Stoke City 1-0 Swansea City Six Things: adaptability king in the Potteries

Bruno Martins Indi beats Wayne Routledge to the ball –

Joe Allen struck against his former club to give underachieving Stoke City a 1-0 win over fast-starters Swansea City. Here’s our Six Things from the game.

Smooth Swansea

Swansea were the more enterprising side in the first half. They got full-backs Connor Roberts and Martin Olsson high up the pitch to create overloads and play nice, triangle passes. While Daniel James was playing on the left of a front two on paper, he drifted into the left channel in possession while left midfielder George Byers moved inside; the duo dovetailed to create a back-post chance for Wayne Routledge, who’s head was deflected over. Potter’s men were also well-structured without the ball; they knew pre-match that Ryan Shawcross is not the most comfortable on the ball and thus gave him space but cut off passing lanes to try to prompt errors.

Stoke’s first half chances

Ironically, it was one hopeful ball from Shawcross that led to Stoke’s best first half chance for Benik Afobe, who was well denied by Mulder. The striker, who improved as the game went on, nodded down the impressive Joe Allen’s pin-point delivery to the back-post but the quiet Tom Ince could only fire off-target. Although Stoke didn’t spend much time on the front foot in that first half, the individual quality in their side allowed them to create the clearer chances.

Allen’s fortunate winner

Stoke’s goal, which came from the first chance of the second period, had an element of fortune about it. Ince’s shot cannoned off Benik Afobe and while Swansea’s offside trap appeared to be in order, the ball fell to Joe Allen, who was perfectly placed to ram home against his former club despite the appeals. Although Stoke might have been slightly fortunate to be ahead at that point, goalscorer Allen deserved his goal, his selfless work and class in possession had made him among the strongest players on the pitch.

Rowett’s positive change

Swansea responded well initially – and enjoyed a 10-minute spell of prominence when Oliver McBurnie and Yan Dhanda came on – but Stoke managed the contest effectively thereon. Rather than look to shut up shop, as Rowett’s Birmingham side tended to do, they actually became more positive. Substitute Saido Berahino, who replaced the disappointing Mame Biram Diouf, added fresh energy up top,  which meant Ryan Woods and co. were able to take control against an increasingly tame Swansea side.

Mixed night in the Potteries for Potter

Graham Potter got his initial game plan right but a lot of his players are at an early stage of their development, so it is perhaps understandable that Swansea’s end product was not quite as refined as he might like. What might worry Potter is that his players didn’t engage with the ball in the closing stages, even when they had nothing to lose. The team’s strategy is normally to keep a modest shape, trust that possession will be retrieved and build attacks patiently, but perhaps they needed to show more urgency in this particular situation, although McBurnie came spectacularly close to a dramatic equalizer.

Flexibility was king

Stoke were not convincing tonight but what got them the victory was their adaptability; thanks to Allen’s class, Pieters’ aggression and Rowett’s good substitution, they showed the minerals to embrace the wet conditions and grow into the game. There is plenty of work ahead for Stoke to live up to their pre-season billing – and they will need to start games far more strongly than they did here – but this victory gives them an opportunity to build.