It has been a nightmare start to the season for Stoke City, who will be hoping to make a dramatic improvement as they prepare to face Bristol City after a short international break.
The Potters sit rock bottom of the Sky Bet Championship table after the first six games of the Championship campaign, in which they have only been able to manage one point.
Nathan Jones’ side have lost five of their opening six league matches, and the pressure is certainly starting to pile on the Welshman despite the season only just beginning.
Big things were expected of the Potters after making a host of big-name signings in the summer, but they have turned out to be bitterly disappointing thus far.
The short international break will have given Jones time to reflect on what was a dismal opening month for the Potters, and he will be focusing on areas that his side need to improve on sooner rather than later.
Here, we take a look at three issues Jones needs to have sorted out during the break…
Stick with a regular starting line-up
Stoke are yet to stick with an unchanged team in the Championship this season, which is perhaps to be expected when the team isn’t performing too well at all.
Against Leeds, Jones made six changes and switched his team around to an almost 5-1-3-1 formation, but then he made a host of changes and switched formation once again against Birmingham the following week.
This international break should have given him real time to think about what his best team is, and what formation best suits his players.
Changing the team around week in, week out cannot be good for team cohesion whatsoever.
Prevent the attackers from being too isolated
Against Leeds in particular, it looked like Jones was trying to sort out an issue that had been occurring for weeks on end – connecting the midfield to the attack.
He played one up top in Lee Gregory who put himself about really well as a lone striker, and played Mark Duffy in the hole just behind, but if anything, Stoke looked even more isolated going forward, and they need to find a way in which they can get the ball to the strikers and play off them.
Gregory can hold the ball up really well, so he could be really useful in playing the ball to the likes of Tom Ince and Sam Clucas – arguably two of Stoke’s most creative players.
Sort out defensive duties
One key area of the pitch that has been letting Stoke down in the early stages of the season is their defence, which has been a massive liability thus far.
The Potters have already conceded 15 goals in the Championship this season, and look all over the shop when it comes to defending opposition attacks.
Again, chopping and changing the defence surely can’t help that. They need to stick with a regular back-line, stick with a regular leader, and learn how to defend set-pieces and counter attacks.
In Danny Batth and Liam Lindsay, they have two central defenders who are both at different ends of the game, but the former should be acting as a real mentor for the latter.
They cannot expect to succeed when they concede as many goals as they currently do.