Stoke City 1-1 Burnley report - 'Business as usual'


Relegation continues to look inevitable for Stoke, who once again let a promising lead slip after missing several opportunities to put the game to bed. It was business as usual for Paul Lambert’s side. 

22nd Apr 2018

Stoke City match report

Lambert went for a questionable team selection, starting the game with three full-backs on the field.

Moritz Bauer was tasked with playing further forward, in a team that also included Xherdan Shaqiri, Mame Biram Diouf and Peter Crouch, making for a lopsided, top-heavy 4-4-2 formation. 

It would prove to play a vital part in Stoke’s undoing as the side was left with a lot of square pegs in round holes after Glen Johnson had to be withdrawn. 

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Stoke actually started the game at a very high tempo though, creating several good opportunities from the off and looking up for the fight. 

They knew anything less than three points would likely spell the end of their hopes of survival and the initial performance reflected that. 

They quickly got their reward via an unlikely source, with Badou Ndiaye curling his shot past Nick Pope, just 10 minutes into the game.

Diouf’s touch closed the space for him around the six-yard box, but he showed great awareness to prod the ball through for Ndiaye, who was able to capitalise on the opportunity. 

That’s why you’re going down

In an echo of the West Ham fixture, Diouf looked certain to put Stoke 2-0 up but fluffed his lines with what would turn out to be a costly miss.

No serious Stoke fan would hold Diouf accountable for this season, he is the perfect example of what made us so successful in the past and has given everything for the club this season, unlike others. 

The fact that he is our star striker though, as opposed to a squad option, is a perfect reflection of what is wrong with the club.

For all the will in the world, he just doesn’t have enough quality to be the main striker in a Premier League side. 

A woeful touch somehow put the ball between his own legs after Bauer whipped the ball right to his feet.

It’s not the first time the striker's lack of composure has resulted in Stoke’s failure to see out a game, but in terms of recruitment, all of that weight should not rest on his shoulders. 

Stoke have now thrown away 16 points from winning positions though and this game would prove to be more of the same.

Imagine the difference in outlook of the table, if Stoke were able to hold onto a lead, they’d be eighth in the league, looking for their best-ever Premier League finish.

Instead, another defensive mix up left a trio of Burnley attackers free from a set-piece.

Jack Butland did all he could to prevent the goal, making contact twice to keep it the right side of the line, but was powerless to prevent Ashley Barnes following up. 

It was back to panic stations for Stoke, the formation was all over the place, gifting opportunities to Burnley.

The Stoke defence stood firm for the remainder of the game but we really needed to press on for a winner.

The introduction of Stephen Ireland and Tyrese Campbell shuffled the formation further and effectively ended any cohesion Stoke had exhibited so far. Stoke resorted to aimless 'hoofball' tactics, but failed to pick out Crouch or any of the willing runners once. 

It was another performance that lacked quality when it mattered most and it now leaves Stoke firmly up the creek. 

Subs and Wood

The first and second half performances for Stoke were miles apart, going from playing on the front foot to clinging on. Lambert has to take some responsibility for a poor game plan but it was in the substitutes where he really lost the game. 

Johnson has had somewhat of a revival under Lambert but he's well beyond his best.

It was not a good performance for the full-back, who struggled to keep up with Stephen Ward and Johann Gudmundsson, especially with no support from Shaqiri. 

It left the back line pulled apart, with Chris Wood using his strength well to create some serious problems in our back line.

It was desperate defending for the majority of the game from Stoke, as Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi really struggled to cover the space and deal with the threat of Wood and Ashley Barnes. 

With Bauer, a much more capable full-back playing out of position on the pitch, it was an unnecessary risk. With Stoke still in the lead, Lambert introduced Kurt Zouma for Johnson to attempt to see out the game. 

It proved the worst possible choice as Stoke conceded soon after, making a potential 5-3-2 formation no longer viable.

Having brought Zouma on, Bauer had to be hooked off as Stoke chased the game. It added chaos to an already confused formation and left Stoke desperately clinging to a point, rather than chasing all three. 

A must-win game

Lambert rightly billed this one as a must win game and obviously it hasn’t gone that way. I fear that relegation is no more than a formality for Stoke now as it’s hard to see where the points are going to come from. 

Stoke have to go to Anfield targeting three points now as an absolute last hope to keep their fate in their own hands.

With Stoke already overly reliant on the failure of teams above them, anything less than three points would require a clean sweep of defeats for at least two of those three teams. 

It’s not mathematically over but it is statistically unlikely, especially as Stoke themselves need an absolute minimum of two wins before the end of the season, having only won one of their last 17 games. 

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Best performer

In truth, beyond the first 20 minutes or so, nobody covered themselves in glory. It was far from Stoke’s best performance this season.

It’s a shame because we have let ourselves down a little when we have needed it most, with a lack of organisation and quality. 

Credit though to Stoke’s long standing captain Ryan Shawcross, for rising above personal tragedy to show Stoke fans they still have a few players who love the club.

Sadly, the defender's father passed away just seven days ago, but the captain passed up compassionate leave playing less than 24 hours later at West Ham. 

He put in another strong composed performance today, remaining fully focused on the dire situation at his beloved club.

Nobody would begrudge him the time off, but considering the shocking behaviour of some of Stoke’s players in recent weeks, it’s great to see the captain taking a stand against it, picking up the slack of his less disciplined colleagues. 

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