Martin Spinks from the Stoke Sentinel gives us the lowdown on this weekend’s opponents at the bet365 Stadium.
Paul Lambert has overseen a win, a draw and a defeat – what’s changed since he took over from Mark Hughes?
He’s demanded a lot more effort from the players – both on the training field and on the pitch. He prefers a higher pressing game and to get the ball forward quicker – there’s a greater tempo so far and that’s what they needed.
It’s been a mixed bag with results, but there’s a lot more hope than there was under the previous manager.
In November when we spoke you said that the FA Cup should be a priority given they should comfortably stay up – did you ever envisage the current situation and cup defeat?
The picture has changed since the reverse fixture and the league is definitely a priority for the team now. That cup defeat at Coventry City spelt the end for Mark Hughes – there was no way back for him after that.
It’s about the league and everybody is spooked by the genuine possibility of relegation – both the league table and the results suggest that and performances do as well.
After the AFC Bournemouth game last weekend there was a deflated feeling – they started well but the hosts found another level that Stoke couldn’t live with and some of the old traits seemed to come creeping back in.
How will the side differ from the one Brighton drew with at the end of November?
In terms of style you’ll see a greater intensity – and with the home crowd behind them, that should happen. They’re on side with both the manager and the players and they know the importance of Saturday’s fixture.
There will be a greater tempo about their play – and it’s about how they react if there are early setbacks in the game – they don’t react well to those and that mentality takes a while to change, so it’s vital they get ahead on Saturday.
The transfer window saw the club bring in two new full backs and a central midfielder – what does that say about the side/their ambitions for the rest of the campaign and was it a successful window?
I think time will tell – they may have needed to strengthen up front and if they could have got someone in on loan that would get them five or six goals, that may have made a big difference come the end of the season.
We all harp back to when Tony Pulis brought in James Beattie and he made a big difference in the second half of the club’s first-ever season in the Premier League, but that wasn’t to be in this window just gone.
But they’ve addressed problems at full-back and they’ve started well and look the part, so hopefully they can begin to make a difference.
Will they stay in the division?
If they do stay up it will be close – I don’t see them going on a winning run and taking victories in a row, the group doesn’t appear to have that in them and the fixtures don’t seem to suggest they can do that.
On the last day they go to Swansea City and that could be huge for both clubs – if you were to offer me a draw to stay up in that fixture I’d take that as things stand.