Writer: Charlie Bennett
Date:Monday January 4 2010
Over the past couple of months we have witnessed Stoke go from European to Relegation candidates. The goals have dried up, Cult heroes have gone bad and there are even rumours of the Assistant Manager causing friction between players and staff.
At Half-time against Wolves on Halloween Stoke were in dream land. 9th in the league after a 1-0 win away at Spurs the week before and 2-0 up against an inferior opposition after a first half of total domination. But by full-time that day we had seen Stoke throw away a two goal cushion and draw 2-2.
From that day Stoke has won just 1 of their last 8 premier League matches (1-0 win over Portsmouth in-which they played pretty badly) and have scored just four goals.
James Beattie`s Christmas bust-up with Pulis still seems to be having an effect on the striker and is starting to make us ask question`s whether it is something more than that. He obviously hasn`t been fit all season and has been forced to play through ankle, knee and back problems. But I can`t help but sense that his head has dropped, he is shrugging his shoulders and is simply giving up. Against York he just looked disinterested. That kind of thing affects the whole dressing room.
Perhaps the rumours of moves to the likes of Blackburn, Tottenham and even Liverpool are affecting him. If things don`t improve something has to give way - either he has to buck his ideas up or be sold. I know a player can`t always be in top form, especially a striker, but that is no excuse to wander around the pitch.
Dave Kitson is another conundrum that has been puzzling the Potters since we bought him last summer. His torrid first season saw him shipped out on loan to Reading without scoring a first team goal. This season however, he has come back afresh and finally scored in the 2nd round of the League cup. After following that up with further strikes against Sunderland and Bolton it looked as if we were finally getting what we paid for.
However this season the right players have not always played and Kitson was dropped to the bench for the injured Beattie. Peter Reid seems to have some involvement there as it appears the pair had a bit of a disagreement earlier in the season resulting in Kitson sent out to Middlesbrough. Rumours have been circulating for weeks about his future but after being overlooked for the FA Cup game against York, it may be because the club don`t want him cup-tied if he were to move on to another club.
The defence seems strong enough but Matthew Etherington is the only midfielder who can claim to a good season so far. Glenn Whelan hasn`t featured regularly enough (through no fault of his own), Dean Whitehead is just starting to settle down and Salif Diao is arguably the most infuriating player in Premier League history.
Away from Beattie and Kitson upfront, Ricardo Fuller has played quite well but hasn`t hit the net anywhere near as regularly as he would have liked and Tuncay has only just managed to get into the team.
January will hopefully be a busy time then for the Potters. Fringe players such as Richard Cresswell, Andy Griffin, Amdy Faye, Leon Cort and Andrew Davies are all expected to move on and Kitson is tipped to follow, albeit against what the fans want, it`s clear to see it just isnt going to work.
James Beattie should be sat down to resolve his future, whether that means him being sold or him staying and fighting for a place. But most of all this January some quality needs to be added.
I don`t know how long I can put up with a central midfield pairing of Whitehead and Diao. Individually they are good players but neither have any creativity. Jermaine Jenas would be the ideal signing, nowadays a sub at Spurs his quality is there for all to see and there are rumours of the Potters preparing a bid of around £6million. Jamie O`Hara is another but it now looks as if he is staying on at Portsmouth.
Upfront there is definitely room for another striker or two. Ruud Van Nistelrooj has been linked but I somehow don`t see that happening, although it would be brilliant if they could tempt him. Benni McCarthy is on the market for a cheap fee and he would be ideal with his goal scoring ability. Andy Carroll and Jason Roberts are also on the radar but neither are real goal scorers.
That looks to be the Potters aim this window, buy central midfielder and a striker. However if the chance arises I would hope we could lure David Bentley away from Spurs.
Date:Monday January 4 2010
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