Stoke City have endured a rough start to Championship life with just one point from their opening two fixtures so far, exhibiting a lot of the characteristics that saw them relegated last season.
The Potters were not just comfortably beaten, but were outplayed in every department by Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds side. They were also fortunate to escape with a point in their opening home fixture against Brentford.
It’s fair to say both opposition sides were excellent in the respective games and their perspective of the season may well change too if they can continue to perform at that level. The problem for Stoke was not so much that they were second best but the worrying familiarity of the performance.
Lethargic, devoid of creativity and error-ridden, Stoke have very much picked up the season where they left off from the Premier League. Not only did they fail to improve at all on last season's shortcoming, but even more concerning is that they actually got worse.
From the first whistle, Stoke were on the back foot and failed to match the pace set by the opposition for the remainder of play. Defending was sloppy and unorganised as the back line was carved open consistently, if not for some heroics from Jack Butland the Potters wouldn't even have a point to show for their troubles.
Defensive errors proved to be the catalyst for the first two goals at Elland Roa, as Erik Pieters who failed to step up with the line, playing three forwards onside. They conceded again asLeeds exploited the huge space between the two centre-halves epitomised by Butland spilling a simple shot into his own net.
Stoke can also consider themselves lucky to have got on the scoresheet at all with their two goals so far coming from a penalty and a fortuitous mix up which left Benik Afobe with an open goal tap-in.
The only positive conclusion from an attacking standpoint is that new signing Afobe is making the most of the scraps that are coming his way and that could be key for Stoke in the immediate future. Creatively though the team remain very poor, squandering promising positions and failing to create anything of note from open play in 180 minutes of football.
There was a laundry list of problems on show, all of which plagued Stoke last season that many fans would have hoped to have seen the end of. A similar formation and game plan with a few new faces also suggested the club has failed to learn their lessons and still haven't identified the problems.
Gary Rowett admitted after the opening game that he was surprised by the lack of quality on show and deemed the performance not good enough. But the warning signs have been there throughout the pre-season and it’s a poor excuse for a man who’s had two and half months to assess his squad.
Some are saying the tough start will be a wake-up call for the Potters, but inaction from the club has proved as much of a problem as anything over the last few years. That’s a major concern for Stoke moving forward because Rowett really needs to ring in the changes if they are to have any hope of winning promotion.
League campaigns are a marathon, not a sprint and it’s way too soon for Stoke to hit the panic button. But the hardened fans who’ve sat through the recent history will know the sinking feeling and will be left wondering what is it going to take for the club to change trajectory.
The board have touted stability as the means to deliver success for the club, but at this early stage in the season it only appears to have produced more of the same for Stoke. Rowett now faces the biggest challenge of his managerial career so far, he has to inject confidence back into this side and get them playing together.
A trip to Preston North End awaits Stoke next, where Rowett will have to dispell his side's 'homesickness' with the club boasting a frankly shocking away record over the last three years.
It's another tough ask as the search for a first win goes on, but a benchmark has been set by Swansea's win over Alex Neil's side that should offer more insight into the Potter's fortunes for the season ahead.