Our striking situation

Since there is no real news coming out of our camp, it’s a good time to look at the team and ponder what our best lineup would be, whilst at the same time discussing how some of the players have performed throughout the season.

Since the arrival of Etherington and Beattie, our first team now individually seems well capable of both establishing our place in the Premier League and working our way up it in seasons to come. We seem to have a fine concoction of both fighters and talent, most possessing both qualities. Sorensen has proved an almighty figure in goal, helped by a well disciplined and organised defence. Our midfield has often proved themselves worthy whoever it consists of. Up front, Fuller and Sidibe as a force looks very threatening, whilst the more subdued but ever industrious threats of Cresswell, Kitson, and Pericard have done their job. With Beattie entering the fray, Pulis now has a pleasurable dilemma on his hands. What is now our first choice attack?

To answer this question, perhaps we have to look at previously successful partnerships. Keane and Berbatov, Cole and Yorke, Crouch and Defoe all spring to mind. A common theme through all these is cohesion and understanding. A front line that works together can cause all sorts of problems, the opposite is Anelka and Drogba. Sidibe and Fuller do indeed work together to good effect, but could the effect be multiplied with Beattie as a replacement? If Beattie’s place in the starting lineup was a given (as it may well be) who would start alongside him? Fuller and Sidibe are both similar in physicality and stature. Whilst Fuller may possess supreme technical ability and finishing, Sidibe is brilliant at holding off defenders and allowing others into the game. In Beattie’s case, he is rather similar to Fuller. Now if it is true that opposites do attract, Beattie and Sidibe would be the preferred choice. On this basis however; Titus Bramble should be in the England squad alongside Rio Ferdinand because they oppose in terms of quality. I reckon Pulis will be sorting this out while the team is having fun in Dubai.

We definitely still need that assurity in the centre of midfield. Amdy Faye shouldn’t have priority over the likes of Olofinjana and Tonge in my opinion. Defending is really all he is out there to do, he does impose himself tremendously on the opposition, but his position as midfield destroyer shouldn’t be taken too literally as he seems to be in danger of being sent off almost every match. He also doesn’t use the ball particularly well, which we sometimes need to take pressure off the defence. I feel Tonge could and should take up this position, doing the same duty of closing the opposition down and the proceeding to put himself to good use when we’re on the attack. We would control more of the possession in this way. Our other position in central midfield with more emphasis on attacking is rather strongly contested between the likes of Whelan and Olofinjana. That competition is likely to inspire hard work and industry, but it does not guarantee class. I expect we should be in the market for a playmaker of considerable quality. Andrew Surman of Southampton seems to come to mind.

That being said, we have several injuries which have plagued our squad and disrupted any balance we’ve had or can hope to have. What remains now, is for these players to come back from injury and for Pulis to both interest and astound us with the full might of Stoke City’s first XI.

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