City Flying High
This performance will go down as the best seen since our promotion back to the top division. The manner in which we controlled and dominated from front to back was great to see as Liverpool were out passed, out ran and out played. The likes of Gerrard and Torres were anonymous as the central partnerships of Delap/Whitehead and Shawcross/Huth ensured that any hint of a threat from Liverpool's star players were nullified. As ever the main talking points are as follows;
Team Selection - Everyone was surprised to see the line up we have craved for so long in moving Huth into the middle and giving Wilko another chance at right back. He also kept Rory and Whitehead in the middle and persisted with Ric up top with Jones, contrary to reports earlier in the week suggesting Tunny might start this one.
Team Setup - The selection gave us so much more balance and it was obvious that this helped the whole shape and movement of the team. Right from the off the tempo was fantastic and my only concern was that we simply wouldn't be able to keep up the running and harrying for 95 minutes. I needn't have worried as they did exactly that and having that high line, with the high tempo coupled with the spine of the team brimming with confidence (Begovic, Huth, Whitehead and Fuller) ensured that Stokies around the world witnessed an entirely deserved 3 points against one of the biggest clubs in the World.
Begovic - I'm glad that Asmir built on last week's good performance and he was solid and assured once more. He was barely needed all afternoon, but when he was called on he was alert and in the right place, I'm not sure you can ask for much more than that.
Wilkinson - What a game from Wilko, he played like he had never been dropped and put in a performance that made us all proud. I have been critical in the past of some of Wilko's performances, and rightly so but to his credit he had an outstanding game. Wilko's challenge now, if he gets the chance, is to make that position his own and build on this performance giving Pulis a headache come the Transfer Window. My worry with Wilko is that he tends to excel at the Brit whereas with the bigger pitches found elsewhere in the league he struggles positionally and is often caught short when confronted with pace.
Huth - Another storming performance from the big German (who looks even more German with his Movember tach) Perhaps playing with a point to prove in as much as having the chance to impress in his favoured position, the Berlin Wall was nothing short of magnificent. It's also worth noting that Shawcross had his best game of the season alongside him and I think that is more than just coincidence.
Whitehead - Deano has had a good few games now and much like Wilko, needs to use that as a platform to build on these performances and do it week in week out. Pulis seems to have given him a bit more freedom from 'the cage' and has been rewarded with some fine showings and a willingness to get into goalscoring positions. I truly believe, and have done for some time, that he and Delap are our best pairing in the middle and they really showed it today with their job on England's Vice Captain.
Pennant - Sign him up NOW.
Ric/Kenwyne - This is the partnership we all assumed would happen and whether it was a case of Pulis waiting for the right time or merely circumstance that made it happen, I'm glad it did because they look like a match made in heaven. That said, both players can appear languid, wandering around with their hands on their hips rather than run themselves into the ground as they did this game and that's why it is important that the likes of Tuncay are retained as cover for any dips in form/injuries/suspension from these two. It was good to see Ric getting more game time and even better to see Kenwyne look more like the player we all know he is following a few poor performances as he gave the Liverpool defence a battering all afternoon.
Ric and Mr Jones got a thing going on...
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