Despite appearing in 31 games across all competitions this term, Sam Vokes is very much an underused member of the current Stoke City squad, with the Welsh frontman having only been handed 11 league starts this term.
It is a curious case that seems to have developed for the former Burnley man, with the 30-year-old having been a regular for the Potters upon joining the club back January of last year.
In order to get to the bottom of why Vokes has fallen so far down the pecking order, it is important to consider all of the variables involved which could have, for one reason or another, seen him dropped as first choice up top at the Bet365 Stadium.
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Firstly, the Potters significantly strengthened in forward areas at the start of the current season, with the club’s now departed boss Nathan Jones having brought in the likes of Lee Gregory and Scott Hogan during the summer in order to provide different options for the team in attack.
Whilst the emergence of Tyrese Campbell on the first team scene has certainly affected Vokes directly, with the youngster’s style of play causing Jones and more recently Michael O’Neill to adopt a more possession based style of play in order to play penetrating through balls in behind for Campbell to get on the end of.
With Vokes having always played for sides that favour a more direct approach, this tactical shift goes greatly against his strengths as a player, with crosses into the area being at a premium to cater for Campbell’s skill set.
Despite only starting 11 times in the Championship for the Potters this term, Vokes certainly offers something different up top for the Stoke-on-Trent side, with the towering Welshman having notched a respectable seven goals in all competitions.
As Campbell was handed a new contract earlier in the campaign, it is clear that O’Neill is seeking to build his side around the youngster, with Campbell being the main focal point for the team’s attacking moves.
What this means for Vokes and his future as a Stoke player remains to be seen, with the 30-year-old still having two years remaining on his current contract he will surely be looking for clarity from his manager as to whether he features in the club’s long-term plans or not.
With Euro 2020 having been postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Vokes will no doubt have an eye on getting a call up for the national side once more ahead of the tournament, with his next move in club football sure to determine how high his chances are of making the cut.