Crouch can stay in the frame at Stoke
Last week’s Monday night football saw Tony Pulis leading his Stoke City side to Upton Park for a clash with Sam Allardyce’s West Ham United. It was lambasted as too much of a spectacle for the purist - one where the ball would probably spend more time in the air than on the grass.
November 26th, 2012
It was, to its credit, an intriguing match that featured two teams playing to their strengths: goals were never likely. Both defences are among the meanest in the Premier League and both managers set their teams up to be as efficient with their chances as possible.
In a game that also featured Andy Carroll, Peter Crouch proved why he might just be the best “big man” in the Premier League. The former Liverpool striker is the lynchpin of Stoke’s attacking play even if the club have only struck 10 goals in their opening 12 league games.
However, Crouch is much more than a gangly target that Stoke ping the ball to. To us the old adage for football, Crouch has “good feet for a big man” and the Potters are wise to use them to their advantage. Long, high balls in the air that can be knocked down into the path of on-rushing support or short, snap passes usually taken under control in the narrowest of gaps; Crouch’s abilities allow Stoke two main options in their play.
They can try either of them to get around an opponent, and he won’t struggle to lead the line. The club need only point at the spectacular goal that he struck against Manchester City last season as an example of the technical ability Peter possesses. Of course, it came from a long ball.
Tony Pulis has assembled what just might be his most attacking team around Crouch. Jonathan Walters, Matthew Etherington, Charlie Adam and Michael Kightly are all players who can help Crouch score but also register themselves. Pulis, in previous seasons, usually sacrificed two midfielders so that his side retained their defensive shape.
Recent months have seen Pulis adding a more attacking edge to his team. Crouch and Michael Owen, should the latter shake off the seemingly endless stream of niggling injuries that are weighing him down, have the potential to score goals together. Their partnership for England has already yielded goals and they can do the same at the Britannia.
It is obvious already, even 12 games into a season, that Crouch is key for Stoke this season. The striker is probably deserving of more international appearances than he has won so far; but Stoke won’t mind that he isn’t in and around Roy Hodgson’s squad for now. The 6’ 7 tall striker always speaks of his desire to play for England but he needs to start finding the net again to force the new manager’s hand.
Tony Pulis will no doubt worry that Crouch hasn’t scored since September 29th against Swansea. The longer the poor run continues, the more he will be tempted to change a game plan that will, so long as he perseveres, keep Stoke safe.