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The big conundrum facing Stoke City boss Nathan Jones



Inconsistency has plagued Stoke City this season.

Despite investing over £55m on new signings since summer, the Potters sit 16th in the table and now look destined for a mid-table finish.

Stoke have failed to build a run of good form under former boss Gary Rowett or new manager Nathan Jones, who is looking to implement his long-term vision at the club.

The Potters have won just twice in 11 games under Jones with the former Luton boss unable to achieve consistency in team selection or results.

But Jones knew his work was cut out when he was appointed in January and Stoke’s goalless draw at QPR on Saturday laid some of those issues bare.

The midfield is a key topic of concern for the Potters with Jones seemingly unable to settle on his preferred combination.

Sam Clucas, Charlie Adam and Joe Allen started in a 4-3-3 formation at Loftus Road, but this has often varied with Oghenekaro Etebo, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Woods also vying for the starting berths.

Jones’ system requires players who can think quickly, perform with discipline and have a high work rate. The Welshman will only be interested in players who can deliver on this.

The major incident in Saturday’s match saw Clucas dismissed for a reckless stamp on Josh Scowen, which will not have aided the midfielder’s attempts to establish himself in Jones’ side.

With the former Swansea man now suspended for three matches, this incident will leave Jones wondering whether he can trust Clucas in the future.

A similar point could be made about Woods, who has fallen out of favour in recent weeks. It remains unclear whether Jones trusts the summer signing to operate in his system.

This was amplified on Saturday when the Stoke boss opted for defender Ashley Williams to replace Adam in midfield, rather than bringing on Woods in his natural position.

Jones’ bold call here reveals he must have favoured the physicality offered by Williams. With Stoke’s midweek clash with Derby now on the horizon, it will be intriguing whether Jones hands Woods his first start since mid-February.

In the rest of midfield, Allen and Etebo have been permanent fixtures under the new manager while Adam has also seen more action of late after rarely featuring under Rowett.

As the Potters now head for a steady mid-table finish, the remainder of the season will be a chance for Jones to assess which midfielders will survive at the club beyond the summer.

A number of players are expected to be offloaded in the close-season as Jones prepares to make room for only the players he wants to work with. But it remains to be seen how many of those are based in Staffordshire at present.

ScoopDragon Football News Network