Today a guest post from La Gooner Vida
Morning Gooners! The lads face the daunting task of being bored to death by a posse of lack-wit Neanderthals up north today. The media would have us believe that their trainer Hughes has inspired some sort of revolution at the club. I for one beg to differ. Hughes hasn’t done more than raise the average IQ at the club to double digits. Stoke still stick to their medieval brand of football just like flies to honey.
“Stats” and “journalists” claim that Stoke have adopted a different approach to football, owing to the fact that they are no longer at the bottom of the pile in terms of passes made and average possession. I decided to put this laughable theory to test. So I prepared myself for 270 minutes of torture and perhaps even….. death. I bid my loved ones goodbye as I sat down to review Stoke’s last 3 games.
Strapped to my chair (lest I run away from my fate), I prepared myself to be bedazzled by the Potters’ sublime skill and excellent attacking prowess. BOY was I surprised (NOT). Stoke are the same Goddamn hydra but with a different head.
Let’s start off with their attacking movements. They are boring and they’re slow. They don’t possess too many passers or dribblers in the side and hence they still go for their old formula of utilising set pieces and throw ins to the fullest. When they do somehow manage to get the ball up in open play ( and after recovering from their surprise), they opt for hopeful long range shots or opt for punting the ball into the box from the wings and hope that some random tall guy will bundle the ball in. Their attacking midfielder looks to make late runs into the box as well as tries to get his head to crosses. Oooh. Exciting football. Revolutionary.
Well surely they’ve changed off the ball? “Esteemed” footballing minds cannot be mistaken y’know? They have blogs! They have their own frikkin columns in “reputed” publications. Well, I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Stoke defend with 10 men. I wonder why they just don’t throw in the 11th. Their striker stays up the pitch ready to hold the ball up, while the rest of his team move up the pitch. How novel. In terms of organisation, the Potters aim to defend in the proverbial ” two lines of four”. Their central midfield appears to be flexible, but they always utilize one holding midfielder. Stoke like to defend deep without leaving a gap between defence and midfield making movement and passing hard for their opponent . They tend to direct opposing attacks to the flanks and find it easy to deal with crosses into their own box. They also fail to close down long range efforts with surprising consistency. I was very intrigued to see how most of their chances conceded were due to fast swift moving attacking moves from their opponents on the counter attack. This is owing to the fact that at that moment, there are only four defenders behind the ball for a change. Furthermore, the Stoke defence fumbles when pressed high up the pitch by opponents. They also funnily enough, fail to deal with balls over the top and with runners who get behind their defence.
Same old, same old. I have eyes. I use them to see. I can see that Stoke haven’t changed, nor are they likely to in the near future. However, higher minds think otherwise. I expect us to win and to win handsomely, at that. Expect us to press high up the pitch, zip the ball around the park as always and utterly destroy them with pace and deliberation from the wings.