Results no longer justify the approach
Football fans are a reasonable bunch. They are - within reason - happy to forgo entertainment in the name of success. Teams that necessarily don’t play attractive football but continue to grind out important results will keep large waves of their support.
April 19th, 2013
Likewise, teams that produce the best football in the league will be, for a brief period at least, allowed to fall short of expectations. It’s probably why Jose Mourinho will be remembered as a great manager more so than his teams will be thought of as glorious footballing vehicles.
In the Premier League, Stoke City is held up as a prime example of results trumping the quality of play. However, recent weeks have seen fans at the Britannia growing increasingly annoyed by their team.
The Potters have picked up just five points from their last 10 Premier League games and have enjoyed just one victory in their last 14 league games. The club, who have quickly established themselves as a solid fixture of the English top flight, are in real danger of relegation for the first time since manager Tony Pulis led them up in 2007/08.
It is ridiculous to think that there is pressure mounting on Tony Pulis. His job, even if relegation does happen, is unlikely to be in doubt. However, there is an overwhelming wave of frustration pouring down on the Stoke manager to change what he is doing. There doesn’t appear to be a back-up plan and it’s now costing the club points.
In the last few weeks, Pulis’ side have been playing in a very un-Stoke way. On Sunday, Manchester United were allowed to coast to three points at the Britannia Stadium without having to battle at all. Uncharacteristic mistakes were made at set-pieces and the Champions-elect strolled to victory.
Stoke’s style of play is well-documented. They have fought their way through each game they have played in the Premier League, making it difficult for their opponents and utilising their height in set-piece situations. At times, especially on their way to the FA Cup final, they also manage to produce passing moves that buck their stereotype.
Sadly, that hasn’t happened in recent months. The acquisitions of supposedly better players to continue their development haven’t quite worked. Charlie Adam and Wilson Palacios are better footballers than both Glenn Whelan and Salif Diao, but they aren’t snarling, battling tacklers that get in the face of their opposite numbers. Peter Crouch is a more capable striker than both Ricardo Fuller and Kenwyne Jones but he can’t be the lone frontman that Stoke need. Crouch lacks the pace and strength of both Fuller and Jones to disrupt defences as well as be the first line in a high-pressure defence.
It feels wrong to suggest someone who has done so much for a small club should lose their job; but right now feels like the right time for Tony Pulis to step aside. The decision will ultimately be that of the Welshman. However the Britannia Stadium needs new ideas right now as the results no longer justify the pragmatic approach.