A third straight draw to begin their Premier League campaign may not entirely sound good on paper but at least for Stoke City, the 2-2 draw away at Wigan Athletic brought a performance that will have encouraged both the manager Tony Pulis and their fanatic faithful after their rather uninspiring opening couple of results.
Importantly, the Potters began to look threatening in front of goal again and particularly on set plays, an aspect so central to Pulis’ game-plan and one that has been so strangely lacking thus far this season. Key to this was the performance of deadline day signing Charlie Adam, introduced as a substitute midway through the first half to invigorate what had been up to that point, another stale Stoke performance. Stoke’s new £4m man set the tone by whipping in one of his customary precise free-kicks with his very first touch, causing pandemonium in the Wigan box. Much is made of Adam’s ability with a dead ball and on this evidence, the likes of Peter Crouch, Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross will thrive this season. Overall, Adam provided Stoke’s midfield play with an element of control and enterprise that has been so lacking in their performances so far this season. His passing, though at times erratic, was always forward and probing as he linked up well with his team mates and Crouch in particular. For all the assets that the likes of Geoff Cameron and Dean Whitehead bring to the Stoke midfield, Adam offers a little more variety to proceedings. The 26-year-old from Dundee could well have won it for the Potters when his deflected free-kick brought an outstanding save from Wigan goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. At Blackpool, Adam shone in a midfield tailored directly to suit him and while at Stoke there is more emphasis on the team rather than any one individual, Pulis is clever enough to know that if used correctly – Liverpool and Kenny Daglish take note – Stoke could have a superb player on their hands. When paired with Steven N’Zonzi, a similarly canny deadline day signing from Blackburn Rovers, Adam will be afforded ample protection and freedom to deliver in a Stoke shirt. Pulis’ late forays into the transfer market have calmed what had been a few nervy souls around the Britannia Stadium at the beginning of the week, with fears that the summer’s lack of investment could see Stoke dragged into a possible relegation fight. However, the signings of Adam and N’Zonzi represent shrewd business from the Welshman and should help ensure that the club’s Premier League status is secure for yet another season. However, Pulis will be under no illusions that a difficult season remains in store, particularly as Stoke prepare to enter a horrendous run of six games that sees them play both Manchester clubs as well as Chelsea, Liverpool and in-form Swansea City.
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