It’s a lazy stereotype that Stoke City are a long ball team. The Potters carved out their role in the Premier League by playing direct football under Tony Pulis and stayed up since the 2008/09 season by a mixture of being tough to break down at home and tricky to play against.
Since those days, however, the club have evolved, and in the Mark Hughes era they have become more ‘continental’ in their approach, signing technically adept players such as Bojan Krkic and Ibrahim Affelay – basically those who failed to make the grade at Barcelona – and opting for slick play, rather than big hoofs from back to front.
The results have been admirable, too, with Stoke never really a side associated with the relegation scrap, despite their relative lack of funds and, with all due respect, limited appeal.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) December 27, 2016
However, their XI to visit Liverpool this evening looks to be one tailored to going back to basics, with Peter Crouch up top and Jonathan Walters and Mame Biram Diouf in behind on the flanks. Although we cannot confirm this is how they’ll play yet, it would seem that passes will be long and high towards the beanpole striker, who will be tasked with knocking the ball down to his team-mates.
Agricultural, but often effective, it seems Kopites are worried and annoyed by it judging by the reaction on Twitter…
Stoke’s plan is clear. Hoof to Crouch to beat our press. Will need CBs to be good in the air and Hendo and Gini to battle for second balls.
— Ste Hoare (@stehoare) December 27, 2016
Crouch and Walters; Stoke’s two target man. Hughes may be thinking our back four can be forced to make mistakes playing long balls.
— Prabin Bikram (@prabinLFC) December 27, 2016
Hughes is going direct today, Crouch and Walters up top
— Jamie Johnson (@Jjohnsonm94) December 27, 2016
They seem to be playing long balls with Crouch up top,clear plan,down to us not to let them do it like that.#LFC
— Mohamed Ndiaye (@KloppRomantic) December 27, 2016
Stoke playing Crouch up front ! Long balls!!! Come on Liverpool let’s do it !!!
— LFC-YNWA (@victoresan) December 27, 2016
Long balls towards Crouch with no Matip in the lineup. A bit worried
— Syed Affan (@Dynamic_Klopp) December 27, 2016
Stoke going long for Crouch the entire game it is then. Fair play, can’t press much if the ball is flying most of the game
— Jorge De Castro (@jorge_decastro) December 27, 2016