Opinion: Should Bojan return to the Stoke City starting XI?

Following his equaliser against West Ham, the question should be asked about whether Bojan return to Stoke City’s starting XI.

Opinion: Should Bojan return to the Stoke City starting XI?
Bojan scoring the equaliser against West Ham. (Photo: Michael Regan/Getty)

In a tricky away game to West Ham, without Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic, Stoke City mustered a point thanks to a Bojan goal off the bench.

Since coming back from injury, Bojan hasn’t found his way back in the squad due to the blistering form of Joe Allen.

However, with Allen’s goalscoring form likely to regress to the mean, there might be room for another goal threat in the side in Bojan.

How have Stoke performed without Bojan?

Stoke aren’t performing poorly on offense, they have scored 13 goals, 10th highest in the league, but it’s mainly been down to Allen with four goals (Shaqiri with three, WIlfried Bony and Bojan with two each and a single goal from Arnautovic.)

While recent form has taken Stoke up the table, their only wins have come against Sunderland, Swansea City and Hull City. Incidentally, those are the three sides occupying the relegation zone.

Besides those three games, Stoke have scored six goals in eight games.

With three so-called ‘easier games’ next up against Bournemouth, Watford and Burnley, it could be worth making an adjustment to slide Bojan into a starting role.

How does Bojan fit into the side?

The tough question is how to fit him into the side though? Up front? Behind the striker? Pushed out wide? There’s several ways to implement him, but finding a way to best benefit the side is the real issue.

His preferred position is behind the striker, a spot in which Allen currently occupies. Stoke have had a midfield conundrum this year, in trying to find out which player best suits a role next to Glenn Whelan.

Allen however hasn’t scored in almost a month, which is forever in 2016/17 Joe Allen time, so perhaps it could be worth moving him to a deeper role that he’s more suited to.

Especially against the weaker teams Stoke are coming up against soon, it could be something worth pondering over for Mark Hughes.

Joe Allen could be moved into a deeper role. (Photo: Paul Ellis/Getty)

Up front on his own?

Another option could be to play him up front. The initial reaction is that he doesn’t score enough goals, he has however scored 11 goals in 2921 minutes (A goal every 265 minutes) over the past two seasons.

11 goals from 38 games isn’t a bad record, especially for a player plagued by injuries and also very rarely playing as a striker.

Bony hasn’t set the Bet365 Stadium alight since he joined, bar the obvious two goals against Swansea, although Hughes seems intent on keeping the Ivorian in the starting side.

Out wide?

The last option would be to play him out wide, but with Arnautovic and Shaqiri returning from suspension and the emergence of Ramadan Sobhi, it seems unlikely Bojan will start on the wing.

The verdict

The better option seems to be a return for Bojan behind the striker. It would also move Allen alongside Whelan, which could be a solution to that problem too.

It’s worth trying for one of the upcoming games, although pushing Allen forward and putting one of Giannelli Imbula, Geoff Cameron or Charlie Adam in to solidify the midfield.