Hello 3 points my old friend

Posted by James Whittaker

It truly was a game of two halves as Stoke completely dominated the first 45 minutes to take a 2-0 lead into the break before having to sit back for much of the second period to protect our first three points since early April.

Last season I wrote an article saying that Pulis needed to change his philosophy of a lifetime or leave, and I stand by that. To his credit he has surprised everyone and done the former, ripping up his career long play book in favour of a system more in line with the direction of top flight football today and indeed the personnel at his disposal.

It was a game full of standout performances and as ever there is plenty to talk about.

Team Selection/Tactics – The side, as predicted, was unchanged from the Chelsea game and the players who have done so well were given the chance to impress against a side in and around ourselves in the league. I was happy to see Kightly brought back over to his favoured right side, he was much more influential and was at the heart of most of our attacking moves, and with the versatile Cameron bombing up the line with him, Swansea were on the ropes time and again, in the first half at least.

Cameron – This game was a good chance for Geoff to test himself against less illustrious opponents and stake his claim to a permanent position at right-back, with Wilko having just one more match to serve of his ban. As I hoped, he was given much more licence to join in with the attack and it was his link-up play with Kightly that overloaded Davies and led to much of our pressure. He had the best passing accuracy of our defenders at 80%, though that said his crossing left much to be desired. He only had one successful cross from six attempted, but the technique was there, it's just a case of better gauging how much pace to put on the ball which will come with time in what is a new position for him.

Midfield – The middle three were key once more as they put in a magnificent performance in the first half, winning so many second balls and hounding the Swansea players out of possession, it was a real joy to watch us get the upper hand against a side noted for their midfield industry. Much like at Chelsea, Adam's passing success was much lower than his colleagues at 68% as he struggled to make an impact as the further most midfielder, almost playing the Walters role. He was dispossessed more than any of our players and like Walters was found wanting for pace, especially in the second half when he was more isolated as we broke from deep.

Whelan and N'Zonzi were another story though as both excelled once more with passing accuracies of 86% and 83%. N'Zonzi was my MOTM again, he has been in every game he has played such is his influence and sheer consistency in the middle. He made the most passes of anyone in our own half with a success of 95% and made the most passes of anyone in the opposition half, posting the highest accuracy there too as well as the most final third passes. Looking at these stats you can see just how much ground the Frenchman covers and how central he is to our game. A lot of Blackburn fans queried his attitude when he was at Ewood Park but we've seen nothing but consistent top drawer performances so far and long may it continue.

Crouch – Pete had a much better game this week, he was far too isolated at Chelsea to make an impression but today added another two pokes in the eye to Hodgson taking his season's tally in the league to four goals. He was unlucky not to score more as he had quite a few chances to get his hat-trick but can be pleased with his overall performance in advance of the England squad being announced. If I have one criticism of him, it's that he doesn't attack the ball. If the ball is a couple of yards short or long he just will not manoeuvre himself into a position to be able to receive or attack it and the defender wins it with Crouch within an arm's length (a Crouch arm's length though to be fair). That said, it's a minor point on day like this and any striker scoring two goals in a game will have much to be happy about.

Today was a big result for us and by lining up as we did the stall is very much set out for the remainder of the campaign with regards to our intentions in that respect. I've not enjoyed a half like we saw today for a long, long time and I suspect the players will feel likewise, which will only help as we go into another hard couple of away games against Liverpool and Man United. Normally I dread any away game, let alone ones to some of the bigger clubs, but I find myself filled with more and more optimism as the weeks go by and apart from anything else, I can't wait to see another N'Zonzi master class.

Vis Unita Fortior

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