If ever Stoke City needed the comfort of three of their next four Premier League games being at the Britannia, it’s now. The Potters’ poor run of form has left them in 15th place with nine points from 10 games played, still four points above the drop zone but a disappointing position for a squad of Tony Pulis’ men’s experience and talent.
Stoke in the Premier League have often fluctuated in terms of their results. Capable of mixing it with the best one week, the Potters have often slumped, particularly away from home, to disappointing defeats. However, one thing that has always characterised their play under Tony Pulis is their constant goal threat, through set-pieces or otherwise. It is that bombardment that has been missing this season, and even more so in recent performances, with the Potters’ toothless attacking displays against Sunderland and Norwich in their last two league outings to leave only the former with a weaker goal scoring record so far this season, with six to the Potters’ eight.
Only three of those strikes have come at the Britannia Stadium so far but Pulis will take heart from the fact that his side remain unbeaten at their fortress. Stoke may have only won once, but draws with Manchester City and Arsenal, as well as Sunderland, are not to be scoffed that and should send the Potters into their run of important league fixtures in good stead.
However, where the Stoke faithful will be concerned is that, the Swansea victory apart, their side have looked thoroughly incapable of breaking down the opposition and look to lack any sort of attacking impetus, particularly if Peter Crouch is failing to fire. Indeed, against a struggling side such as Queens Park Rangers, who will be the first visitors to the Britannia before both Fulham and Newcastle make their bows before the end of November, the Potters will need to find some attacking momentum if they are to come away with three points.
QPR may be joint-bottom without a win to their name but Mark Hughes will know as well as anyone that a point at the Britannia is a fine result and so it will be surely be up to the Stoke players to find a way through the R’s massed defensive ranks. Similarly, Fulham and Newcastle are hardly going to arrive in the Potteries with completely gung-ho attitudes. To do so would be to simply play into the hands of Pulis’ men.
Perhaps then, as a way of introducing a touch more creativity and invention, Pulis should look to play Charlie Adam in a central midfield position rather than out wide, and make use of his considerable talents on the ball. Dean Whitehead may be a willing runner in the middle of the park but he is certainly no technician. Additionally, the return of Matthew Etherington on the left is a must while up front, Pulis must surely look into swapping Jonathan Walters for either Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome or Michael Owen simply as a way of adding more variety to his side’s attacking display.
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