A reverse of the FA cup semi-final result from last year left Stoke fans crying onto their laptops and through their twitter accounts. 5-0 against the bottom team in the league? Horrendous. An abomination. Pulis must go… no, just change. But to be fair to Bolton, they’re a much better team than their position suggests – in fact, any of the bottom 12 teams could just have easily have found themselves in the same position, such are the similarities in quality.
Stoke have a habit of under performing in the games they maybe should get something out of, and over performing against the big four/six/however many it is this week. But against Bolton, and in the wake of another awful European hangover, were Stoke any match for the Trotters?
As plain as day, straight away you can see that one of Stokes main weaknesses has come back to haunt them – possession. In only two Premier League games this season have Stoke held the majority of possession. The addition of Wilson Palacios was supposed to shore up this stat to at least a respectable level, but as of yet, he’s barely seen the pitch, never mind been able to have an impact on it. Stoke were however more accurate with their crossing, and won aerial duels than their opponents.
Bolton on the other hand, won more possession duels, managed to keep a higher percentage of their shots on target and had a higher pass completion rate – as well as managing more passes in total. The only positive for Stoke is that they managed to worry the goalkeeper more often than normal, and also kept their usual dominance in the air.
The only (minor) positive that Stoke can take from these stats is that they were able to make so many more accurate throw ins than Bolton. They created less chances – which supposedly goes hand in hand with having less possession, lost possession on more occasions, made less successful tackles, gave away more fouls, and while they made more clearances, this would tend to suggest that they were under pressure within their own box on more occasions.
This result, and I mean specifically the scoreline, not the statistics or loss, are clearly a one off. But it still baffles me how Stoke fans can be happy with their team putting on, in my eyes, sub standard performances and suffering these post European hangovers each and every week. It’s a steep learning curve, sure, but it may well scupper any European plans for next season, if not worse. The constant rotating of players cannot be a good thing, as while the first choice 16 or so players are quality, but players of the quality of Salif Diao et al are clearly not good enough for the Europa League, never mind the Premier League. Fulham managed the balance in 2010, so it baffles me why Tony Pulis feels the need to consistently change half of his team from match to match.
It’s the international break this weekend – but in two weeks, Stoke are at home to QPR, who are slowly but surely proving themselves this season.
So while Scotland are in Cyprus, England will find themselves in all sorts of bother against a European powerhouse, who’ve produced some of the most exciting players that the world has seen – including Jonas Thern. That’s right, Capello isn’t worried about Spain, it’s the Swedes who could prove his downfall – remember 1993?
- Good Read