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Stoke v Southampton: attacking improvement needed

Both teams lost last week but neither result was down to a lack effort as much of the quality of the strikers of their opponents, who were ruthless in front of goal.

Stoke City might have shipped four goals against Chelsea, but the eventual scoreline did not necessarily reflect the nature of the contest. The Potters applied pressure for 25 minutes in the second half, helped by the arrival of Peter Crouch and could have got back into the game.

However, centre-back Bruno Martins Indi’s 76 minute injury disrupted the balance of the team, especially when replacement Ibrahim Afellay necessitated a change of shape. With no natural centre-backs in situ, they were hit on the break with three goals in the closing stages.

Southampton perhaps lack the ruthlessness to dish out similar punishment. They too applied pressure in their second half against a big boy – this time Manchester United – and they too went unrewarded. Nathan Redmond saw his shot saved and Oriol Romeu had a header cleared off the line, but they couldn’t find the finishing touch.

It is starting to look like a mistake for the Saints, who only managed 41 league goals last season, not to add a striker this summer, with four goals in six so far. Charlie Austin and Manolo Gabbiadini can be capable finishers, but have struggled due to a combination of injuries and a lack of creativity behind them. Shane Long meanwhile is a selfless runner but not the most prolific in front of goal.

Whoever does start up top will face a re-jigged Stoke defence, with Kurt Zouma and Geoff Cameron hoping to come back in after injury. At the other end, the biggest threat for the Staffordshire side could be Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. Considering that he was a free transfer, he has provided impressive pace, power, skill and commitment, especially when played out wide.

His performances though, combined with the fact Stoke have scored just five goals in six, underlines the need for improvement in other areas of attack. For both teams, providing more of a threat in advanced areas must be the primary focus.


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