Positive Potters

Posted by James Whittaker

Michael Regan/Getty ImagesStoke played brightly vs. Man United; a touch more composure could have yielded a better result.

Stoke sadly left Old Trafford with nothing on a day when the scoreline -- 4-2 to Man United -- told very little of the story, with Stoke more than matching their more illustrious opponents for large spells of the game.

I thought the team did magnificently and their confidence, composure and attacking intent was clear for all to see as they made good use of an unusually high amount of possession. On a day when Stoke fared so well on the front foot, it was a shame that things seemed so poor defensively with all four of Man United's goals coming from crosses into the box. However, that very fact should give Stoke fans hope; Pulis will be fuming at the defending but if there is one thing he is good at, it is organising a defensive unit and it's a case of both him and the team to find that balance.

- Man United 4-2 Stoke
- Blog: United keep pace despite defence

I thought at times Stoke were dangerously high up the pitch, especially in the full back positions, as Pulis changed the habit of a lifetime and took the game to a side used to getting their own way against the Potters. It’s important that fans realise the team is on a steep learning curve not only using a new system but a new approach as well, all of it being done against some of the best opponents the world has to offer. There is a lot to be positive about.

The main talking points on the day:

Defence -- As I've alluded to above, Stoke's usually disciplined and organised back line looked awfully sieve-like as Man United cut through with ease and little resistance. In the first half, the attacks came down the Stoke right and with Geoff Cameron caught upfield and Jon Walters not really having the pace to keep up with Patrice Evra, it was only a matter of time before a goal came from that side. To Pulis' credit though, he kept that positive approach and refused to let the players drop deep and his faith was rewarded as the Potters won possession, flooded forward and created chance after chance.

No-one really had a good game in defence but Wilson was particularly poor at left back. People will criticise me and say that he does well playing out of position -- he does indeed. The problem with Marc, as I said last week, is his consistency. He did brilliantly against Liverpool but was truly awful today with the worst tackling success of anyone (33%) in the Stoke lineup. He was also dispossessed the most of any player but the final straw was his lazy pass down the line that went straight to the opposition, and then his laboured attempt to get back as Wayne Rooney had all the time in the world to pick out Danny Welbeck to score Man United's third.

Midfield -- Whilst the defence had a game they would all like to forget, the midfield fared much better, making good use of possession all over the pitch. Steven N'Zonzi was his usual self, winning all of his tackles and aerial duels and misplaced just one of nineteen passes in his own half. Dean Whitehead also did well in stepping up to take Glenn Whelan's place, quietly effective and showing the energy and fitness levels we've come to expect. But it was the third member of the middle three that caught the eye, Charlie Adam.

Adam has been largely ineffective for Stoke of late but today he was at the centre of everything in what seemed to be a free role as he popped up all over the pitch to influence proceedings. He played much of his best stuff from deep in starting moves off, while his teammates' ability to keep possession afforded him the time and space to then join up with the attack. Statistically he did much better and got stuck in too, winning all of his tackles and aerial duels. He had the most touches of any of the Stoke players and also made the most passes in both the defensive and attacking halves of the pitch as the Potters' most creative player on the day. He seemed to play so much better with that freedom and not being stuck behind Peter Crouch all afternoon, I just hope this is something Pulis persists with. My pick for Man of the Match.

Attack -- The fact the side played so high up the pitch meant that Walters and Michael Kightly were far more involved and the pair took every opportunity to get in and around Crouch giving Man United's defence headaches with their movement and interplay (I know!) This in turn meant that Crouch was able to be more involved and had Stoke enjoyed a bit more luck and Walters a little more composure, the 4-2 score could have been very different.

Stoke now go into a much nicer looking set of fixtures with four out of the next six matches at the Britannia. Despite the score today, Tony Pulis and Co. will go into the next game full of confidence and ready to take our second win of the season.

Vis Unita Fortior

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