Stoke must learn to see out games
Bar their lack of spark going forward, Stoke City have frustratingly for Mark Hughes developed a knack for shipping goals late on. In their 4-1 defeat to Manchester City two late goals saw Pep Guardiola’s side force a far more comprehensive score-line, before a late Markus Henriksen stoppage time goal for Hull dashed Stoke’s hopes of another run to the EFL Cup semi-final in the week.
It was more frustration for Mark Hughes and more agony for Stoke after Salomon Rondon’s stoppage time header undid all their hard work, but it raises another concern for the Potters since it was yet another goal conceded via a set-piece scenario, and from a late corner, it should have been cleared and the game should have been seen out.
Moreover, they had already received a warning from a James McClean header, which looked destined for the bottom corner only for goalkeeper Lee Grant to pull off a superb save.
It isn’t the first-time set-pieces have undone the Potters either. In their 4-1 defeat at Crystal Palace they were picked off from dead-ball situations, going two goals down in the opening 15 minutes to set-piece headers, before a petulant free-kick given away by Marko Arnautovic was punished when the in-swinging ball was touched into the net.
Glen Johnson returned to a back four that looked much more assured with the ex-Liverpool man at right-back, and the added protection of Geoff Cameron helping anchor the midfield alongside Glenn Whelan gave Stoke some much needed security which they have lacked when Allen has featured deeper, or the ineffective Giannelli Imbula has started in the position.
However, with set-pieces going in by the dozen, all the eyes will be on centre-halves Bruno Martins Indi and skipper Ryan Shawcross who must help keep his defence organised. If they cannot kill off opponents in attack, the Potters must learn to see out games by a mere single goal if they are to steer clear of trouble. They have one win in 13 Premier League games after this latest match slipped away, and though it is a point gained, they desperately need a win from somewhere.