All is not well in the Potteries. Stoke City prop up the Championship after five games of the new season as one of only two teams yet to taste a league win. Bookies who thought they were in no danger before a ball even left the first boot, have reassessed their relegation prospects.
? Nathan Jones had a picture of his celebrations framed after his Stoke side beat Leeds United last season
? Today Leeds United dominated in a 3-0 win leaving Jones on the brink of getting the sack at Stoke City pic.twitter.com/YlNVCovHYc
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) August 24, 2019
The Potters went into battle against fellow Midlands team, Birmingham City, with the worst defence in the Championship after conceding 13 goals. This is the same club that was a byword for miserliness at the back and a tough team to fight your way past, but that was under former long-serving Welsh boss, Tony Pulis.
Going into the early autumn international break, Stoke have won just twice at home. The bet365 Stadium is no longer their fortress, and the club has been priced at 6/1 in the latest Championship betting that they go down this season.
That may be a generous price given the Potters’ problems, as most bookmakers have them much shorter for the drop. While bet365 have Stoke down as likely to make a top-six finish and be relegated, which suggests another season of mid-table mediocrity is the most likely scenario.
Although right back, Moritz Bauer, has joined Celtic on loan, offloading players left over from when the Potters were last in the Premier League two seasons ago is proving difficult. Fans will remember players such as former Austria defender, Kevin Wimmer, and DR Congo international midfielder, Giannelli Imbula.
Today ? pic.twitter.com/nF2qvnIHfb
— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 24, 2019
While a number of players have been frozen out of the first-team picture, goalkeeper, Jack Butland, came into some criticism following some major errors in the 3-1 loss at Preston North End. He looked a far cry from the stopper once touted as England’s number 1 for years to come.
First Gary Rowett and then Nathan Jones tried to put their stamp on the Stoke squad following the years of decline under Mark Hughes and Premier League relegation with Paul Lambert at the helm with signings and moving some faces on. Spain cap, Bojan Krkic, and fellow forward, Saido Berahino, were both let go from their contracts by mutual consent as he remodelled attack.
Benik Afobe was allowed to join Championship rivals, Bristol City, where he has rediscovered his goalscoring touch. Lee Gregory, a free transfer from Millwall, is yet to get off the mark for the Potters.
He should score some goals at this level, alongside Sam Vokes who is in a similar mould and Aston Villa loanee, Scott Hogan. With a very creative-looking midfield on paper in-behind these striking options, it’s all-the-more mystifying as to why Stoke have started so poorly.
Potters skipper, Ryan Shawcross, is a big miss in defence after his broken leg in pre-season and using winger, James McClean, as a left-back and wingback hasn’t really worked. Fellow Republic of Ireland international, Stephen Ward, may be a better bet for such a berth moving forward.
If these early season struggles continue, then another mid-table finish is certainly preferable to a relegation dogfight. There’s a clear and present danger that Stoke could get suck into one if things don’t pick up and soon.