Unlucky or culpable?
We heard Dave Kemp tell us beforehand that two wingers were a luxury, I’d like to know when this revelation took place as this squad minus over £20m worth of talent last season were knocking Newcastle/Wolves/Arsenal/Bolton for three/four/five goals, if by luxury Kemp means ‘far too entertaining’ then that would make more sense as the Stoke faithful endured another turgid display.
The continued exclusion of Pennant is clearly key here, and it seems to be accepted that there has been some sort of disciplinary procedure invoked, and that’s fine if it was warranted. That said, if the player is being punished then drop him altogether or sell him, where is the sense of keeping him involved? It’s plain to absolutely everyone, and I don’t exaggerate, that the team is so much better when he makes his fleeting appearances when we have to chase a game so if the decision has been made to keep him, get him on the pitch, it really is that simple.
It may well be that the Pennant problem isn’t to blame and it really is, as Kemp said, a luxury to have two wingers, I’m beginning to wonder what games Pulis is actually confident of playing the two wingers together in given their huge success last season. He clearly understands what Pennant brings to the table as it is he that he turns to when we need goals and in a side containing TWO target men, to leave him and his delivery out was sheer insanity. That mindset would indicate that the manager does not start games with the intention of outscoring the opposition and the tactic is not to lose the game as opposed to winning it, which might well be a valid approach for a trip to Old Trafford but at Craven Cottage or even at home to West Brom?!
© PAUL HACKETT/REUTERS
Pulis was quick to pre-empt popular opinion as he so often does by playing down the role of the substitutes in our complete revival after their introduction, in that stubborn and condescending way we’ve come to accept if not despise, which again indicates he knows the impact that the likes of Pennant and Fuller have on our ability to score goals and given that goals and wins go hand in hand why not start them!? Clearly his captain wasn’t toeing the party line as he proclaimed that the game changed after their introduction and the team needed that spark to inspire them to push forward, ‘we had nothing to lose so why not?’ he said. How frustrating it must be for not just a fan, but a player of Stoke to know you’ll only try and win a game if you’re behind, it’s defeatist, it’s defensive and it’s plain embarrassing for a team ‘enjoying’ it’s fourth year in the Premier League having spent the best part of £100m in doing so.
Supporter opinion on the manager is changing and whilst it might seem utterly ludicrous to the outsider that there is mass unrest in the ranks given our recent relative success we’re growing tired of the same mistakes being repeated season on season with alarming consistency. The Huth/Woodgate right back experiment, the midfielder/striker on the wing, the playing of out of form favourites, it’s all too familiar and it shows no sign of changing.
We got to 30 points in really good time this season but since then we have well and truly stalled as Pulis has his perennial mid season crisis of confidence. What normally happens next is he will stumble on some form by injury or cup involvement (where he often allows more freedom) which will buoy the team and encourage him to go back to his best side. His realisations are often as consistent as his breakdowns every year and last year’s saw us storm into a Cup Final, this year we have the chance to equal or even better that with our next handful of games seeing us compete in three competitions including an historical two legged tie against Spanish giants Valencia.
It’s my prediction that we will see both wingers feature against Valencia in our home leg which will give us the best chance of getting a result at home, which will hopefully give us the confidence to progress in the FA Cup at the weekend and on to relative success against Norwich and Swansea. Whether I’m right or not remains to be seen, but I’ve been through this more times than I’m happy to remember and just like every time before that, I’ll enjoy the ride and that nagging feeling will subside again only to rear its ugly head this time next year – oh to be a Stoke fan…
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