Stoke City manager Alex Neil is hoping that his squad is finally closing in on a cocktail of consistency and health. The Potters head to Coventry this weekend with only Ben Wilmot left on the list of long-term injuries, and Neil is beginning to emerge with a Plan A in terms of both system and personnel.
“I think we’ve been searching for that since the start of the season really, but it changes if players break down,” Neil said. “Ryan Mmaee has still only started four league games for us, which is less than a third of the games, so we’d like for him to be available more consistently. In other positions, I think the consistency has helped and rubbed off. I think the clean sheets have been one example of that, as well as the results.”
Mmaee, a summer signing from Ferencvaros, is a doubt for the trip to Coventry, but Neil is hopeful that his availability will improve as his body gets used to the Championship.
“I think the biggest challenge we’ve found is when you bring the lads from overseas they need to go through the rigours of the Championship,” Neil said. “It’s tough, really tough, and I think there’s a bigger ask in certain positions as well. Playing as a centre-forward is always going to be the most difficult position, hence why everybody’s always looking for a centre-forward.
“There’s a lot more running required in certain positions as well. It’s been tough. Even with Wouter, he hasn’t done three games in a week yet. He’s done two and then dropped out of the third one normally. That’s due to how much distance he’s covered in the two games he’s played because he does a lot of running.
“It’s trying to get that balance right between freshness, allowing them to perform, but also keeping continuity and consistency with the team.“
Neil will be hoping that he can strike that balance perfectly against Coventry, as his side look to continue their recent good form.