The above quote is Pulis in a nutshell. His persistence in playing so many players out of position and with the completely inept Walters up top is driving many fans to distraction. In this game we saw an attempt at a 4-3-3, which after about two minutes turned into a 4-5-1 with five players out of position (Huth, Wilson, Fuller, Jerome and Walters).
The players at times looked completely dumbfounded, almost as if the manager was treating the game as a training session as he kept swapping players from wing to forward and back to the opposite wing trying to find the best formula. It was madness and, given the money spent, completely unacceptable.
Pulis was said to remark after the match that he was disappointed with his misfiring strikers. Funny that, given that our two most dangerous players were stuck out on the wing, which in our defensive game means they spent the game chasing the opposition and playing full back. In fact, our only two players with pace who could afford us a meaningful attack on the break were substituted with 15 minutes to go. It took Hughes seconds to react, and if he could have chosen our subs for us he’d have done exactly as Pulis did as we retreated further and further back towards our own goal inviting a winner for QPR.
I’ve been quick to defend the manager for the most part, and have always stopped short of saying the words, but having endured this season and seen nothing change despite promises of evolution I can now utter those words that I think it is time Pulis left. He simply isn’t the man to take us forward. It’s not like I’m seeking some sort of Swansea-like transformation – nothing would bore me more (other than turgid Pulisball). I just don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that players play where they should play, that we start with two wingers, that we drop players out of form and reward those who have made a recent impact. That’s just basic football management, isn’t it?
Time to retire the cap?
Some people say that to even suggest this is to be ungrateful for Pulis returning us to the top table, for getting us to Europe, but they couldn’t be more wrong. I will never forget what the manager has done and I’m not sure many could have had such an impact over a short space of time, but the fire fighting days are over and it’s time to look forward to a new era of moving the club on and this Stoke fan doesn’t believe that Pulis is the man to do that. I’d love to think that he was capable of change but his system is what has made him a success, a system that has seen him never get relegated. He simply will not change it.
I feel that we’re now stuck in a rut. The signing of Crouch I think has set the club back in a huge way. That might sound bizarre given that he has just won Player of the Season and is our top scorer, but the more balanced observer would have to accept that his signing has unbalanced a side that last season actually had a bit of flair and movement. People point to the form of Walters, and also the wingers Etherington and Pennant, but form is a blip and those three have struggled all season, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it happened after Crouch arrived and was paired with Walters, rendering our front line static.
I know Crouch would work well with a pacy option alongside him in a traditional front two as he is probably the best striker we have but NOT in our system, a system that can’t be changed. We need a worker (apparently) and so the problem goes on and on. I’m not screaming for the system to be overhauled, I’ve come to accept the shape and concept, but what I can’t accept is the manager completely and almost ironically sabotaging it because he was star-struck by the concept of signing Crouch. Three strikers who suit the system much better are sat scratching themselves on the bench knowing they will never usurp the golden boys running in treacle up top – it’s quite simply the biggest challenge facing the manager this summer.
The problem we have now is that Pulis has got Crouch and won’t drop him, so every striker who is better suited to that role (Fuller, Jones and Jerome) will leave, and why shouldn’t they? How utterly demoralising for a player to come into the fold, impress, score goals then see the team sheet the following Saturday. Pulis is aware of the fans thoughts but remains stubborn to a point where he can’t possibly do so anymore, which is what happened with Jerome recently. Instead he hangs them out to dry on the wing, almost as an act of defiance – “I played the players you wanted and they failed”. It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.
Mistrust of youth…
Then we’ve got the new rules coming in around academies and Financial Fair Play – the scene is just not set up for Pulis to prosper in the medium to long term, Coates’ backing will be more restricted, and given the manager’s complete and utter reluctance to try anyone from the youth setup, I can’t see how that is going to work moving forward despite the chairman ploughing millions into achieving Category A status. This farce was further highlighted last night as Shotton became what must have been the oldest player in Premier League history to win his club’s Young Player of the Season award aged 23. It would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.
As for what happens next, that would be down to the chairman and his family, but for me it’s pretty black and white – either Pulis changes things drastically or he leaves. The sad thing is I don’t see either happening anytime soon.
Vis Unita Fortior