A sign of a good mid-table team is after losing a game, you can reflect on it and say “we didn’t deserve to lose that”. The two games we have lost this season, both away at Liverpool and last Sunday at Arsenal, we have come away feeling that lady luck just had failed to shine brightly enough on us at the end of the day. Lady luck is a tempestuous topic amongst some football supporters, angry when she is used as an excuse for a poor game of football, but I think she is worthy of being discussed on the past weekend’s matches. With the match at 2-1, we saw Stoke’s best period of the match where we dominated possession but failed to capitalize on the territorial advantage that we had. Only a day before, Southampton went to Anfield and managed to score a goal that secured them all three points. It was in this period, where we were doing all the work, that just a fluke deflection at a set-piece or a sloppy bit of Arsenal defending would have warranted the goal that we deserved. Fate would have it that we concede another goal to a player who had not scored in over a year, just to rub salt into our open wounds. At 3-1, despite bringing Jermaine Pennant on, I think even the most ardent Stoke fan would have struggled to believe we could muster a comeback. At 2-1, it was never impossible, which as far as the transition from Tony Pulis to Mark Hughes goes is a sign of the progress the team have made this season.
So set-pieces were our undoing at the weekend, but there are plenty of positives to take out of the game. Geoff Cameron deserves to be singled out because I have to admit that at the start of the season I doubted his capability to play at full-back preferring Ryan Shotton in my opening day line up back in mid-August. I still believe that Geoff could be opened up if a tricky customer is played against him – watch out this weekend with Nathan Redmond! – but where positionally he is perhaps still adjusting, as far as the rest of the attributes a current Stoke City full-back needs, Geoff is showing game after game that he can cope with the role. His main strength in the Mark Hughes era has been making runs forward to support Jon Walters on the right wing, offering himself as a crossing option or as a player who can keep possession. His speed allows him to track back well if Stoke are caught on the break, while his natural ability as a central defender is still there if he needs to make a last-ditch tackle. As we saw on Sunday, he also has a good strike in him, with his shot from a Marko Arnautovic rebound leaving no doubt that it would reach the target. With Erik Pieters still adapting to Premier League football, with steady if not spectacular performances, Geoff is showing that even if he can’t break past the established Shawcross/Huth partnership, he’s willing to play wherever he has to as long as he plays every week.
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