Tony Pulis is widely regarded as an experienced and effective manager who has established Stoke as a Premier League club. He has consistently kept them around the middle of the table. Recently though he has started to come under criticism from fans, pundits and players. There are many reasons why Tony Pulis is not the man to take Stoke City forward. Here are the two main reasons why Tony Pulis has recently come under fire and why he should not be Stoke manager by next season:
The first reason is the unattractive style of ‘stone age’ football that Pulis likes his side’s to play. Stoke have had the imprint of long-ball football branded onto their image by Pulis. While the style had a great impact at first, teams have started to work out how to counter act the barrage of lofted balls and throws into the box. Neutrals are starting to treat Stoke as a dirty team, one style defining moment being Ryan Shawcross’ leg breaking tackle on Aaron Ramsey. More and more Stoke fans are getting fed up of seeing their team of giants, Stoke have nine players over the height of 6ft, lump the ball all over the pitch. The style has lost its impact, the only saving grace it had in the first place with supporters. Stoke are thus sliding down the table, without a win since Boxing Day in the league, and their once seemingly impenetrable fortress, the Brittania Stadium, has been breached. Stoke have lost 10 of their last 14 league games. That is relegation form and Stoke now find themselves 3 points from the drop zone. Compare that to the lofty heights of 8th place that Stoke experienced after beating Liverpool 3-1 on Boxing Day. While a bad run of form can happen to any team, there is no explanation for Stoke’s sudden collapse other than the poor tactical decisions and teams being more prepared. Stoke have experienced no real huge injury concerns, one of the most common reasons for a dip in form. The main indicator that something is seriously wrong is when bad form lasts more than 10 games, Stoke’s form shows that they are in real trouble. A change in style, while surprising teams, would also win back disparaging fans and neutrals. Teams such as Swansea and Wigan have shown that playing aesthetic, tiki-taka football is effective. Wigan manage to stay up on a small budget by the skin of their teeth each year and Swansea won the Carling Cup this year. Keeping possession of the football means that the oppostion can’t score, wastes time in games, gives players a chance to rest and also puts pressure on teams. The long ball tactic is a dying art and produces very low possession statitistics. However, the one issue with changing style is that Stoke do not really have the players to implement this (more on this later).
The second reason that Pulis is coming under more pressure is the shear amount of money that he has spent on mediocre players. The net transfer spend of Stoke over the past three seasons has been £46,975,000. This is a figure that is higher than Manchester United’s net transfer spend over the past three seasons. Norwich, who are a point and a place above Stoke, have a net transfer spend of £15,950,000 over the past three seasons. (Figures according to Sky Sports). The players Pulis has purchased are on the main very one dimensional. They suit the largely ineffective long ball tactic, not passing football. Look at some of the players Swansea City purchased in the summer compared to Stoke City. Michu cost Swansea £2,261.600, an absolute bargain for a versatile player who can play up front or behind the striker, he was a major factor in Swansea winning the League Cup. He has scored 21 goals and assisted 5 for Swansea in 38 appearances this season. Stoke paid £8.536.000 for Kenwyne Jones, a powerful, strong target man but very limited, and outdated in the current footballing world. Jones has scored 5 goals and assisted 5 this season in 28 appearances for Stoke this season. More examples of over spending on Stoke’s part and value for money on Swansea’s are on transfermarkt.co.uk . Pulis, with the amount of money he has spent, should have Stoke in a higher league position.
Perhaps appointing a director of football at Stoke City may be a better move, or maybe appointing a coach who supports a passing style such as Kenny Jackett who is doing a marvellous job at Millwall and laid the foundations of success at Swansea. For now though, Pulis must keep Stoke City up, and then Peter Coates, the Stoke owner who has been so loyal to Tony Pulis, will decide whether it is time for some much needed change. In my opinion, change of players, style and manager is exactly what is needed for Stoke City.