Transfer window opening comes at the right time

Posted by James Whittaker

It’s difficult for Stoke to take anything from a game Tottenham dominated and Sunday's final 3-0 scoreline perhaps flattered the Potters, who were dominated from the first minute to the last.

I don’t have a problem losing a match to a much-better side, and though it’s not a great feeling, that’s exactly what Spurs were on the day. Though as good as Tottenham were, Stoke were equally as poor in game that ruthlessly exposed their frailties all over the pitch.

The last week has been a period to endure and not enjoy. Much like the management simulation game Football Manager, mentally I was clicking ‘continue’ through the last few matches with a glazed look in my eyes in a bid to get to the transfer window quicker.

Robert Huth’s injury has hurt the side, as have the absences of Asmir Begovic, Marc Wilson and Glenn Whelan, which have shown the squad up to be exactly what it is -- threadbare and unfit for Mark Hughes’ purpose. In fact, you could argue that Huth struggled in the new system; as for Wilson, I’m yet to be convinced that he is a good squad player let alone first-team starter.

In fact, fans could argue for first-team replacements all over the pitch and Hughes himself has all too often worn a look of resignation and frustration at the options available to him when a game needs to be turned back in his favour.

The Spurs game was a case in point -- yes, Tottenham were a better side, but Stoke never really made it a contest due to the all-too-evident mismatch between the new way of playing and the players available to play it.

One could point the finger at the manager for not playing to his squad’s strength, but at the same time he needs to impress his ideologies early to make his own mark on things. As ever, it all comes back to that crucial concept of finding and achieving the right balance.

Unfortunately, Sunday's game saw little of that from a side decimated from the events of the nightmare after Christmas against Newcastle only three days' previous.

I think Stoke would be fair to suggest that they were subject to another couple of poor refereeing decisions, as Zeki Fryers' unpenalized challenge on Jon Walters bore an ironically similar resemblance to one on Wilson at St James, not to mention the tackle on Oussama Assaidi by Spurs' Michael Dawson.

Sadly though, in this game those decisions did little to effect the flow of the game, one the Potters struggled to keep up with.

Geoff Cameron got his chance in the middle of defence, but will be kicking himself he didn’t make the most of his opportunity. His first header went straight up in the air and his next tackle was missed altogether letting Tottenham in behind. He grew into the game as it went on, but was culpable for the third goal courtesy of a far-too-casual flick to Charlie Adam on the halfway line that was intercepted.

It would be difficult to criticise any one player though, given the sub-standard performances of every single one of them from front to back, with basic mistakes being made throughout. That said, the side got into a few decent positions early on, but the final ball continually failed as there was just no pace and power to run onto the through-pass which visibly discouraged the players, especially Stephen Ireland, who was growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of viable movement in front of him.

I take comfort from the fact I didn’t expect any points from the last two games, so in that respect I’m not too surprised. The manner of the defeats, however, is more concerning and keeper Thomas Sorensen could be forgiven for wishing he had stayed on the bench having, shipped nine goals in the two games since his return to the first team.

As I have said before, I’m very much in favour of Jack Butland getting his chance now. I see little value in a 37-year-old making mistakes at the end of his career over a 20-year-old that will use any setbacks to improve and grow into the Premier League keeper he promises to be.

Hopefully he’ll get his chance on New Year’s Day against Everton and that there will be a number of prospective first-team players in attendance ready to sign on the dotted line to help Hughes get closer to that crucial balance needed to push the team on to that top 10 finish.

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