After an uninspiring 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland, Stoke must realise why the goals didn’t come against a side that were happy to take a point and proved to be difficult to break down. Playing on the counter attack as we did against United proved successful going forward but Stoke City lacked ideas and imagination against a ridged side and this needs to be identified and rectified quickly if targets are to be met and survival assured.
It is true that Stoke are going through a transition but it does have a flaw if it is to be successful and here is the problem of new Stoke’s attacking three, Jonathan Walters.
I am going to try and not be overly critical against a player who has served the club well over the past two years and scored some crucial and memorable goals, however his inclusion in the regular XI down the right hand side is a problem to the way Pulis wants them to play.
The manager puts a lot of impetus on the wingers who are the main reasons for success going forward and unfortunately Walters doesn’t have the pace, skill, trickery or crossing ability to successfully play as a winger in the Premier League.
The addition of Michael Kightly down the left wing has been a breath of much needed fresh air but he can’t carry the burden of supplying crosses for Peter Crouch single handily.
Of the glimpses we have seen of him as a substitute it seems Matthew Etherington is not far from reaching his best form which deserted him last season. His mazy run which almost won the game against Sunderland late on was genuine class and something we have not seen from Matty since the FA Cup final of 2011.
Etherington offers pace, goals and a superb left footed cross and is a much more attacking and sensible option then Walters against teams who are happy to sit back and accept a draw. Etherington’s pace stretches defences so much it will create plenty of space for Charlie Adam who ran riot for Blackpool when playing in a free role. The secret to Adam’s success was that he had lightening wingers who stretched teams, creating him the space to do the damage. Adam has been good, but not yet great in a Stoke shirt.
Against the so called “bigger teams” in the league Walters is the preferable option. He is more defensively aware then Etherington will do much more dirty work and is more physical and Pulis admires these attributes, but he must be aware these hold Stoke back against the lesser sides.
With some big games coming up against Norwich, QPR, West Ham and Fulham Pulis will demand victories. But if his new system is to break sides down and win games of football then more pace down the wings is paramount. One classy winger in Jermaine Pennant got bored of waiting for his chance and has subsequently left on loan, let’s not let another do the same.