Swansea is a must win game for Stoke
This weekend`s battle of the SCFC`s and the battle of England v Wales is looking like a must win for Stoke City.
Stoke have now gone eleven Premier league outings without a victory stretching back to the start of the calendar year, and if the Potters don`t grab a victory at the Britannia Stadium,, the run could stretch even further with tough away fixtures at Manchester United`s Old Trafford & Liverpool`s Anfield.
Since the transfer window slammed shut at the end of August, the Staffordshire outfit have looked a better side, but just haven`t been able to grab a victory over a resurgent Wigan or grab all 3 points over Premier League Champions Manchester City or European Champions Chelsea, even though they played extremely gallantly, and on another set of days would have came away with an impressive 9 points.
All the new signings which the Britannia Stadium faithful have been blessed with watching have really impressed. The signings have arguably changed Stoke`s style of play and created a new found optimism in a lot of Stoke fans.
Not only has the likes of Charlie Adam, Michael Kightly, Steven N`Zonzi & Geoff Cameron gave Stoke the required guile you need to be a success at the Brit, but they all know how to pass a football but also have vision and a footballing brain which hasn`t been seen from a Stoke player in a number of years.
This season, the view from the Boothen End has seen players calmly collect the ball in any area of the field and not panic and act like the ball is a hot potato and then calmly distribute the ball to a team mate and not just hopelessly lump the ball up field and expect (hope) Mr. Crouch or Walters to somehow latch onto to the stray ball.
With this new found composure from the new additions, it has seemed to rub off on Stoke`s old guard, noticeably two players that seem to have a lot of doubters; Jonathan Walters and Glenn Whelan.
Whelan this season has turned himself into a Paul Scholes-esque player who just requires to be the little terrier in the middle of the field and off load the ball off to the pure strength of Steven N`Zonzi, who can just power his way through a brick wall to get the attack going or to Charlie Adam, who can pick out any pass on a football pitch.
Also, with the knowing that the little Irishman doesn`t need to be the terrier along with the playmaker, he seems more confident and comfortable whilst in possession of the ball, therefore making Stoke as a team more easy and less frustrating on the eye.
Jon Walters is another player that has undergone a transformation under the new regime of players, and a change of position has helped his cause. Walters has been put out on the right, which is a more natural position for his workforce. Walters loves to track back and get the ball and then run at full backs, and he can do that all game on the flank, leaving the goal scoring to someone more qualified ala Peter Crouch or Michael Owen.
Talking about Michael Owen, he should start over Swansea, and Stoke should go for the win from the off. Even though he has had an upturn of form, Whelan should make way for the former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker and Pulis should go 4-4-2.
RB- Cameron CB- Shawcross (C) CB- Huth LB-Wilson
RM- Walters CM- N`Zonzi CM- Adam LM- Kightly
ST- Crouch ST- Owen
With this formation, Stoke will still have to do what they last season against the Swans and bully them just like Everton did last week and not let them play their usual passing game. The Potters will also need to defend from the front and make the Swansea defenders look stupid by pinning them into their own corners after goal kicks, etc, just like last season.
What we haven`t seen from a Stoke full back under the Pulis regime, but have started to see now in our American full back Cameron, is overlapping of the winger. Cameron did this to good effect over Chelsea and he needs to continue to do this to give Stoke an extra dimension.
The Swansea game is a must win for the Potters, the recent play has been very promising but not rewarding, and the tide has to change in this fixture because it will be very tough to stop the rot at Old Trafford and Anfield.
I think Stoke will be too strong in front of their own fans and will come away comfortbable winners' against a Swansea side that have had a promising start to the season.