Stoke reconstruction still in its 'infancy' - Neil

Published on: 05 December 2023

Alex Neil's Stoke City were ultimately outwitted by Steven Schumacher's Plymouth Argyle at Home Park on Saturday

Frustrated Stoke City boss Alex Neil says some of his players are still getting to truly know each other on the pitch following the Championship club's expensive 18-man summer refit.

After a poor start to the season left them 21st, Stoke then beat Neil's old club Sunderland, Leeds United and Middlesbrough in successive matches.

But the Potters are now back down to 20th, without a win in five games.

"We've got home games coming up and we need to get back on it," said Neil.

After losing to a 97th-minute goal against fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle on Saturday, Neil told BBC Radio Stoke: "It was a really cruel way to lose.

"The fans are angry and frustrated after the match, which you can understand. And it's the worst way to lose too. But you could also see how devastated the players were. It wasn't through lack of effort, it was through lack of management in the dying embers of the match."

It was Stoke's 10th league defeat in 19 games this season, of which they have won just six, but Neil points out: "The games we've been beaten in we've not been battered. It's just been one moment in a game.

"We actually created really good chances at Plymouth. And, if you look at the frontline that's been put together, that's only the second game they've ever played together.

"We're going to improve across the season. I know people will probably be sick and tried of me saying this, but the difficulty is that it's a new team that's been put together - and all I can do is keep working with them and try to hone them."

Neil was the EFL's busiest manager this summer when he made 18 new signings, one of which he lost in October when Bournemouth then recalled on-loan keeper Mark Travers, shortly after the disrupting loss of defender Ben Wilmot with a knee injury.

"You create communications and partnerships and relationships with each on the pitch," said Neil. "Ours are in their absolute infancy.

"The majority of that Plymouth Argyle squad came up with them through League One together. We played against them in League One two seasons ago with Sunderland.

"That's three years a lot of the players have been put together. They understand each other's game inside out. It's about knowing what your mate next to you is going to do. We're still working through that at the moment."

Three of Stoke's four games in the run-up to Christmas are at home - first against bottom club Sheffield Wednesday this Saturday, then managerless Swansea City next Tuesday. They then go to West Brom before hosting Millwall on 23 December.

Source: bbc.com

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