Stoke City FanZoner Tim Ward is happy with progress being made but is hoping for more rewards from the club's change of playing style.
It's an odd time to be a Stoke City fan at the moment. The signs of progression and an improvement in style are plain to see, but the lack of goals and little return thus far in the season are a familiar problem.
When Mark Hughes joined the Potters he vowed to get them playing decent football, something we've not been particularly tied to since our promotion to the top flight. And Sparky has been true to his word. Stoke are averaging more possession, more passes and fewer long balls than any other season in the top flight.
But, we've only scored four goals and are in fact one point worse off than at the same time last season. But the signs of progress are there, and with a slight change of fortune, and a goal or two, Stoke could make a serious push for the top ten this season.
In fact, Stoke should've started the season with a fine 1-1 draw at Liverpool. But, as is now a tradition, Jon Walters missed a penalty in the last minute condemning us to a defeat. Nonetheless, victories over Crystal Palace and away at West Ham followed by a draw with Manchester City saw the Potters enjoy their best ever start to a Premier League season. But since then, things haven't quite gone our way.
An inevitable defeat at Arsenal followed (although the 3-1 scoreline certainly flattered the hosts) before Stoke's only really poor performance of season - at home against Norwich City - who were in dire need of a win. A year ago this game would've been a home win all day long; but since the visit of Southampton which ended 3-3 last December, our former fortress is no more. Norwich were rightly deserving of the win.
But, Stoke's next conquerors certainly weren't; Fulham. For 83 minutes The Potters completely controlled the game at Craven Cottage until Darren Bent's smartly taken goal gave Stoke their third straight defeat. I would imagine Fulham would be ever-so-slightly embarrassed to have won that - and perhaps disappointed that it saved Martin Jol's job for another week.
Despite the defeat, Stoke played some good football and new signing Marko Arnautovic has the potential to be the creative attacker we've been missing since Ricardo Fuller left the club. It's not often a Stoke player will try two robola passes in one match, or in fact one season. Marc Wilson is another player who is enjoying a new lease of life in midfield, while Geoff Cameron at right-back looks composed and at time skilful. At the back, Begovic remains one of the best five 'keepers in the league and Shawcross & Huth look at tough and reliable as ever.
What remains a problem is up front. No out-and-out striker arrived over the summer and Crouch, Jones and Walters just aren't cutting it at present. In fact, no Stoke striker has scored in the league this season. Twenty-year-old American Juan Agudelo is arriving in January and although he seems an exciting player, it is a lot of expectation to place on a young player experiencing his first action away from the MLS.
I don't think Stoke will flirt with relegation like the back end of last season. But unless goals start arriving at a slightly better rate another season of muddling to 14th or so seems inevitable.