in Midfield
It’s clear to see Alex Neil wanted to bring some more Championship experience to his midfield with the addition of creative Jamaican international Daniel Johnson, a great set piece specialist, many of which have already led to some decent chances being created, and even a goal from the corner spot against Rotherham.
Box to box midfielder and City skipper Josh Laurent looks set to pick up where he left off after a great run of form toward the back end of last season, as he continued to look sharp against the Millers in the first game of the season. With this, Alex Neil has named Laurent as the new club captain going into the rest of the new Championship campaign.
On top of this, City managed to sign Ben Pearson on a permanent deal after his impressive loan spell with the Pottersnear the end of last season, as he displayed a strong and aggressive presence in the holding role of midfield, which will assist City in their aggressive, pressing style of play shownsince the start of pre-season.
The Future Looks Bright
There’s definitely many positive talking points in terms of City’s up and coming talents, with sixteen year old talent Sol Sidibe making his league debut, even managing to earn himself a start in their recent cup match against the Baggies as he looked excellent throughout.
Also not to mention fellow seventeen year old academy starlets Emre Tezgel, Nathan Lowe and Tom Sparrow who all made their league debuts last season and will look to have successful breakout seasons alongside Sidibe.
The Potters have made a huge eleven signings this Summer, all of which look to be first team calibre.
2021/22 Championship Golden Glove winner Mark Travers has looked solid between the sticks so far, with fans hopeful the Irish shot-stopper can restore some faith back into the the number one spot after much rotation and inconsistency last season.
Experienced Championship defender Enda Stevens and ball playing defender Michael Rose looked as defensively sound as each other, whereas familiar face Ki-Jana Hoever finished his chance fanatically against Rotherham to extend his exceptional run of form from last season.
Newcomer Wesley Moraes debuted in the recent cup tie against West Brom, in which he showed off his dominant physical presence on the pitch, with some brilliant hold up play, massively helping his side in freeing up space in the final third. And although fellow newly acquired striker Ryan Mmae hasn’t quite made his mark yet, we’ve definitely seen glimpses of the tricky striker’s potential, as he netted twelvegoals in twenty four league appearances prior to this one.
We’ve seen some much more clinical football from the first two games, and far more chances created from individual skill, two things which usually hint at an improved side moving forwards, and although it’s far too early to say for now, fans do still have the right to dream regardless.
With bags of talent breaking through the academy, an innovative style of football being worked on with Alex Neil, and to top it all off some shrewd business from the Potters this transfer window- maybe it’s finally time to do better than 14th...