Away peformances make for unhappy viewing
The defeat and abject performance at Manchester City on New Year`s Day was a bit of disappointment for Potters fans after going into the match off the back of 10 games unbeaten in the Premier League.
The outcome was pretty much written though after Tony Pulis`s pre-match comments described the fixture as being a bonus game for the club. Making such statements would have disheartened supporters who had already forked out forty pounds for a ticket after expecting the team to go to the home of the champions and try to cause an upset.
You would expect any team that had been on a magnificent run of form to go into the game looking to hurt a Manchester City side that had conceded three in their last outing at Norwich City, whilst losing away to Sunderland and only narrowly beating relegation contenders Reading in their previous home game, but remember this is a Tony Pulis side we`re talking about!
On each of Stoke`s four previous Premier League visits to Manchester City they have failed to score a solitary goal and have created very few clear cut chances. But with an expensively assembled team now and after picking up some good results in recent weeks, you would have certainly fancied the Potters to cause their opposition a few problems. Instead, Stoke sat back all game and invited wave after wave of pressure and ultimately succumbed to some scrappy goals.
After the match, Pulis felt that he was in his rights to put the defeat down to the gulf in money spent on the two squads, whilst also stating he played his most attacking line-up as manager by selecting Charlie Adam, Jonathan Walters, Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones up front. That may be the case, however the roles that the players were asked to perform were not best suited for the approach the manager took with his tactics.
Pulis`s desire to soak up pressure and rely on set pieces away from home has, on occasion, worked well most notably in the club`s first season in the Premier League at Anfield. That however, was five years ago with a team of little top-flight experience when little was expected in terms of an attacking threat away from the Britannia Stadium.
Excuses such as the cost of the opponents` team do not sit right with me. You only have to look at the Ajax side that comfortably beat and drew against Manchester City in this season`s Champions League group stage. The Dutch team was put together for under £3 million, a lot less than the squad assembled by Tony Pulis at Stoke.
Since the club`s promotion, Stoke have failed to secure a single point from their travels to the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal and Chelsea, whilst in the process have conceded hatfuls of goals. The opposition are continually invited to apply sustained pressure and the feeling is that once the defence is breached it`s about damage limitation rather than being able to find a route back into the match.
It will be a great day when we do beat one of those aforementioned teams in their own backyards, however I can`t see that happening anytime soon if the manager decides to approach away games the way he does.