Stoke City legend makes demands on Nick Powell

Stoke City have missed Nick Powell enough when he has been in the treatment room this season. If he stays, he has to make sure – and we have to hope – that he is the best player he can be when he is fit.

When Powell is in that central area of ​​the attacking half, finding and exploiting space and connecting midfield and the front line, he is very effective. You need him to sneak into that penalty area. If he doesn’t, it’s like dominoes with his ripple effect. He’s at his best when he’s on the turn with or without the ball, bringing his teammates into the game with quick, smart play around the box. He can perform one-touch and two-touch moves with sharp thinking and vision.

He needs to be disciplined and show he’s a team player, much like he was when he was named Player of the Year the previous season. Sometimes we see him getting involved with the opposition when he doesn’t need to, teasing defenders towards him and getting carried away.

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I was disappointed when I saw him against Coventry on the last day. He started out in a strike partnership with Jacob Brown, shooting in areas where he could influence the game as much as Callum O’Hare at the other end supporting Viktor Gyokeres. In the second half we saw him more in that number 10 role and Stoke came into the game a bit more but he was doing things he didn’t need to do and the team was losing focus at because of that. You have to be a team player no matter how supportive you are.

If you’re out of position, the players behind you do extra work to cover up. It’s silly because he’s most dangerous when he stays in that central area between the near and back posts. If you get free-kicks, get them in this area when it comes to goal-scoring position.

I may feel like I’m criticizing him this week, but that’s because I expect more from him. He’s a good player. I know he’s coming back from injuries which can affect the sharpness of your game, but it’s about fitness, not brains. You should always be in the right positions and he is experienced enough to know what they are. If Stoke trusts him to be this team’s talisman, he needs to show it consistently.

It would also help if the players on the pitch were happy to tell themselves if they weren’t doing the job they needed to be done. It doesn’t always have to come from the sidelines. You need organizers on the ground to understand the situation. That’s when your team fires at full throttle.

I was impressed with Coventry – to the point where we counted ourselves very lucky to come out with a point. With Sam Clucas having a blocked shot in the opening minutes, I had no mention of an attack to note for Stoke in the stats I gather until Clucas scored on the counter-attack in the 43rd minute. Everything came from visitors.

We had three centre-backs against one striker and we were outnumbered in midfield. But for poor finishing and a bit of selfishness from Gyokeres as well as Joe Bursik’s work as the last line of defense, the game would have been over at halftime. We were beaten, dominated and manipulated.

They were skilled in their passes, worked hard on and off the ball and created space for each other. The quick, smart play in the final third had a purpose and it was everything you want to see as a fan of your team except for the finish.

I would have been very pleased if it had been a Stoke performance, unfortunately it was the opposition! I’m sure Mark Robins couldn’t believe he didn’t walk away with a win.

But sometimes that’s how football works and you can’t understand it. The fine lines and the opportunities you seize or not are so decisive. Stoke got their reward with a move that took them up the field quickly with fewer passes and a midfielder in a forward position.

It’s a reminder that it’s rarely over in the Championship. Just as the teams that reached the play-offs showed us with the league table – Nottingham Forest and Sheffield United pretty much camped out in the bottom half until Christmas – never give up in this division.

It’s a mess from start to finish. You give yourself a much better chance if you have a stable team from week to week, so you understand each other’s game and it becomes second nature to you what your partner does, how the unit works defending thirds, defending wide and central areas inside and outside the box and vice versa with attack.

Everyone has to be on the same page and if a player starts doing their own thing, that’s when the opposition takes the initiative.

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