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Next Game: Barclays Prem
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After going into the first game full of optimism for the new season, it was somewhat inevitable that Stoke fans would be brought quickly back to earth!
It was a hugely disappointing result to start with, and an even more disappointing performance after Mark Hughes had picked the exciting line-up most had hoped to see beforehand.
As it was, there was little fluidity and cohesion - and it is now up to Hughes to decide whether giving the new players and system time to adjust is the best course of action, or whether bringing back a few of the old guard would be a more sensible option in the short term.
Phil Bardsley was the only new introduction to the defence, with Marc Wilson keeping his place in the middle alongside Ryan Shawcross, but the presence of Bojan in a largely free role further forward made a huge difference to the organisation of the back four.
To fill the gap left by Bojan's runs infield, Bardsley operated much higher up the field than Geoff Cameron ever did down the right flank, inevitably leaving gaps on that side of the defence.
Villa's goal was the perfect example of defenders being out of position and seemingly at sea. The simplest solution may be to play a more natural right-sided player that is willing to do more defensive work than Bojan was tasked with.
Glenn Whelan and Steven N'Zonzi retained their roles in the two central midfield roles, with Stephen Ireland in the No.10 position ahead of them.
It was a triumvirate that worked very well last season yet there was a significant lack of incision through the middle of the park against Villa.
The visitors deserve credit for the way they got men behind the ball, but Stoke need to move the ball much quicker than they did. Far too often we saw Whelan or N'Zonzi come short to receive a ball off a defender only to give it them back before an eventual long ball up the pitch.
It was something we witnessed a lot in the early stages of last season, too, and is hopefully just a case of Bojan and Mame Biram Diouf not yet being fully on the same wavelength as their team-mates - and vice versa. Common sense certainly suggests it is the right side where the problem lay against Villa with Marko Arnautovic's partnership with Erik Pieters down the left flank now well established.
That said, I have said many times in the past that I feel Ireland needs to offer more from his position. As a No.10, much of the forward play should go through him yet I find he often struggles to get involved, particularly in home games when opponents tend to sit deeper.
While Ireland is neat and tidy and rarely wastes possession, the arrival of Victor Moses on loan throws open the possibility of Bojan moving into a central position, which in turn may offer the defence more protection and, crucially, give the team more pace.
Diouf had a quiet debut, but although the impact Peter Crouch made as a substitute cannot be ignored, his harrying of the defenders (and goalkeeper), his pace, and the way he positioned himself on the last defender's shoulder suggests he will offer the team it has lacked in recent seasons.
Crouch's performance was also a reminder of his usefulness - he is by far and away the best player in the squad at holding the ball up - while Peter Odemwingie may also find himself playing in a central role on occasion with plenty of competition out wide.
On to Hull
My inkling is that Hughes will keep changes to a minimum against Hull, possibly with Moses making his debut in place of Bojan.
The squad is now so strong, though, that he could make a number of changes without weakening the team. We are likely to see more rotation than ever this season, with different players picked to combat an opponent's strengths or prey on their weaknesses.
If Hughes can keep everybody happy and get his selection right more often than not, I still believe this season could be a hugely successful one.
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