So two losses and a win in the space of the week leaves Stoke fans in a semi-positive mood going into the Monday night fixture at home to Newcastle United. As each game passes, the fans seem to be getting more and more optimistic about their team’s chances – which can only be a good thing for the club. Currently 9th in the league, averaging 1.3 points per game after 9 games and more than holding their own in Europe, Stoke look set for a repeat of the cup final heroics last season.
Last time out, it was Arsenal away, and a 3-1 loss. The stats showed a decidedly one sided game in favour of Arsenal in attack, while surprisingly, the stats were pretty even in terms of defence. Arsenal of course dominated the possession – 66.5% to Stoke’s 33.5%, while the Gunners also made more than double the number of passes – 530 to 227, with a pass completion rate of 87% to Stoke’s 75%. A more promising pass completion rate for Stoke, but they need to start making more passes, on top of having a greater share of possession, to achieve more consistent results.
In attack, Stoke managed 1 shot on target to Arsenals 4, and created 4 chances to their opponents 5. Stoke were successful in only 1 of their 9 crosses, while Arsenal managed more successful crosses – 3, but from much more attempts – 24. Arsenal managed more than double the number of passes of Stoke in the final third (156-75), and nearly double the number of passes in their opponents half (364 – 167). In defence, things were much closer. Arsenal won 2 more possession duels than Stoke’s 42, while the visitors managed 13 wins in the air to Arsenal’s 12. Stoke conceded 9 chances to their opponents, with Arsenal conceding 7.
The pattern which seems to be emerging from Stoke’s games so far is that the better their opponents deal with things in the middle of the park, the more likely they are to do well. When Stoke dominate the defensive side of things, they usually do well, despite any attacking stats which would suggest otherwise.
Newcastle pose a serious threat to Stoke on Monday, not least because of their fantastic defensive record – only 6 conceded in 9 games, on par with the top two, and two less than Stoke themselves. Sitting in an impressive 4th place at the moment, Newcastle’s rise back up the table has been overshadowed by the two Manchester club’s fight for dominance, the collapse at Arsenal, and Liverpool’s early season struggles.
Last season, Stoke fashioned an incredible 4-0 win out of some pretty average statistics. Newcastle managed the bulk of the possession (61.3% to 38.8%) and more accurate passes (280-164), while Stoke managed 6 shots on target to 4 for Newcastle. In defence, Newcastle held a slight advantage in terms of possession duels (53 to 51) and in the number of tackles won (19-14), while Stoke won double the number of aerial duels (18-9). All in all, it seemed like a typical Stoke match – on the day, Stoke were able to make more, and take more chances than their opposition, without getting to lax at the back.
If Stoke are able to bounce back from the disappointment of their midweek defeat to Liverpool, then Newcastle will be in for a tough game. Similarly, Newcastle must bounce back from a loss to basement club Blackburn, and Stoke could be in for a tough ride at the same time. I’ll predict a 1-1 draw here, because in any other game I would fancy both to take the win.
Next week, Stoke have a tough away tie in Israel, before returning to Premier League action against Bolton Wonderers at the Reebok Stadium.