Stoke City given painful lesson in recruitment by Brentford


Stoke City gave Brentford a tough game after Jacob Brown’s early opener but in the end it was Vitaly Janelt and Ivan Toney’s quality that counted in the second half. Here are the talking points from the Brentford Community Stadium.

£5m gets you what £30m doesn’t

There were a few post-match messages, a few social media posts, which pointed out round about the same thing after Ivan Toney had beaten Stoke City.

The 25-goal striker joined Brentford for an initial £5m from Peterborough last summer, brought in to replace 25-goal striker Ollie Watkins – gone to Aston Villa for £28m, having been brought in for £1.8m from Exeter to eventually succeed 25-goal Neal Maupay – gone to Brighton for £20m, having been brought in from St Etienne for £1.6m.

Stoke have spent big looking for anything like those kind of figures.

Nathan Jones brought in Sam Vokes for £7m in January 2019 but he has got eight league goals in nearly two-and-a-half seasons.

Gary Rowett spent £12.5m on Benik Afobe, who got eight league goals in his first season and then spent the next two away from the club on loan. He spent £10m on Tom Ince, who got nine goals in two-and-a-half seasons before joining Luton on loan.

Both managers were royally backed but they haven’t just transpired to be signings that didn’t suit the systems they were trying to play, they have been huge weights around the club’s neck as they try to move forward. They are all under contract for another season.

Michael O’Neill turned to free agent Steven Fletcher, an ideal forward for his set up – but 33 and he has only played over 80 minutes in nine matches this season.

This is nothing new but it still stings when your nose is rubbed in it.


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A capital problem

That’s 30 league trips to London and counting without a win for Stoke since 2014. It is incredible to think that Marko Arnautovic, Peter Crouch and Charlie Adam were unused subs on that day that they won at Tottenham. It seems a long time ago.

Stoke are now nine without a win on the road and it’s three defeats in a row – albeit against Norwich, in-form Barnsley and Brentford and albeit that before those three, it was nine unbeaten, even if only two had been won.

At least they have won two and drawn one of their last three at home and have a chance to build on that with back-to-back game at the bet365 against Swansea and Wycombe.

Rhys Norrington-Davies has to think before he dives in

Rhys Norrington-Davies had shown enough in the first half that he could be a really useful outlet at left wing-back – but also showed enough that he was probably lucky to be on the pitch.

He had been booked for a foul on Henrik Dalsgaard 10 minutes previously when he went in high on Bryan Mbeumo on the cusp of half-time. If he was saved from John Brooks’ book again, he was hooked by O’Neill and replaced by Josh Tymon.

It was a rush of blood to the head when that rush at Huddersfield which brought a red is still all too clear in the memory.

He needs to be aggressive but he can’t afford to be daft.

An injury curse

Stoke might have a load of senior players on their books but the core group who are good enough is actually quite small.

And that group has been smashed by injuries.

O’Neill’s side have played 33 league games this season and just three players – Harry Souttar, Nick Powell and John Obi Mikel – have made 23 or more starts. For context, Brentford have 10.

It looked like the injury list was clearing up heading into February but Morgan Fox (hamstring), Nathan Collins (foot), James McClean (foot) and Sam Clucas (hernia) have all joined Tyrese Campbell (knee) in the treatment room and Fletcher (groin) was missing at Brentford.

It might present players with an unexpected chance to stake a claim and whether they take it or not can shape the summer transfer plans.

Players like Josh Tymon and Tashan Oakley-Boothe have to seize this moment while others, including Will Forrester, Christian Norton and Kieran Coates – all on the bench at Brentford – might get a sniff sooner or later.

With 11 loan players set to return this summer – even if hopefully not for long for most – and the window to open again, you never quite know when an opportunity like this might come again.





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