Alex Neil explains why he’s emphasizing on the importance of merit-based team selection as the Potters Skipper Josh Laurent fights for his…

Neil, who leads Stoke City in their upcoming home match against Leeds United, is facing some tough decisions, especially in central midfield. He made the decision to relegate captain Josh Laurent to the bench during the team’s recent victory over Sunderland. Consequently, goalkeeper Mark Travers is now the sole player to have appeared in all twelve Championship games this season.

With Lewis Baker expected to return from injury in the coming weeks and the emergence of 16-year-old Sol Sidibe, Neil will soon have seven players competing for three midfield slots. In the last match, Ben Pearson, Wouter Burger, and Daniel Johnson were selected, but both Johnson and Laurent, in addition to Pearson, are one yellow card away from a one-match suspension, with Pearson three yellow cards away from a two-game suspension.

Neil stated, “When we select our midfield, we have three midfield positions. Most teams typically deploy a midfield of two or three players, primarily three. It’s about finding the right players in the right positions, with the right combinations and balance. It’s not always the case that the best individual players make up the best team. We’ve seen this conundrum in the past with the likes of Lampard, Scholes, and Gerrard in the England team, and how it was never quite resolved.”

He further explained, “For us, it’s about finding what we believe is the best balance, and ultimately, this will be determined by player performances and the results. Even though we won the last game, it doesn’t guarantee that the same three players will be chosen for every game moving forward. There will always be opportunities due to suspensions and injuries. When individuals join the team, it’s their responsibility to perform at their best.”

Alex Neil makes Stoke City selection vow as captain Josh Laurent fights for place - Stoke-on-Trent Live

Neil acknowledged that players are aware of their own performances and don’t necessarily need social media or outside opinions to assess how they played. He emphasized the importance of focus and single-mindedness in contributing to the team’s success, stating that players must concentrate on doing their best and executing their roles effectively. The players who consistently perform well will earn their spots in the team.

Neil also noted that different matches present distinct challenges, particularly in the Championship, and these challenges must be weighed against the value of having a consistent lineup. The goal is to strike the right balance more often than not when selecting the team for various games.


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