Tag Archives: Opinion

F1 2020 Game: A Radical Solution that could make for a Great Game Mode

If there is one topic in Formula 1 that is guaranteed to spark debate and it is how best to improve the show.

Everyone has a different answer, from the sensible – less tyre management, simpler engines – to the more radical – binning blue flags entirely.

In a Motorsport Magazine article last year, Tony Dodgins put forward one such radical solution: a proper drivers’ championship where drivers are rotated between teams during the season, rather than driving for a single outfit.

While perhaps too radical for real-life F1, it would certainly make for an interesting new mode alongside Codemasters’ usual fare.

A True Drivers’ Championship

A season where every driver gets the opportunity to get behind the wheel of each car at least twice could provide a truly dynamic championship battle. The ebb and flow of results provided by drivers swapping machinery each weekend would throw major swings into the championship table.

Drivers would pick in last year’s championship order, with the World Champion picking 1st for every round. 2nd place would then pick their team, followed by 3rd and so on. For the final three races, drivers could pick again in either the same order or current championship order, with the championship leader picking first.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

This reimagining of what a Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship could be could force the player to make some interesting and difficult decisions when it comes to selecting which car to take in each round.

Tough Decisions

Where and when do you play the Ferrari?

If you’re playing as Hamilton, which races do you decide to take in the Williams? And which do you decide to take in the Mercedes? These are all questions that players will have to decide for themselves to ensure they achieve the greatest possible haul of points.

A weekend in the Mercedes is an opportunity to take maximum points. An outing in a slower car, such as the Williams or HAAS, is all about damage limitation, where a single point is a victory unto itself.

READ MORE: 2021 LE MANS HYPERCAR REGULATIONS EXPLAINED

For Monaco, do you go with the Red Bull and try to make up the difference to the faster Mercedes with skill alone? Or do you try to pull a slower car into the points at a track where the driver can make the difference?

The likelihood of you actually making it through Turn 1 in each car at each track would also be an important element to consider. Something else to take on board are your chances of actually finishing that race in that car. A retirement in a Mercedes would be incredibly more costly than parking an Alfa Romeo.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Add to this the likelihood of the Safety Car making an appearance, or it raining during qualifying or the race, along with the component management system that exists in the main career mode, and there is potentially a lot of strategic depth there.

How would you play your hand? How would the car you’re in change how you approach certain races?

Something On The Side

Given that Codemasters has already introduced driver transfers, I imagine a mode like this shouldn’t prove too difficult to implement.

The Riskiest Sundays: a weekend in a Mercedes could end in glory… or tears.

There are certainly some things that would need to be fully thought through, such as how many races ahead drivers can pick their cars for and whether they can change their selection once it’s locked in, amongst other things.

It would certainly provide a new way to play a season, managing risk and reward as you hop in and out of different seats, scraping together the maximum points your car will allow at each venue.

READ MORE: WHY FORMULA 1 NEEDS TO BE FREE TO AIR

And what better time to introduce it than after a year where we’ve seen numerous drivers, including George Russell and Nico Hulkenberg, called up at last minute to perform in machinery they’re in no way familiar with.

For the die-hard purists, it’s a nonsense, a waste of time and resources that could be better spent on improving the already stellar first-in-class career mode. But if it could be done on the side, with little time or effort required to get it out the door, it could be just the thing to jump into once you’ve burned through the more serious stuff the game has to offer.

In the Pit Lane – Will Alfa Romeo and Sauber’s relationship continue?

F1 commentators were surprised with the announcement that Mick Schumacher had signed for the Haas team instead of what was believed to be the better option of Alfa Romeo.

Alfa Romeo team boss Frederic Vasseur said he was not sure why Ferrari has placed Mick Schumacher at rival Ferrari-powered team Haas for 2021 and beyond.

Vasseur told the Blick newspaper, “Beats me.” adding, “Maybe it made more sense for Ferrari to bring Mick to Haas and keep Giovinazzi with us. For stability in the team.”

The truth of what lay behind the decision regardless of Vasseurs ‘bewilderment’ is what dictates most decisions in F1 – money!

Background

Alfa Romeo is of course the Sauber motorsport team with Alfa paying for the team to be named Alfa Romeo. With one seat at Alfa Romeo assigned to Ferrari as recognition of the relationship, the question asked is why did Giovinazzi retain his seat after a lacklustre 2020 season?

The ultimate decision will have been taken by John Elkann, the president of Alfa Romeo, Chairman of Alfa’s parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Chairman and CEO of Exor which holds the controlling stake in Ferrari, and Chairman and now CEO of Ferrari – you get the picture!

Elkann with his Alfa Romeo hat on was persuaded by the argument that Alfa Romeo needs an Italian driver to bolster their marketing efforts, especially in their crucial home market. To highlight the significance of the ‘Italian’ connection, it is worth noting Alfa’s worldwide sales are valued at $2,827m with Italy accounting for $1,086m.

READ MORE IN THE PIT LANE: THE BEST FORMULA 1 FILMS & TV TO WATCH

The Alfa deal is only for the 2021 season and the future will be subject to the strategy decided upon after the upcoming merger of Alfa’s parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the PSA group to be known as Stellantis. So, Elkann sanctioned the resigning of Giovinazzi and despatched young Schumacher to the Haas team. 

It now seems Ferrari is concentrating on Haas moving forward, with team principle Binotto confirming several Ferrari employees will work on the design and development of Haas’s 2021 car – at Maranello in a completely different building to where Ferrari works.

READ MORE IN THE PITLANE: F1 SEEING DOLLAR SIGNS

Binotto insists that Haas remains a Ferrari ‘customer’, but he admits that the teams will be more closely aligned from 2021.

What about Sauber’s future?

P.R. coming out Hinwil is of speculation that Sauber will split with Ferrari completely in the near future.

Vasseur has mused, “We are tied to Ferrari until the end of 2021, then we have to go over the books because the next contract should be from 2022 to 2026 with the new cars.

“Until now, Ferrari has mainly been a solid partner.” 

The words “until now” speaks volumes.

READ MORE IN THE PITLANE: FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Swiss-based Sauber is owned by investment firm Longbow Finance which under Swiss legislation is not required to disclose financial statements or the identity of its shareholders. The original motivation for the purchase of Sauber back in 2016 is believed to have been to secure the race seat for Swedish driver Marcus Ericsson.

Ericsson’s backers were believed to be the Swedish Rausing family co-owners of the Tetra Laval packaging empire and/or Swedish billionaire Karl-Johan Persson the CEO of clothing giant H&M. With Ericsson no longer a factor is Longbow now ready to do what investment firms do – realise a profit?

Sauber’s future is uncertain, but it could be worse…

Well, the signing of the new Concorde agreement establishes a budget cap and a more equitable sharing of the revenues. Additionally, the ‘dilution’ fund now increases the valuation of a F1 team the so-called franchise effect. 

Longbow will have been encouraged by the purchase of the Williams team and the substantial investment into the McLaren team so for them, the issue is stability ahead of a sale.

To this end it was important to keep Alfa on board hence the reluctant resigning of Giovinazzi, this mindset was further evidenced with the resigning of Robert Kubica as test driver enabling PKN Orlen to continue as title sponsor.

READ MORE IN THE PITLANE: SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Kubica like Giovinazzi was a critical factor for the sponsor with Polish oil retailer PKN Orlen’s president Daniel Obajtek confirming “It pays off for us. “The advertising equivalent alone amounts to about $100m.

“This also affects our retail sales. Robert is very well received by Poles and abroad, with as many as 70 percent of respondents associating him with our brand.”

So, Longbow’s focus is on creating stability ahead of a potential sale in 2021.

There would be several interested parties but maybe in a wildcard don’t discount a joint Michael Latifi and Sylvan Adams bid after the Williams takeover may have scuppered their plans for drivers Nicholas Latifi and Roy Nissany respectively.

On a footnote: Kimi Raikkonen has taken one for the team with the announcement his new family car Is the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Veloce and in a press release obviously written for him Kimi proclaims, 

“After this intense season, it’s nice to get back to a regular life with my family. I still don’t want to give up the pleasure of driving, though, and choosing the Stelvio Veloce means that I can do so in absolute safety, even in the snow of Finland.” 

Garry Sloan is the author of “In the pit lane – F1 exposed” details at inthepitlane.com
Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

The Devil’s In The Data: What Perez Could Bring To Red Bull

In the low-grip tightrope act that was the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix, Sergio Perez reminded the world why he is still a driver any team would do well to pursue.

Not that the world needed reminding, despite somewhat of a chequered season for the Racing Point man.

Having stopped for Intermediates on Lap 10, Perez nursed his tyres to the line to claim a well-deserved 2nd place finish. This was Checo’s first podium since the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

This was yet another great drive by the Mexican, who is still without a seat for the 2021 season. There is a notable space still unfilled for next year though, the second Red Bull seat. Here’s why we believe Perez needs to replace Albon.

Why Perez is the man Red Bull need

Turkey was an impressive drive, a masterclass in both patience and focus, enabled by a unique ability few can match. If Red Bull are on the lookout for a new driver, Perez is certainly the man to have.

Two former teammates are vying for the second Red Bull seat in 2021

While Nico Hulkenberg is perhaps more capable of chasing Verstappen on a Saturday afternoon, Perez more than makes up for it on Sunday.

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

The pair were teammates at Force India between 2014-2016 and it was
nip and tuck between them. Hulkenberg dominated their first campaign together (96 points to Perez’s 59), before Perez struck back, becoming Force India’s main breadwinner in their final two years as teammates.

A Delicate Touch

Sergio Perez can save his tyres probably better than anybody else on the Formula 1 grid. This is an opinion shared by Racing Point Technical Director Andrew Green:

“Once Checo gets into rhythm on a Sunday afternoon, he’s absolutely one of the best. I think he’s one of the few drivers who really excelled on tyre management and being able to read the car.”

This ability to stretch the life out of any given set of tyres has allowed Perez to rack up a total of nine podiums in his ten years in the sport. These were all in midfield cars that had no real business being in the top three.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

By comparison, Hulkenberg is yet to stand on even its lowest rung. Bad
luck has certainly played its part in the German’s case (Monaco 2016 being one such example), but Hulkenberg has also thrown away a number of chances himself (Brazil 2012, Germany 2019).

The Gain For Red Bull

For Red Bull, signing Sergio Perez could mean the return of that crucial second Chess piece. With a driver that can go long and keep the tyres alive, Red Bull are granted greater tactical options, a luxury they haven’t had since the departure of Daniel Riccardo at the end of 2018.

With no rear gunner for Verstappen, Red Bull have been fighting Mercedes with one arm tied behind their back.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

It certainly cost Verstappen victory in last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, when a gap that should have been occupied by a Red Bull awarded Mercedes the opportunity of stopping Hamilton for fresh Mediums to hunt down Verstappen.

Having two cars in play again will undoubtedly make things easier for the team and allow them to pick up more points on Sundays.

The Benefit For Verstappen


The importance of tyre management in F1 cannot be overstated. Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s recent duels have showcased this. It’s allowed Hamilton to take a second stab at the Bottas on-track later in the race.

Being able to successfully manage the tyres grants driver and team greater tactical options, such as making fewer pitstops, or extending a stint to gain a tyre advantage over rivals.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

In a sport where success is so dependent on the quality of the machinery available, it is one of the few areas where a driver can really make the difference.

Perez has revealed that much of his tyre-whispering ability he attributes to lessons learnt in his first two years in Formula 1 driving alongside Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber.

“He was really amazing. I learned a lot from him on how to work with the tyres. He has a good experience with the Japanese, they are always good on tyres. That was good for me to learn from him.”

Such an admittance from Perez seems to suggest that he hasn’t always been such a tyre maestro – that in fact, his ability to manage the tyres is as much learned skill as natural ability.

READ MORE: FINAL STAGE OF FIA GIRLS ON TRACK – RISING STARS UNDERWAY

If this is the case, could Perez do for Verstappen what Kobayashi did for him?

It’s not so much a question of whether Verstappen needs the help, though. It’s more a question of whether having Perez in the team can push him even further.

Jenson Button has also singled out Perez’s remarkable ability to protect the rear tyres in traction zones. The 2009 World Champion also added that Perez was the teammate that surprised him the most in his 17-year career:

“Certain circuits didn’t work for him, circuits that had front-limitation didn’t work for him, but circuits that had rear-limitation, like Bahrain, worked very well for him and he was extremely quick.”

How Verstappen could adapt

Even if Perez isn’t forthcoming with any secrets he might have, Verstappen will always have his data to sift through.

It is not yet clear what Red Bull will do. Maybe Albon will do enough in the three remaining races to hold on to his seat. The team appear to be fully behind their Thai driver, insisting that his future is very much in his hands.

Perhaps time spent with Perez will allow Verstappen to challenge for the world title

Yet, as always in Formula 1, rumours/whispers continue to circulate.

What is clear, though, is that if Verstappen is to take on the now greatest driver of all time in the prime of his career, he is going to need every possible advantage he can get.

Sergio Perez might be able to provide one such advantage.

Daniil Kvyat: Not done yet

Daniil Kvyat’s Formula 1 results aren’t typical of a solid midfield runner. In fact, they’re more akin to that of a notorious school-goer whose report card has more examinations where he failed to write the paper than he collected points from.

Kvyat now has over 100 F1 race entries, from which he’s collected two podiums, but nineteen career DNFs.

So what do you do if you are a principal administering such a student? Do you show him the door or do you tread patiently?

Where the Torpedo has excelled

Frankly, there’s always a particular subject – if not more- where a student holds his own. If we were to refresh our memories, then rewinding back to the events at the most recent F1 race – the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – would serve a
handy reminder why Daniil Kvyat hasn’t really flunked.

In F1, you ought to be taken seriously if you can hold your own against a heavyweight. In the closing stages of the Grand Prix at Imola, Daniil Kvyat was pushing none other than Daniel Ricciardo.

Defending for all his might, the Renault driver found his RS 20 challenged – if
not bettered – particularly in the corners of a track punctuated by nineteen turns.

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

While the great Lewis Hamilton, who hasn’t put a foot wrong this year, was
authoring the narrative at the front, the battles a bit further down involved a Daniel versus Daniil tussle.

Few may have even humoured themselves to believe that there was no chance for the AlphaTauri to challenge the visibly superior Renault machine. But in a race where Pierre Gasly race retired, there was only one Alpha Tauri in business.

READ MORE: F1 2020 TURKISH GRAND PRIX PREVIEW

It would finish only eighth-tenths shy of the Renault upon the conclusion of the 63-Lap run. Imola was not only the best result the Russian’s garnered all year, far from it.

Daniil’s improvements have been outside the races too

The fact that he has improved drastically on his qualifying performance pointed to potential that must now be immediately tapped into. After all, the Russian has been battling others and often his own theatrics on the grid for well over half a decade, having first raced in F1 in 2014.

EXPERIENCED: Kvyat has been in F1 on and off since 2014

Even though the Ufa-born driver did not usurp the Australian at Imola, his fighting P4 in the end ensured that Alpha Tauri collected twelve strong points. This was a drive that perhaps may even have rekindled interest in a career that’s hardly taken seriously.

But can Daniil Kvyat blame anyone else for generating a rather insipid response to his F1 stint?

READ MORE: F1 CLASSIC: RED BULLS LOCK HORNS IN TURKEY 2010

With just four races remaining and a high possibility of seeing some more closely-fought shootouts in the midfield, the untrained mind might reckon that not Kvyat but his teammate Pierre Gasly may strike back to form.

Can Kvyat Stay in F1 for 2021?

Truth be told, time may be running out for the talented Russian.

Speaking from the perspective of the recent results, Gasly’s DNF, that came after strong points, command more attention than Daniil Kvyat’s best result for 2020.
Kvyat must use his Imola result as a base on which to build further impressive results.

Careless bashing be darned, his 2020 results point to a weakness that persistently features. That he’s featured inside the top-five just once (Imola’s fourth) but finished outside the top-ten on seven in thirteen occasions says it all.

What must hurt Daniil Kvyat more than anything, even more than his thirteenth
(with 26 points) in the Driver’s Standings (in comparison to Gasly’s tenth), is the fact that he’s fared poorly despite having the same machine as his teammate.

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

While to his credit, Pierre Gasly, who’s been through a lot, in life, in F1, perhaps outside the ambit of emotional expression, has a race win, the happy-go-
lucky Kvyat hasn’t even collected a podium.

This is when the AT01 is far from being a slacker. Think how the two Alfa Romeos
have fared this year, having once garnered a P4 and P5 in 2019 (Interlagos).
We are seeing how George Russell, with his indomitable will, is punching above the weight of his Williams in 2020.

Could it be that Daniil Kvyat is lacking the drive to survive?

In a sport where the usage of the phrase ‘cut throat competition’ is the biggest truth apart from being a cliché none can better, surely you ought to think
Kvyat can do better.

DISTANT MEMORY: Kvyat’s last podium in Germany 2019 seems like a long time ago

Purely from the point of experience, this isn’t some Johnny come lately in F1; the fiery Russian debuted aged 20 and would soon go onto to drive for one of the fastest names on the grid in Red Bull.

It can be intimidating for any young driver to find himself in a team where the great Sebastian Vettel upped the game, winning four world titles on the trot (2010-13).

READ MORE: FINAL STAGE OF FIA GIRLS ON TRACK – RISING STARS UNDERWAY AT MARANELLO

The stakes are high. Nothing shy than brilliant will do, the team having witnessed glory in successively in the recent past.

So when Kvyat, 26, arrived at the Milton Keynes-based outfit after just a year at the Scuderia Toro Rosso (now Alpha Tauri), there were underlining fears he may just never be able to hit the soft spots. This is a team known for its ruthlessness in the way it often hires and then fires youngsters.

What does Daniil need to do?

It’s essentially what Kvyat did in the 2015 world championship that must
reignite that lost fire in 2020. How many of us probably remember that Daniil beat Daniel back then?

In garnering 95 points to the ‘Honeybadger’s’ 92, the straight-talking Russian outscored the smiling Australian as Red Bull stormed to Fourth in the Constructor’s Championship.

Before Albon collected a maiden podium, before Verstappen, the only one to be
throwing a few punches to Mercedes apart from threatening to headbutt others in media pressers formed quite a reputation, there was Daniil Vyachelavovich Kvyat.

READ MORE: THE PROBLEM WITH WRC COVERAGE

Where’s that focused and consistent driver gone to now?

What doesn’t help the Russian is that the current crop of competitors are second to none. Lando made last-lap overtakes right at the start of this season. Sainz has only grown in his craft as a racer.

Gasly has already won a Grand Prix driving the same machine and set-up as Kvyat. Moreover, the Racing Points are no slouch.

But as the Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “That which cannot be
said, must not be said!”

We won’t pass judgment on the career of a man who, at 26, is still young and
perhaps trying to still have a go to make things better.

But is he really raring to go and on the edge akin to Pierre (who’s made more points with 3 DNFs to Daniil’s 2) can’t be said.

In fact, must not be said.

Comparison to Gasly

Kvayt’s 2020 results

          #                 Event        Quali     Race
1Austrian GPP1312 (DNF)
2Styrian GPP1410
3Hungarian GPP1712
4British GPP1418 (DNF)
570th AnniversaryP1610 (beat Gas)
6Spanish GPP1212
7Belgian GPP11  (beat Gas)11
8Italian GPP119
9Tuscan GPP12 (beat Gas)7 (beat Gas)
10Russian GPP128 (beat Gas)
11Eifel GPP1315
12Portuguese GPP1319
13Imola GPP84  

So far, from 13 races, Kvyat has got 2 DNFs and 7 finishes outside points.

Imola was his best drive.

He’s only finished inside top-five on one occasion, through P4, Round-13.

He’s finished inside top-ten on 6 occasions.

A small patch of good form came through Italy (9th), Tuscany (7th) and Russia (8th)  (not too strong when compared to his teammate though).

Gasly’s results

NumberEventQualiRace
1Austrian GP 7
2Styrian GP 15
3Hungarian GP DNF
4British GP 7
570th Anniversary 11
6Spanish GP 9
7Belgian GP 8
8Italian GP WINNER
9Tuscan GP DNF
10Russian GP 9
11Eifel GP 6
12Portuguese GP 5
               13Imola GP DNF  

Gasly had a poor start, rather a slow start immediately after scoring P7 first race.

A P15, followed by DNF, which was again followed by a P7 didn’t help his case.

He’s had more DNFs than Kvyat, 3 compared to the Russian’s 2.

A good patch, following or post the epic Monza win was – Russia (P9), followed by a P6 at Nuburgring and then a P5 at Portimao.

He’s had 2  two Top-five finishes, including Portuguese GP and Monza race.

In 8 out of 13 races, he finished inside top-10.

Michael O’Neill, Stoke City’s GREAT REDEEMER?

Stoke City spent a decade in the Premier League, and in that time they rarely featured in the picks to be relegated come May. Despite that stint ending just three seasons ago, it feels a distant memory for many Potters fans.

During their time in the EFL Championship, the club have looked more likely to be relegated to the third tier than be promoted back to the top. Recently though, that has changed, especially after this weekend’s 3-0 away victory against league leaders Reading.

How it got to this point is a fascinating story that has culminated in a manager that the supporters of the Midlands club are really getting behind.

Prelude and pre-ramble

Being manager of Stoke City has never been seen as an esteemed role in the world of football. In fact, it is often regarded as something very unsavoury; Stoke fans seemingly have a tendency to despise their new manager well before the appointment is made official.

I remember when Tony Pulis, a man responsible for saving the Potters from relegation, re-joined Stoke there was immediate disdain for the man now often regarded as the greatest Stoke City manager of the Premier League Era.

READ MORE: WHAT IF THE OLD FIRM JOINED THE ENGLISH LEAGUES?

Pulis’ successor, Mark Hughes, didn’t fare much better either, with a now infamous “Hughes Out” van being parked outside of the Britannia Stadium before Hughes had even signed for the club.

Hughes guided Stoke to their highest ever Premier League finish, 9th for three consecutive seasons, before leaving the club in disarray in the January of the 2017/18 relegation season.

The notorious “Hughes Out” van appeared before the 2013/14 season

Despite this, I cannot remember seeing any negativity around the appointment of Michael O’Neill as manager. I assumed the disdain for Nathan Jones was still so great that the Stoke faithful chose to continue to release its anger on the former manager rather than targeting the club’s newest appointment.

An immediate air of positivity seemed to emerge around the club, and no one quite knew how to react, but was Stoke’s trust in MON well placed?

The Appointment

O’Neill joined Stoke City on 8th November 2019 following the dismissal of Nathan Jones one week prior. A quick note on Nathan Jones for some context; Jones was the least successful permanent Stoke City manager since 1923, only managing to win 7 of his 38 games in charge over two seasons at the club with Stoke failing to score in 15 of these games. Perhaps this is why Michael O’Neill received no abuse upon his appointment.

O’Neill came to Stoke following a 9-year stint managing the Northern Ireland National Team, a role MON initially continued alongside his duties at Stoke before resigning on 22nd April 2020.

Upon joining, Stoke were rock bottom of the Championship and struggling for form in recent seasons, having failed to score three goals in any game under any of the club’s three previous managers (Paul Lambert, Gary Rowett and Nathan Jones).

READ MORE: BALI UNITED’S CUGURRA PREPARES FOR TITLE DEFENCE

That duck was immediately smashed in O’Neill’s first game in change. The Potters managed an emphatic 4-2 away victory against Barnsley only one day after his appointment.

Now, you may immediately chalk that down to coincidence or the fortunate timing of his employment, but O’Neill went on to repeat this feat seven times in the same season.

If that hasn’t convinced you of his quality, then perhaps this will; MON has a win rate of 46.88% from 47 games compared to Nathan Jones’ win rate of 15.79% in 38 games.

For more context, Pulis managed a win rate of 35.88% and 36.64% on his return to the club, Mark Hughes earned a 35.5% rate, while Gary Rowett’s 31.03% sees him in fourth place of the five managers selected.

The 2019/20 Season

As previously mentioned, O’Neill found immediate success over Barnsley, but Stoke only took 7 points from the following seven games, finding themselves in the relegation zone on Christmas Day.

Then came a day many Stoke fans see as the turning point of the season. A dramatic 3-2 victory over promotion-chasing Sheffield Wednesday, with two goals in injury time, saw Stoke claw their way out of the relegation zone with 22 games remaining.

A 1-0 loss to eventual play-off winners Fulham was amended two days later, as on New Year’s Day Stoke thrashed Huddersfield Town 5-2 away from home, a performance followed by victories over promotion-hopeful club rivals West Brom and Swansea.

Sadly, Stoke’s 5-1 “mauling” of Hull City on 7th March was followed by the suspension of football in the UK only six days later. as the Coronavirus swept across the world. A break in the season was the last thing Stoke wanted.

The return to football on 20th June was a welcome one but Stoke initially struggled to replicate their earlier form. The remaining 9 games saw Stoke win four and draw two. Stoke ended the season in 15th place. Had the league begun upon O’Neill’s appointment, Stoke would’ve finished in 6th place.

The 2020/21 Season

At the time of writing, Stoke currently sit 8th in the Championship after taking 18 points from 11 games following a rampant 3-0 victory over league leaders Reading, the ideal way for Michael O’Neill to celebrate a year at the club.

Stoke have averaged far less possession, usually less than 35%, and fewer shots than their opponents so far this season. However, the Potters have moved the ball around effectively when in possession.

This often leads to Stoke blockading their own box for 80 minutes of a game only to counter-attack at frightening speed once the ball breaks free.

READ MORE: INDONESIA LIGA 1 POSTPONED UNTIL 2021

O’Neill has also ensured that his squad make the most of set pieces and training ground routines. This shows that Stoke are benefiting from well-orchestrated moves compared to previous tactics more akin to smashing the ball upfield and hoping for the best.

These tactics have perhaps been most noticeable in EFL Cup games, as Stoke have recorded victories over Blackpool, Wolves, Gillingham, and Aston Villa. Stoke will face Spurs on the 23rd December, having qualified for a cup quarterfinal for the first time since the 2015/16 season.

Our upcoming league fixture is Huddersfield Town on 21st November, following the international break.

Transfers

Michael O’Neill bought fellow countryman Jordan Thompson and Spurs prospect Tashan Oakley-Boothe into the midfield to bolster the team’s core. In addition, MON has signed the experienced centre-half James Chester on loan from Aston Villa, a signing he would later make permanent.

At the start of the 2020/21 season, O’Neill found his starting XI injury-ridden and lacking leadership, so the acquisition of experienced players was crucial. Morgan Fox, Steven Fletcher, and, most notably, John Obi Mikel, joined the Potters for free in the first window.

READ MORE: EFL CHAMPIONSHIP 2020/21 ROUND-UP: MATCHDAY 10

Creative winger Jacob Brown joined from Barnsley for an undisclosed fee. The Stoke boss also saw to reducing the wage bill at the club, cancelling the contracts of several loanees while allowing Peter Etebo, Badou Ndiaye and Ryan Woods to leave on loan for the season to reduce the burden.

Closing Thoughts

Perhaps Stoke-on-Trent will never see the enigma that was “Stokealona” again, but a quiet revolution is happening under the patient and nurturing guidance of Michael O’Neill.

This is a managerial appointment which seems to be inspiring faith in his players and restoring hope, a feeling often dismissed at Stoke. Mixing youth and experience with a generous amount of “shithousery” has got everyone paying attention to Stoke again. Here’s to the next year of Michael O’Neill!

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