Pulis under pressure

Posted by James Whittaker

Asmir Begovic PA PhotosAsmir Begovic saves a shot from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Despite Stoke only losing to a late, deflected free-kick, they never looked like threatening Arsenal in the latest of Pulis' 'bonus' games. A less than productive transfer window, coupled with baffling team selections and unparalleled negativity of approach sees the manager coming under real pressure for the first time since the club's return to the top flight.

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I don't think there was a single Stoke fan who expected a win at the Emirates, but once again it was the white flag waved before kick-off that frustrates the fans, who pay good money to watch the Potters on their travels. What rubs salt into the wounds even more are Pulis' words after such games and today; we heard the 'resources' card played again, even going as far as saying if he had more money he would play a more expansive game. I'm not sure many managers have had the luxury of the best part of £100 million to spend over the last five years. If they did, I don't think they would dare dream of using money as an excuse when their tactics are to blame.

Having reeled out the resources card, Pulis went on to talk about the belief of the players and how it was missing. Pulis mentioned this twice in his Sky interview, going on to say how: "We're always good at our place... we always compete... we look forward to those games." How on earth can a manager expect his players to have belief away from home when it's clear he doesn't himself? He talks about how it's not a level playing field and infers Stoke don't compete or look forward to going on the road, then acts surprised as he extends his away record to one win in 22 games.

His interview to the Stoke media was even more intriguing, talking in riddles about the disappointment of the transfer window and how things didn't drop, which given he waits until the final minutes (literally) to try and make deals happen, is hardly surprising.

That the window saw deals that would have seen Peter Crouch, Charlie Adam, Michael Kightly and Wilson Palacios all move on, one has to wonder whether the powers that be have stepped in to take more of a role in the recruitment of playing staff given the delta between outlay and impact of recent signings. The appointment of Mark Cartwright and the signing of foreign players would certainly point to outside influences at play. Perhaps in the January transfer window the Coates family decided against giving Pulis more good money to throw after bad, limiting his guidance on proceedings.

If there is indeed some unrest behind the scenes it will be interesting to see how that manifests itself over the coming weeks, especially with games against Stoke's immediate peers on the horizon, where points are there to be won. The fans will be hoping there will be less excuses and more positivity to push the club on to a strong finish to the season. And it may not just the supporters that Pulis needs to convince.

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