He's bigger than me and you...©PA Photos
On a day that was always going to be dominated by the elements, it was Stoke who once again adapted best and with the swirling wind, umpteen giants,a Rory throw and the right boot of Pennant, Craig Gordon suffered all afternoon and no doubt fled the Britannia quicker than Jack Wilshere can delete a tweet.
After an awful start to both halves, we slowly got back into the game and after Sunderland’s second we dominated possession right to the end as we battered the Mackems left right and centre with a lesson in precision, power and bravery.
On to the main talking points then;
Team Selection/Set Up – I can’t begin how to explain how happy I was with the selection, it was pretty much exactly as 99% of Stokies would have chosen as both wingers started, Wilson was dropped and Higgy continued at left back, leaving Collins well and truly out of the XI. Up front we saw the giant combination of Carew, who was making his home debut, and Jones, I waited with anticipation at how they would work with both wingers and indeed each other. The first hour or so saw us lump the ball up to the big fellas far too often for my liking and whilst Carew is surprisingly handy on the floor, you get the impression that Pulis has a dream target man attack and intends to play to their height at every opportunity. As the game progressed, it was clear that we were being overrun in midfield and the forwards were getting isolated so the manager changed it around by making a most bold substitution of bringing on Walters for Wilko and using the wingers as wing backs. It was one way traffic from then on as we dominated with some really good play on the floor and a lot more movement from the players than we have come to expect under Pulis, so all credit to the manager for having a Plan B, let’s just hope we see such bravery for the remainder of the season.
Wilkinson – Andy had another average defensive game and a pretty poor offensive one. He struggled with his distribution at Anfield and sadly was much the same back at the Brit with far too many passes going astray. Time after time Pennant worked his full back well and looked back for support and on seeing Wilko paused and ran back towards him to make the pass infield himself. As it stands Wilko is as good as we have in this area, though once we get past the 42 point barrier I would bring in Shotton to see how he fares in the atmosphere and pressure of a Premier League match. This position remains one that needs attention in the Summer.
Huuuuuuth – What a man mountain, what a player, what a goal scorer! Rob made it 7 goals for the season with 2 in this game making him the highest scoring defender in the Premier League this season, overtaking the efforts of Vidic. Despite being at fault for at least one of the goals, he more than made up for it with an assured performance for the remainder of the game and of course not for the first time this season, scoring the winner. With the big German’s form as it is, it shows up Shawcross somewhat who sadly looks a shadow of his former self. I get the feeling we gave Ryan the armband to make him the big fish in a small pond, to make him feel wanted so he wasn’t distracted by talk of bids from Man Utd and abroad. At this moment in time though, Huth is eclipsing the young Englishman and should probably be the one who is Captain, though despite not having the title, Huth is every inch the talker and organiser and hopefully his influence will get Ryan back on track.
Pennant – I’m not sure why Jermaine has been left out of the squad lately, I’m hoping it was a mixture of injury and fitness as opposed to it being a tactical decision, but his introduction back into the starting line up was vital to our success this game. As I’ve said before, the whole balance of the side is improved immeasurably by having both wingers on the pitch and Jermaine didn’t disappoint with a good day’s work and delivery that would have Beckham doffing one of his many diamond encrusted caps. His ability and composure on the ball is great to see and his delivery is second to none, he must love having some many giants to aim at!
Jones – This was another poor game from Kenwyne and most throughout the ground had clearly lost their patience with the big Trinidadian given the ironic cheers as he won what seemed to be his first header after an hour or so. I can’t really add much to my words from previous weeks as he once again strolled around and showed no urgency whatsoever to get into the box, even when he had laid the ball off to the winger he would simply stop and watch them cross into the space 5 yards ahead of him, it was incredibly frustrating. The introduction of Carew really should have given him a kick up the backside but alas it hasn’t and neither did the prospect of putting one over on his previous manager who had been so critical over his time at Sunderland. I worry that the task of motivating Kenwyne is too much and struggle to think what more motivation he possibly needed over and above the task before him on Saturday. Pulis will have to earn his money on this one because if he continues in this manner I wouldn’t think twice about moving him on in the Summer.
Carew - Man of the Match - What a beast… I didn’t know what to expect from John, but I need not have worried, he flicked the ball on well, was impressive on the floor and deceptively quick! He looks to have settled into the side brilliantly and it was nice to see him do exactly what KJ should be doing, though I fear the lesson is lost on him. Huth’s thigh aside the big Norwegian would have had two goals and not just the one but he gave us all great hope and if he continues to impress I’d love to make the move permanent in the Summer. An interview in the Norwegian press today has him saying how he feels 10 years younger at Stoke and how happy he is here under Pulis, and those feelings have been seemingly reciprocated by the manager so let’s hope something can be agreed. Given KJ’s form and Ric thankfully remaining with us I can only imagine the partnership of Carew and Fuller and hope we see it at the weekend at Birmingham, what a mouth watering proposition that would be…
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