Not the tie we might have wished for in the Carling Cup, but with Mark's record in this competition expect a strong line up for another dose of industrial football at the Britannia. Stoke did enough to beat West Ham Saturday but dropped more points to sit just outside the bottom three. Pulis will of course send out a team to battle, and we've only beaten Stoke once in four attempts since their promotion.
I sense the Potters could be on the cusp of suffering the 2nd season syndrome and may go the way of Hull. Or in Kenwyne Jones find the firepower to stay clear of the relegation battle. We might be the team of many talents, but it's no good playing all the fancy stuff and seeing us go down 2-0 to headed goals from Delap long throws. Pray Big Mark's got over his attack of the collywobbles.
I feel there is leeway for a degree of experimentation Tuesday in light of our games to date. We definitely need to be working opposing goalkeepers more and must stop 'losing' the first half. For all our firepower from midfield and across the front-line, just one real save demanded of Robinson at Blackburn? And that from our left-back. We've learnt to be patient under Roy with the passing game from front to back and nobody wants that to change, but there has to be more end product. Hahnemann was hardly busy in our one win, we scored at Blackpool from our only attack of the first half. They may be neighbours but Stoke are not Port Vale.
Murphy is yet to get a shot on target. Etuhu's been asked to rampage forward, but he's not going to turn into Frank Lampard in 4 weeks. Fielding two wingers at present who are not getting to the by-line is a luxury we can't afford. I saw Davies and Duff repeatedly checked and jockeyed inside by the Rovers defenders on Saturday, meaning the ball went backwards. Our quick forwards need balls pinged in from the flanks in front of them, especially without BZ and his height leading the line.
From set plays we only have Hangeland offering any height in the box. More shots must come in from range, Gera is one player who offers that, he's also useful with his head. Take Duff or Davies out of the side to accomodate him, he was after all many supporters player of last season. Play Dembele wide to turn defenders and give Clint free reign up front. Should Mark fancy a gamble maybe throw Elm into the mix? I'd also like to see Briggs given another run out, and I'm no fan of Kelly long term. How has he come up the pecking order? Restore Pants or Baird, both are more deserving of a start.
John needs an arm put round him and has to be loved - that's obvious. He's had his wobble, now build him up again, he personifies the collective team spirit. He's made a perhaps unwise 'farewell' to the fans on Facebook. Bring him back into the fold or risk losing him in January.
It may be fanciful conjecture, but I sense Fulham are slowly developing along Arsenal lines. The difference being that Wenger knows you make it count when you get up to the box. That's why they and Chelsea are currently a class apart. Where we have struggled in recent seasons it has obviously been when goals dried up. Radzinski was picking up money for nothing in the last 18 months of his time, Kamara never showed the appetite for scoring he's done elsewhere and Sanchez was doomed once Brian got crocked.
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FFC, more than a club, a lifestyle choice of pride and passion
Plenty for Hughes to ponder. At time of writing Stoke have injury doubts in key areas for the Cup tie so might that sway his final selection? Well done Salcido for an assured start with FFC.
Whatever we learn about the boss from the Stoke trip, league points remain paramount. Everton as we all know have a lousy record at the Cottage and they arrive Saturday in the bottom three off the back of a sloppy home loss to Newcastle. It might seem bread and butter football but a strong week for the Whites will have everyone sit up and take notice. The foundations for a really big season start here.