Robbed once more…
I’ve been trying to explain as best I can this season just how differently we have been setting up and playing and the last two games’ team selections with the inclusions of the likes of Tuncay and Wilson have further proved the theory that Pulis is overseeing a pretty impressive shift in emphasis. Many would say about time, but it was always of paramount importance that we stayed up in the Premier League by any means possible. Pulis and Coates have both spoken of a 3 year settling in period after which we can really push on, and that’s exactly what we are seeing now.
As always though, these things are a balancing act, we have achieved great things by being playing a certain way and it’s vital we keep those attributes most important to weave into the new ways of playing. Strengths such as passion, energy and fitness will be needed more than ever as the squad set about adding to the old routines and as we have seen so far this season, it will take time to bed in. I can see things from both sides, on one side, I look at some of the goals we have conceded this season and I think “would that have happened in our first or second season?” Historically our defence has been a rock who had kept many clean sheets; corners, free kicks, crosses all dealt with efficiently and ruthlessly by those well drilled at the back. It has been a surprise then to see so many goals conceded by poor marking in the box, by losing headers, and perhaps more tellingly, by trying to pass the ball rather than launch it in the general direction of the target man.
On the other hand, I’m not so sure that we have sacrificed solidity at the back in search of a better style, rather, I think we have simply been uncharacteristically poor at the back this season. Ryan has been made Captain and I’m not so sure that is the right decision, he is a very important player but he needs to continue to grow and learn and I’m not sure that being Captain is allowing him to do that, especially as he is not a natural leader. In fact, one of the big leaders from the last 2 seasons, Danny Higginbotham, has lost his place this term and to be honest we need him back. Huth is currently the safest option on the right but he is not a right back, Collins is at left back on merit so it would be cruel to drop him so for me it comes down to dropping Faye. Faye is far too inconsistent for me and his penchant for following a ball out with the man until he gets it back scares me to death, add in some high profile mistakes in the last few weeks and the case for bringing Higgy back into the fold strengthens.
There is no space for sentiment and Abdy should step aside and let the ever dependable Higgy step in, the very epitome of consistency. Higgy coming back in would bring a much needed voice which would help shore up the defence and indeed help the keeper out, which is even more important with a new goalie getting some game time. This is an important time for Stoke and Pulis, the change in approach must be applauded and based on what I hear from other Stoke fans, this is the case, and it’s important to build on that early promise by giving it the best chance of succeeding, and that starts with a solid defensive unit. As I say, it’s not going to happen overnight, it simply can’t, so I just hope that all Stokies stay behind the Manager as he continues to evolve the side and not demand too much too soon, he got us where we are now and it’s important he has the chance to take us to the next level, there will be some defeats and frustrations on the way but as Stoke fans, we should all be pretty used to that.
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