|DATE||Saturday 22nd December 2012|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
Some things in life never change and when Stoke City roll into town,
you know exactly what you are going to get. Just ask Everton.
Some people claim that the Potters have changed their game, but it is still based on keeping the defence tight and keeping their players closer to the opponent's jersey. While they have some players, who if at other clubs might be regarded as more lauded individuals, there are players of a certain type who fit into the Stoke mould and they are signed up and put out to make the seamless transition into the red and white striped shirts.
Playing with wingers such as Jermaine Pennant (currently on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers) and Matthew Etherington has made them seem like a team that wants to play football, but the more typical Stoke player - such as Charlie Adam - shows the side of the club's game that is more readily associated with them. All industry and a little skill that too rarely comes to the surface.
Glenn Whelan, Jonathan Walters, Wilson Palacios, Steven Nzonzi, Rory Delap, Dean Whitehead ... tell me if you can tell them apart in terms of their abilities - other than one of them having a long throw (but he is out with a hernia). The forward line is a little more varied, with the lanky Peter Crouch, the strongly built Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones and the injury-hit, but once nippy Michael Owen. Michael Kightly was once a decent enough player at Wolves, so it will be interesting to see how he had progressed since arriving at the Britannia Stadium.
The goalkeeper Asmir Begovic almost came to Spurs, but opted for Stoke and is almost a regular, but has not improved as a keeper, while Thomas Sorensen is there in the background waiting for the call-up. and in front of him, it is something like a police line-up with all the players of a type, such as Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth, Andy Wilkinson, Matthew Upson and Ryan Shotton. The only two I don't know much about are Uruguayan Diego Arismendi and Geoff Cameron, a new signing from America, but if I had to guess ... . Other than that Marc Wilson is the only one who can play a bit and he is out with a broken leg.
For all the criticism of the way they play, manager Tony Pulis isn't out to win any friends, just football matches and while the team had a poor start, they are now picking up points and their defence regularly keeps clean sheets. Not hard when you see the way they play, but they will shut you down, chase you down and for their own fans, they won't let you down.
It will always be a physical battle with them and the Spurs team must be ready for this and therefore, we might see Scott Parker deployed at some stage. Also, with Bale back, the team might be more trouble for the Stoke side and the wide men will keep their full backs pegged back, while allowing space behind the front two to play in. Stoke meanwhile will be looking to get the ball wide quickly and throw people into the box or hope for a set-piece and Spurs must be shrewd enough not to give these away.
Knowing what Stoke are like and how we fare against teams like this, I would like to think that AVB has a special plan up his sleeve for Saturday, but reckon that Stoke will get their intended draw here.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 1 Stoke City 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs welcome back Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson to the squad after hamstring injuries, while Scott Parker will be in the squad as he gets back to full match fitness. The only Spurs player missing could be Younes Kaboul, who is still fighting back after knee surgerye arlier this season.
STOKE CITY TEAM NEWS :
The Potters are missing Marc Wilson (broken leg) and Rory Delap (hernia), while Michael Owen's hamstring might keep him out of this match. Charlie Adam is on compassionate leave after the death of his father last week.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
0 (0) Stoke City 0 (0)
Saturday 22nd December 2012 Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Sandro (foul on Whelan) 8
Vertonghen (foul on Whelan) 28
Wilkinson (foul on Lennon off the ball) 46
Whitehead (foul on Vertonghen) 66
Cameron (not retreating 10 yards) 77
N'Zonzi (foul on Sandro) 78
Walters (kicking ball away) 90+3
|Crowd : 35,702||Weather : Raining throughout|
|Referee : Lee Mason (Bolton)||Assistant Referees : Mr. M. Mullarkey; Mr. P. Bankes|
|Fourth Official : Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)||-|
|Stoke City kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Stoke City :||kit|
Aaron LENNON (22
Gylfi SIGURDSSON 78)
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Tony Pulis|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Bet 365|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : adidas|
Let's get one thing straight ... Stoke City are crap at association football. They play like they have no knowledge of the laws of the game, they seem not to want to play the game and when they do, they do so with a lack of ambition and style that you wonder why the club bothers to put a team out each week.
Their major strength is their strength and they play to their strength.
That and the only determination they have is not to let the opposition pass. Unsurprising then that they have had more 0-0 draws this season than any other team in Europa ... and unsurprising that this game ended goal-less, but not for the want of Tottenham's trying.
There was only one team interested in playing football this afternoon and it wasn't the one that started wasting time from their first goal-kick. They were lucky enough to have a mug referee in charge of the game, who got suckered in every time to what Stoke were doing, be it falling over at the slightest touch or time-wasting in every conceivable way possible. Like Swansea City the week before them, they got numbers back behind the bal as quickly as possible to make it hard to break them down, but they showed so little in attacking ideas that you wondered what their fans see in their style of play. Is it the vicarious pleasure of denying other teams the ability to play the way they want ? In stifling the life out of a game ? Or in reducing it to approximately 25 minutes of playing time by employing their dreadful delaying tactics at every dead ball situation ? I mean, how long does it take to take a throw-in ? I suppose there is the excuse that they are waiting for their lumbering central defenders to come up into the opposition penalty area and that takes an age, as they plod up like hulking dinosaurs.
And that is where their football comes from. The dinosaur age, with nobody else playing like it as they know it will not get them anywhere.
From the first minute, when they were presented with their best chance of the match by a loose Kyle Walker pass across the edge of his own area that Kenwyne Jones blasted way too high, to the very end of the game, when the Stoke players were still trying to worry Air Traffic Control with their steepling clearances, it was not a good day to be a football.
Four shots on target in a whole game matched that of Swansea last week, but there was not the neat inter-passing of the Welsh side that make you think that there are possibilities there. The only possibility here is that you will end up with your neck in a brace. To stage this game a few days before Christmas cold only have been thanks to the killjoy hands of the FA. Every time a ball is hoofed forward by Stoke, a child's footballing dream dies.
Spurs struggled to break through the massed ranks of red and blue striped shirts (why red and blue ?). The tempo they played with against Swansea was missing and that may have been because there were so many players to get through and if you did, you knew you were going to take a hit. Gareth Bale started, but he looked wary of getting booted up in the air, even though Charlie Adam was away on compassionate leave. Jermain Defoe expected to be clattered from behind every time the ball came forward to him with his back to goal. So the visitors made the brighter start by playing for throw-ins and corners, but they got nothing from them.
As Spurs pressed, a low cross to the near post from Bale on the left made Shawcross stretch to put the ball out for a corner, but the ball could have gone anywhere. The one good move Stoke put together saw Jones peel of Caulker to the right and from wide he put in a low cross that flicked off the young Spurs central defender and Lloris did well to get down to it and palm the ball away, but as it was going wide of the goal Etherington came in behind him and only close attention from Sandro put him off putting the ball into an empty net in front of him.
Spurs engineered good positions, but the final ball was either not good (i.e. too close to the keeper) or others did not read it. It was also ironic that in the first half, the booking count was 2-0 to Spurs, with Vertonghen getting a yellow when he over-stretched for a ball that got away from him and he fouled Whelan and then Sandro got booked for a foul on the same player when he went for a ball above the little Stoke midfielder's waist and caught him. Whelan wasted no time in gaining retribution on Vertonghen and Sandro was booked when play stopped (the ref had played advantage), just after Dawson had slid in for a tackle and been raked across the ankle by the Stoke player challenging him. These were but two examples of how Mason had a mare in this match, by not seeing what was going on and failing to consistently apply the laws of the game. He booked Walters late on for flicking the ball away from the scene of where a Spurs free-kick was given, but minutes before, Crouch had been much more blatant in doing the same with Mason standing looking at it, without taking any action. A late foul by N'Zonzi could also have resulted in a yellow, which would have been his second.
Looking like they might be the architect's of their own downfall, Spurs managed to play themselves into a corner near their own goal a number of times, with near disastrous consequences, leaving Hugo Lloris to hurriedly clear the ball with players bearing down on him. But they did create one more decent chance, with 34 minutes on the clock. Mousa Dembele won possession halfway inside the Stoke half and played in Bale on the left, with the Welshman's cross finding the head of Emmanuel Adebayor, but as he tried to cushion the ball back over Begovic, he got underneath it and the ball landed on the roof of the net. Four minutes later, Bale struck a 30-yard shot that came off Sahwcross and sold his keeper, but the ball went out for a corner and then a minute before half-time, Dembele hit a shot after making himself a yard, but the 25 yard effort flew a foot wide of the angle of post and bar.
The half-time appearance of John Pratt, Alan Mullery, Pat Jennings and Paul Allen telling tales of Christmases past made you realise who pampered modern footballers are. Back then, Christmas Day and Boxing Day matches were followed up by one two days later. Three games in four days. Can you imagine the outcry that Wenger would create if that happened now ?
Kicking off the second half, it looked like Spurs had more urgency about them, despite the calls around me for the players to at least try to break them down. A neat passing move on the right wing saw Andy Wilkinson twice try to block off a run by Aaron Lennon and Mason finally noticed and booked him. Stoke made a couple of openings, as Etherington crossed just too high of Whelan who had started the move, then the winger found Shawcross' head with a ball in from a free-kick, but the defender wasn't over it to keep it on target.
At the other end, Gareth Bale was an irritant in Stoke's defence, with a corner almost swinging under Begovic's crossbar and then, when Lennon stood up a cross to the far post, Bale raced in, but couldn't get over the header and it went too high. Defoe then hit a shot wide, had another flick off Shawcross to deflect it wide, then Sandro was cleverly played into the area by Jermain, getting clear in the box and tried to pick out Adebayor, but the ball was hacked away. stoke were getting more and more desperate, with blame looking to be apportioned on a number of occasions, but with 12 minutes left Gylfi Sigurdsson came on for Aaron Lennon and looked spritely, making Begovic save low to a shot lacking power, but in the final minute, the Icelander got a header to Walker's cross and the Stoke keeper produced a fine save low to his right, flicking the ball away one-handed to prevent the score-line changing. In between Dembele hit a cleared corner at goal, but Crouch took the sting out of it, Adebayor could have got a shot away from the edge of the box, but took one touch too many, allowing it to be cleared and Bale was pout through by Ade, but was challenged as he shot producing a weak effort at Begovic.
In the end, it was desperation stakes for Stoke, which was reflected in their five bookings. They celebrated like they had won a cup. Dream on, as that will not likely happen while the manager puts out teams to play like this. As for Spurs, the same problem remains from last season when teams come to White Hart Lane with no intention of playing the game. Breaking down defences has been difficult and without a spark of imagination or a bit of luck (as we got last week with the goal), it appears to be an Achilles heel of ours. Maybe AVB will be able to come up with a solution in time. A fully fit Gareth Bale might have helped and although he did well today, you could see that he was tentative going into challenges. So, a point takes us to 30 and that may reach 40 just after New Year. Safety from relegation will be landmark number one realised. Then we need a big push towards Europe.
Have a Merry Christmas !!
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|What you thought|
Stoke City are the sort of team that will kill football. Can
you imagine being born in that area and being you are going to
support them for the rest of your life ?
With no excitement, your life will be one long day before Christmas, with the realisation that something might arrive being always out of reach. Tony Pulis has created a team that likes to defend, but he has forgotten the simple tenet of the game ... it's goals that win matches.
Can Stoke progress under Pulis ? Who cares, as watching them twice a season is twice too many for me.
|The Funky Phantom||Spoiler alert ... Stoke City.|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Newcastle United||1||Queens Park Rangers||0||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||2||Norwich City||1||Saturday|
|West Ham United||1||Everton||2||Saturday|
|Swansea City||1||Manchester United||1||Sunday|
|7||West Bromwich Albion||18||9||3||6||26||22||30||+4|
|12||West Ham United||18||6||5||7||22||22||23||0|
|19||Queens Park Rangers||18||1||7||10||15||31||10||-16|
Position before match :
Position after match : 5th
Position after the weekend : 6th
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