Robbie Earle: Stoke and Rangers both have questions which need answering
I'M surprised it is a 15th-placed Stoke City taking on 19th-placed Queens Park Rangers at the Britannia on Saturday.
We are more than a quarter of the way into the season and I expected both clubs to be comfortably sitting in the top half of the Premier League by now.
Both clubs were extremely active during the summer transfer window and the quality of their squads is at odds with their positions in the league.
Both are managed by two proud Welshmen who know their way around this league.
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Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes are also both regarded in the game as 'tracksuit managers' who like to put in the hard work on team shape and organisation out on the training ground.
With Hughes at the helm, I really anticipated QPR would kick on this year, but a poor opening-day loss to Swansea has set the tone for the season and they are yet to win a game.
There is an argument that too many new faces were bought into the club and there has been no time for the integration and familiarisation that are all important to a successful team.
It seems they are a team of talented individuals who have not quite bonded or found their collective spirit yet.
I expect the combination of Hughes's experience, the quality of player and the patience of the owner, to be enough to steer QPR away from the foot of the table, but they need to start posting some wins… and soon.
Hopefully that won't be at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, but Stoke need to find some form after following their goalless draw at home to Sunderland with Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Norwich.
There is no doubt the current Stoke squad is the best group of players they have had since promotion four years ago.
But football is no exact science, so assembling a quality squad does not guarantee success.
What it does represent, however, is a new set of challenges for the manager to overcome.
First the boss has to identify the right playing style for the group, then he has to choose the correct personnel to execute the strategy.
Finally, he has to make sure the chemistry and personality of the team is evident. With the exception of their 4-2 defeat at Manchester United, Stoke have looked as sound at the back as usual.
However, their problems are further up the pitch. In this case, eight goals in 10 games speaks for itself.
The preferred 4-5-1 system relies on a lone striker (Peter Crouch) with support coming from deeper lying midfield players.
That means Charlie Adam is central to all Stoke's offensive play – in fact the team has almost been designed to get the most from the gifted Scotsman.
As the primary attacking midfield player in the side he has been charged with getting on the ball and building the play.
When on top of his game, Adam has shown he can do the job well. However, he seems to be lacking confidence from the player that announced himself to the Premier League at Blackpool a couple of years ago.
When confidence takes a knock it can affect your game as a whole. Your pass selection becomes errant, your speed of play slows down and there is a general stiffness to you game, as mechanical movements take over natural instinct.
It was revealing that Pulis went public to say Adam needs a little tender love and care after having a difficult time at Liverpool and being out of the first-team picture.
To lump all Stoke's problems on the shoulders of Adam would be wrong.
After all, there are times when he is in possession and he really only has the one lone target of Peter Crouch ahead of him.
Also, it's not really Charlie's game to sprint forwards 30 or 40 yards to support the striker. He has plenty of qualities, but I doubt whether he even won a sprint race at school.
Stoke have to find a way of becoming quicker in transition so as the ball is delivered forward, players behind the play have to move quickly into advanced areas where they can help to build the attack and support Crouch.
Pulis is looking to evolve City's playing style in this, their fifth year in the Premier League.
The possession stats are up, but as yet they haven't quite found the right balance between ball retention and chances created.
For all Liverpool's adherence to the tika-taka style introduced by Brendan Rodgers, in last weekend's game against Newcastle, of all the 400-plus passes Liverpool made, it was one long, straight ball, from back to front that led to the Luis Suarez goal.
That was a timely reminder that it is often best to have a couple of ways to open up the opposition.
When you talk about a team's character and personality, Stoke City have a name and reputation that is feared across the league for its 'in your face' style.
Sometimes you need to remember what makes you successful and make sure you retain some of that success in your game.