Nathan Jones was unveiled as the new Stoke City manager this month, and has endured somewhat of a turbulent start to life at the Potters. Jones became the fourth manager in just over a year at Stoke; a club who had only changed manager once in the 12 years prior.
Jones took over a club floundering in 14th place, sitting 15 points adrift of the promotion places. The Welshman endured a baptism of fire in his first two games, seeing his side outclassed by 18th-placed Brentford before throwing away a 2-0 lead to lose at home to Shrewsbury Town in the FA Cup.
The Potters did bounce back with an impressive victory over league leaders Leeds, and for many Jones still represents something the club has been in dire need of: a fresh point of view. Adopting an unconventional formation, Jones admitted post-match that he tried to outflank Marcelo Bielsa in the wake of the recent ' Spygate' scandal.
Such a pragmatic approach that delivered success has not been seen since the Tony Pulis-era but there was still an air of fortune to the victory. The first goal was a gift for Sam Clucas and Leeds will feel rightly aggrieved at Pontus Jansson's dismissal.
The Swede appeared to lose his footing as much as anything, but was deemed to have fouled Benik Afobe. It's a positive sign that Jones can indeed bring the good times back to Staffordshire but the biggest test will lie in the coming fixtures.
Stoke have already seen numerous false dawns this season, most notably with victories against Norwich and Derby. Jones will see how quickly that elation can turn to animosity from a fan base that is running out of patience with the continued poor management of the club; especially with zero signings through the door this transfer window.
👀 We see that the #OscarNoms for 'Best Picture' is currently trending in the UK.— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) January 22, 2019
Ok, we don't have a feature film but to stay somewhat relevant, so...
...What do you think is @philgreig's best picture from last Saturday?#SCFC 🔴⚪️ pic.twitter.com/9dzG93SlgA
Jones immediately made wholesale changes in both personnel and style, that did result in a lack of cohesion and understanding in his opening two fixtures.
There have certainly been some early teething issues but the manager is under no illusions of the issue and has been quick to warn fans that things might get worse before they get better. The club was reportedly very impressed by Jones’ long term plan but that initial period of turmoil could prove tougher to navigate than the Welshman intends.
The attacking approach is something the fans have been waiting for but, in truth, both Mark Hughes and Rowett attempted to play that way. The results proved disastrous as Stoke consistently shipped goals only sinking them deeper into trouble before reverting back to their defensive style.
He has offered fans a glimpse of something very exciting but there are enough problems still evident to suggest his masterplan will take some time.
Time could be a luxury the Potters do not have though and the focus on a long term goal effectively means Stoke are writing off the season. There's still plenty of top-tier talent in this squad and if individual performances do improve, expect the vultures to come calling in summer.
The club still needs to primarily focus on the best possible finish to this campaign to set them up for the following year or much of that good work will likely come too little, too late.