Why writing Moritz Bauer off doesn’t look all that good for Stoke City
O’ Neill has stressed on the fact that the 27-year-old Austrian international is away on loan at Celtic for other reasons, unlike youngsters, Thibaud Verlinden and Harry Souttar, who are serving loan spells away from the Bet365 Stadium from a development point of view. (Glasgow Evening Times h/t Stoke Sentinel)
The Northern Irishman has further gone on to suggest that Bauer’s future could possibly lie elsewhere despite the Potters struggling to stem the flow of goals in the Championship in what has been a dismal start to the campaign this time around. (Stoke Sentinel h/t Glasgow Evening Times)
Bauer, who came through the door at Stoke City from Russian club Rubin Kazan back in January 2018, featured regularly for the Potters during the second half of the 2017-18 campaign that eventually ended with the club’s relegation from the Premier League.
Despite that, however, the Austrian international pledged his future to the club with a new deal last summer, only to see himself frozen out of the playing eleven by former manager Gary Rowett after starting each of the club’s first two games against Leeds United and Brentford.
It wasn’t until Nathan Jones took over in January that Moritz Bauer returned to the team for the Potters, although his resurgence proved to be shortlived.
Having accumulated only 11 appearances for Stoke City in all competitions over the course of the previous campaign, the 27-year-old moved north of the border to join Celtic in the summer on a season-long loan deal.
Indeed, Michael O’Neill’s claims suggesting that Moritz Bauer isn’t away on loan from Stoke City from a development point of view certainly makes sense given that he is in his prime at 27 and a fully-fledged Austrian international.
With that in mind, though, it is hard to figure out as to why the manager has ruled out a return for Bauer, who looks more than capable of solving Stoke City’s ongoing crisis at the back.
The Potters currently find themselves languishing at 23rd place in the Championship standings, marooned in the relegation zone, having scored only 20 and conceded as many as 33 goals in the process.
That they have already registered a dismal goal difference of -13 is a clear testament to their ongoing issues at the back and someone like Bauer, though not a world-beater by any means, certainly has the CV and a decent balance in his game to help the Potters improve on a rather shambolic defensive record.
Tom Edwards started at right-back in O’Neill’s first two fixtures in charge against Barnsley and Wigan, but the new manager has opted for Tottenham loanee Cameron Carter-Vickers, who is essentially a centre-back by trade, in the last couple of games against Cardiff City and Blackburn Rovers.
Those who would have watched Carter-Vickers in action at the weekend against Blackburn would definitely agree that the United States international looked like a square peg in a round hole while playing in an unfamiliar right-back role.
Tommy Smith, who joined from Huddersfield Town in the summer, is of course, a very competent right-back at the Championship level but given that he hasn’t featured much due to his struggles with injuries, it is hard to see why the Potters are ruling out a recall for Bauer.
Notwithstanding the fact that O’Neill is well within his rights to tinker with his team selection as he continues to settle down and evaluate his squad, Stoke City’s lack of depth at right-back has been a big talking point ever since the start of the campaign, and the manager would eventually need to fix that issue someway or the other moving forward in January.
Of course, bringing in a new right-back in January would certainly make a lot of sense, both in terms of shoring up a porous backline and providing youngster Edwards with some competition. However, it is worth reminding that the Potters already have plenty of deadwood in their ranks and they would need to trim the squad before making further additions in January.
With that in mind, recalling an experienced campaigner like Moritz Bauer from his loan spell could be a welcome option and one that could save them a fortune in the market.
Even if O’Neill feels that the Austrian doesn’t have a long-term future at the club, the 27-year-old certainly looks good enough to help Stoke in their bid for survival in the Championship during the second half of the campaign.
Relying on makeshift options at right-back isn’t going to help the Potters and truth be told, Carter-Vickers doesn’t have the all-round game as a specialist like Bauer in that position.
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Having said that, Stoke City would be wrong to write off Moritz Bauer so early and they must as well look to change their stance on the player’s future moving forward.