Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Stoke City gained promotion to the Premier League on the final day of the 2007-2008 season. With Tony Pulis in charge they quickly gained a cult-status in the British and international media. Their physical "in your face" attitude takes you back to the earlier days of English football and the fanatical support of their fans has made the Britannia stadium into a real fortress. With the ball rarely touching the grass when the Potters are in possession their style of play is like a Scottish mid-table team on crack. Pulis has mainly focused on bringing physical power houses to the team and this translates to a rock-solid defence on the pitch, incredible workhorses on midfield and massive target men up front. Jermaine Pennant is the odd one out with his extra skills on the ball but he fits in perfectly with his mint crosses into the box. With a 12th an 11th position in the league Stoke has performed quite well for a newcomer but their true glory moment was last year's FA Cup final. Stoke had the misfortune of meeting the only team which was physically superior at that time, Manchester City. So this automatically cancelled out their gameplan and City managed to grab the cup. But Stoke were lucky enough that City managed to secure their Champions League ticket on the final day of the season thus opening up the way for Stoke into europe.This gave Tony Pulis the opportunity to add players to his squad like England internationals Matthew Upton and Jonathan Woodgate. An attempt to lure Romelu Lukaku to Stoke on loan was thwarted by Premier League rules. They also may sign Wilson Palacios before the transfer deadline expires to strengthen their midfield.
After dealing with Hajduk Split and FC Thun Stoke managed to reach the group stage of the Europa League drawing them with Andrey Shevchenko's Dynamo Kiev, Turkish giants Besiktas and Hapoel Tel Aviv which features the Israelian-Nigerian talent Toto Tamuz. Now it's certainly interesting how they will do in Europe, especially looking at the way they play and how their team is perfectly adjusted to their style of play.


Now Stoke's main strengths are finding their target man from counter-attacks and of course set pieces. Stoke is a master at creating danger from corners and their well known throw-ins. Everyone has seen the precision with which Irish midfielder Rory Delap can hurl the ball into the box. With their abundance of physically superior players Stoke will make any team work their socks off to keep the ball out of the net in these situations. Now Stoke won't be the best team on the ball but they'll certainly make the opposition work for their money. With players like Whelan, Delap, Whitehead and Etherington they will constantly put pressure on the ball and frustrate the opposing team. The only question is if they have a wide enough selection to keep a fresh set of players on the match every match, if not their gameplan will quickly come undone and they will struggle to get any result at all. In defence and midfield their squad is probably big enough to have some decent rotation of players going on but up-front they're quite lacking. With Fuller as the only quality replacement of Jones and Walters (or am I writing off Sidibe too soon anyone?) this will likely be a problem with their congested schedule. All in all Stoke City will be an interesting team to keep an eye on during the Europa League. Their style of play is perfect if you just want to kick back with a nice pint of lager, stout or ale.

For this you could try to get your hands on of the beers produced by the Titanic Brewery, situated in Stoke-on-Trent. Check out their selection on http://www.titanicbrewery.co.uk/ and see if it's available anywhere near you. I always like to match my beer up with the team I'm watching that evening... keeps things exciting.

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