The smile on the face of Tony Pulis as he made his customary post-match jog down the Britannia touchline told the story of a manager more than satisfied with a point against one of the Premier League big boys.
Indeed, Pulis and the Stoke supporters will have been pleased with his side’s defensive resilience and particularly the central defensive partnership of Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth, which shut out most of Arsenal’s (admittedly weak) attacking moves. Elsewhere, Geoff Cameron had a tidy enough debut, although his long throws remain far short of the Rory Delap standard.
he problem for Stoke in games against Arsenal, particularly at the Britannia, are usually associated with the Potters laying siege to the Gunners goal, bombarding their shaky backline and goalkeeper with aerial power, backed on by a raucous crowd and leaving Arsene Wenger’s men relieved to leave the Potteries with anything they can.
his was not the case. There was no forward thrust or dynamism, the bite of Stoke’s tackle was worryingly lacking and remarkably for a Tony Pulis team, could almost be described as passive. Stoke’s defence may have been impressive but had the likes of Podolski and Giroud really shone or dare we say it, a Robin Van Persie been up front for Arsenal, then Stoke may have been exposed.
n truth, the Stoke performance matched that of last weekend’s draw with Reading: solid, dependable but uninspiring. For years, Stoke’s Premier League game plan has been based on pace, raw power and physicality but if these opening exchanges are anything to go by, the fear is that opposition have wised up and adapted to Stoke’s battleplan. Indeed, Arsenal lined up with the power and height of Per Mertesacker, Abou Diaby and Giroud – no flowers.
So where do Stoke go from here? Glen Whelan and new boy Cameron may be an honest pair of players but are hardly creative. Cameron in particular looks to have little bar the customary effort and industry Pulis requires. As this column has noted, the pursestrings have certainly been tightened at the Britannia and the days of big money signings appear to be gone.
One wonders however whether Pulis is quite aware of where the issues for his team. For instance, the protracted signing of Tom Huddlestone, a midfielder of grace as well as brawn, appears to be off while instead Maurice Edu, another midfield enforcer, has been purchased. Speaking to the BBC, Pulis talked up a potential midfield partnership between Cameron and Edu, citing they “were
Of course, the new campaign remains in its infancy and the transfer window remains open for another week but if the opening matches are anything to go by, Pulis and Stoke may find themselves needing more