Stoke City: Predictable will do very nicely
To be predictable in football is essentially a bad thing. Down to the very root of football, allowing your opponent to know who is going to play, how they are going to play and what they are going to try to do along the way can be a rather big mistake.
August 30th, 2012
Only teams with the very best players at the very top of the game can afford such a luxury. With due to respect to Stoke, they aren’t amongst that heady company and yet, things are very predictable about the way they will play the game.
Of course, there are very variations on the theme and the idea, but ultimately Stoke City are hard to beat, unlikely to take their time over possession in their own defence and well-drilled on set pieces. To describe the team and the players as just simply that sentence would be doing them a great disservice; but the basics are solid.
Tony Pulis arrived into the Premier League with a hard-working squad and didn’t allow them to let up until safety was secured. It’s probably likely that even then, they weren’t allowed a day off. Since then, the 2008/09 season, Pulis hasn’t allowed himself to forget the basics – the bare essentials.
His side remain hard to beat, unlikely to retain possession in defence and well-drilled to exploit the opportunities offered by set pieces. They are just a better version of that team – and only getting better with each passing season. Pulis and Stoke have not allowed themselves to think beyond safety; just yet. You can tell that’s the modest objective set out at the beginning of the season, and everything else is something of a bonus. There won’t be a Potters version of whatever it is that’s happening at Queens Park Rangers right now.
Thomas Sorensen was brought in in July 2008 and then eventually replaced by Asmir Begovic. Matthew Etherington was drafted into the club in 2009 and has seemingly dropped down the pecking order in favour of Michael Kightly. Peter Crouch was signed for a fee in excess of £10 million last year. And the growth has continued this summer with Geoff Cameron joining. The USA international is a much more technically capable midfielder than Rory Delap but has already shown he can replicate his useful throw-in ability. The interest in Tom Huddlestone could indicate a slight shift in mentality but the size and strength of the midfielder should allow Stoke to retain their force in the middle of the park.
On Sunday, Arsenal played Stoke and were commended for their ability to finally deal with the Potters. After many years and many games of struggling to deal with their predictable style, Arsenal finally nullified the weapons of Stoke. They allowed a single shot on target during the whole game and didn’t concede a single corner in the corner.
Going forward however, Arsenal weren’t their usual selves. Santi Cazorla was the only Arsenal player to register a shot on target. Even though it’s obvious “what you’ll get” from Pulis’ team, Arsene Wenger couldn’t mastermind a way through.
Stoke City are predictable, but if predictable means another season in the Premier League – that’ll do very nicely.