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Stoke City
Posted by James Whittaker on 04/24/2012

We've been woeful most of the season and bar our European adventure and a few league games, I'd say this is as bad as we have been since our return to the top flight.

All too easy... ©Daily Mail

As we come to the end of the campaign there are various statistical tables flying around and they make awful, awful reading for Stoke fans. Of course one can’t fail to ignore the fact we retained our Premier League status but is staying up each season really enough? Of course it’s a results business and you could argue the only stat that matters is the league table but I don’t think it’s unfair to expect a little more from a manager that has spent a hell of a lot of his generous chairman’s money.

So here are some of those statistics;

We have scored the least number of goals in the entire football league
We have the lowest possession in the League
We have the lowest number of shots/shots on target in the League
We have the least number of successful passes in the League
We have scored TWELVE goals from open play ALL season

These statistics are absolutely staggering and after Saturday’s match I decided I was past trying to find positives because apart from staying up, there simply aren’t any. Regular readers will know that I have looked at various aspects of our approach and team selections and it’s the same negative patterns repeating over and over again, nothing changes. Can any Stoke fan, hand on heart, say that they went to Newcastle expecting anything other than a loss, especially when the first goal went in? That pessimism wasn’t because Newcastle were flying high, obviously that was part of it but it was mainly because we have come to expect complete and utter surrender before a ball is kicked 90% of the time and Saturday was no different.

I’ll cover the club/manager’s main failings in my end of season piece but will look at one of them in detail now, Jon Walters;

Walters arrived to little fanfare last season but in a team showing a bit more adventure with, god forbid, two wingers and a bit of pace up top, managed to defy his many critics and hit a purple patch of form he has struggled to recreate since. In fact his presence in the team has come under intense scrutiny this season as his goalscoring record is one that would shame Mamady Sidibe. We’ve almost come to believe Pulis’ mantra that we need a non goalscoring attacker to help out with the defence, our position of 15th coupled with the statistics above would suggest that he would be better served up top alongside Crouch given that he already has 9 other players behind him to do that job, seven of whom rarely get past the halfway line. That said, if the manager were to rethink his philosophy and allow 2 strikers up front, Walters would not be anywhere near the potential suitors.

Not so super... ©AFP/Getty

I’ve said before how I feel sorry for Jerome and Jones, we miss their pace terribly yet Walters has started every single league game this season, and this despite having a return of only three goals when you take away his other two which were penalties. In fact his last goal from open play in the league was nearly SIX MONTHS ago – it beggars belief. Yet in the team he stays, seemingly so crucial to the system that sees us bottom of almost every statistical table under the sun with the manager publically supporting him and praising his commitment – ‘That’s why I pick him every week’ he says, when you look at that ridiculous statement coupled with all of the above, I just don’t know where to start with that one.

Pulis is said to be a huge believer in stats so I’d like to think these things won’t go unnoticed but this is nothing new, our poor play hasn’t happened overnight, it’s been like that all season, in fact it is worse than last season despite spending over £20m in the Summer and that can’t be ignored, it hasn’t been by the fans and one can only hope the Coates family take note too.

Vis Unita Fortior

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Posted by Gerry Coates on 04/24/2012

100% spot on. Pullis i understand likes wine. It appears to me that his transfer policy is one such as going into a wine shop. Look around , take time , leave and have a think about it. Return later and find that what he wanted had gone, subsequently only to be left with the bin ends. He , STOKE have some good players , but they desperately need 5 or 6 more. Midfield is a must, players with technical ability and pace and capeable of scoring a few goals. It will i am sad to say be the same old story, wait,wait and wait. There will always be a few bin ends. The thousands of STOKE fans wait with bated breath.

Posted by David Heath on 04/24/2012

Too static at the back; two quality full backs urgently required. When we get the ball we give it away far too easily; screaming for more quality in the middle to win and keep hold of the ball. Finally, a Defoe style goal scorer to play off Crouch.
If all or most of the above is not sorted out for next season then the stat under the biggest threat is that of Pulis never having managed a relegated team.

JW - We've been screaming out for those for years though, this is what is so worrying!

Posted by Vikram on 04/25/2012

I am an Arsenal fan and despite having read this blog, I am still really worried about this weekend's match. A match against Arsenal and Stoke might just rediscover their mojo (I hope not).

JW - Hi Vikram, one line that I didn't put in there is that despite all this I am still confident of getting a result against your lot, and that's what makes it all so frustrating!

Posted by usaid ahmed on 04/25/2012

I have been following your blog regularly and i cant help agree more on the following:

- the decision in first part of the season to play woodgate or upson in the team and disrupt the settled pairing of huth and shawcross

- failure to purchase quality full backs and wingers.

- playing crouch and walters and leaving jones,jerome and co on the bench

- still relying on set-plays and long balls

Last season's semifinal win over bolton was a surreal moment but as of now everything looks in shambles

The coach has to go, sorry but it is time to move on if the team has to improve considering the investment being done

JW - It's a big call and as you know I've been banging the drum with regards to the above but the capped one is so unbelievably stubborn. Something needs to change next season thats for sure...

Posted by Onyibo on 04/25/2012

Well said, James. Tony Pulis has been great in bringing u guys back to the top flight, but the statistics beggar belief. Next season will be a relegation scrap if he doesn't change his ways, and fast. Top of the list, SELL WALTERS.

JW - I think Walters could be ok as a squad player but he absolutely shouldn't be the first name on the team sheet week in week out.

Posted by Jolly Potter on 04/25/2012

it would not matter a jot if you presented these facts in a gold plated binder to Pulis. He would delusionally misconstrue any one of them - poor refereeing decisions, injuries, Stoke harshly labelled overly-physical and thus 'stereo-typed' as Anti-football. The stark reality of all you say is that we have not and don't resemble a football club which is still on an upward curve to success. We have definitely regressed based on last season's exploits yet our squad looked stronger. Pulis has isngle-handedly diminished both the Financial value and the potential football value of this squad with his continuous belief that the Road Map to Success is to Defend from the Front at all costs. In my opinion the Road Map of our Future success should start with presenting Pulis with a gilt-edged Map of South Wales and a Route back to Newport where he discovered this maniacal Football Philosophy and where quite frankly it should be die and buried never to be seen again - especially in a stoke strip

Posted by Joe on 05/04/2012

JW, I wanted to throw in my fifty pence about the Shawcross-Ramsay article but comments were banned. So i've posted here instead.

I thought this was a really fascinating article. As a neutral in this situation, I can see and agree with many of your points. Whilst I don't agree with booing Ramsay, regardless of if he stirred the pot or not, as it basically built up and eye for an eye scenario. I do however think it's unfair that people are attacking Shawcross, a man who felt genuine human compassion for the man he injured.

I think any fan who feels the need to launch into a tirade against either side, either player, and use terms like neanderthal fans and thugs just because they won't to provoke a reaction. Someone who doesn't take the time to logically reflect on either side of the argument, needs to get out of football because they are quite frankly one of the great blights on this once beautiful game.

JW - Thanks Joe

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James Whittaker James Whittaker is a football writer and ardent Stoke fan. Having moved to Leeds as a youngster his father refused to take him to his local Championship winning side and instead insisted he chose the Third Division team of his forefathers, Stoke City. Since then there has been no looking back and having been brought up on a diet of Dave Rowson, Kyle Lightbourne and John Gayle, is now embracing the dizzy heights of the top flight for the first time in his life. Fiercely loyal, though always welcoming sensible chat and debate, you can find him on Twitter @ESPN_Stoke

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