I think we need to change our shape in to enable us to get up the pitch quicker, and to provide ourselves with an out ball when under pressure.
In previous games, we’ve used Aji Alese to do this, but I think that the shape we play means it’s hard for the full backs to get forward quickly without leaving gaps.
If we go with three at the back, I think that might solve a number of issues.
We’ve done this a fair number of times already this season and it’s not unfamiliar to the players, so let’s give it a go.
A back three of Alese, Danny Batth and Dan Ballard with Dennis Cirkin and Trai Hume giving us width and an out-ball makes a lot of sense. In front, a midfield two of Luke O’Nien and Dan Neil (who’s hopefully benefited from a week off) is what I’d go with.
Out wide I’d play Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke, with Amad as a false nine through the middle.
I think this gives us a lot of tactical flexibility and makes us less predictable, whilst providing the side with some of the steel that it’s been missing in recent weeks.
Malc Dugdale says…
I don’t hugely disagree with Gav, to be honest.
We need to get back to an approach based around quick passing and solid ball retention, as well as pressing our opponents high up the pitch when out of possession.
The visitors will make mistakes, and if we can force errors out of Fulham in their own backyard, why can’t we do the same against Stoke at home?
Bringing in Luke O’Nien will help us in midfield, and the rest days through the week will have helped our naturally talented team to get back to their quick-footed and attacking ways.
I’d also consider giving Alex Pritchard a start, as we possibly lacked experience through the middle during our last two games. Patrick Roberts also has to start, as we saw how much we missed him when he was rested.
Apart from his late goal, Amad has been slightly out of sorts and Joe Gelhardt has one goal to his name when he should’ve had more. I’m not sure who would be best suited to attacking Stoke, but I trust Tony Mowbray to sort that out.
My final thought is whether we can we do more with Isaac Lihadji or Pierre Ekwah?
They both possess pace and power, and the return of Alex Neil will mean the game is about blood and thunder at times.
Maybe changing things to that extent can turn our results around. We need this to be a win, so hopefully Mowbray and the lads can show us what they’ve got and can send Stoke home with a lesson.
Kingsley Reavley says…
At present we look easy on the eye but naive and far too easy to play against. The reasons for that are obvious - an incredibly young inexperienced side, our captain out injured and no target main to aim for.
Alex Neil teams like to be physical and press high. I fear our current set up would wilt under that pressure.
For those reasons I’d move Luke O’Nien into central midfield to give us that added spite and energy. Michut is a quality young player but experience counts for a lot in these games so he should drop to the bench.
For similar reasons Pritchard should be starting. he’s been unlucky not to get more minutes this season but has always contributed well when involved, and has that added nous and game management that the younger players don’t possess.
The rest of the side mostly picks itself. For me Amad plays regardless of whether he’s considered in or out of form due to his talent and work rate.
Roberts and Clarke don’t deserve to be dropped but Alex Neil knows them both well so will be able to prepare his team accordingly. Could we take one out and play Bennette to spring a surprise?
The left back spot is mostly a toss up as Alese and Cirkin offer much of the same. Based on the fact he’s so versatile Alese should continue.
And finally Gelhardt has to play because… well there’s no one else.
Either way it’ll be an intense afternoon with the return of our former manager. Let’s hope we send him back to Stoke with no points!