Stoke pay the penalty for sticking with Jon Walters

Posted by James Whittaker

Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesJonathan Walters has failed to convert three of his last five penalty attempts.

Like all Stoke fans, I was devastated when the side were unable to take a point as reward for their attacking endeavour at Anfield following Jon Walters' late penalty miss. You always hope for the best from penalties but every time I see Walters step up, I find myself fearing the worst, and sadly Saturday was (the latest) one of those days and I now find myself asking why he continues to take them.

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Some players hate taking penalties and often it's the player with the nerve on the day who steps up, as it's invariably confidence and not technique that will see a successful conversion. But what happens when your penalty taker is bereft of both of those attributes? No one can deny Walters is an honest lad -- someone who will run through brick walls for the red and white -- but is he the right man to take any penalties the side get? I don't think so.

His record speaks for itself from the penalty spot (or more accurately screams NOOOOOOO!) and he has now missed three of his last five attempts; yet I switched on Sky Sports News yesterday to hear him confidently proclaim he will take the next one. Well, Jon, I ask you to re-consider that and selflessly step aside for the good of the team so they might actually have some chance of taking advantage of these most golden of golden opportunities to score.

I'm not sure how these things are typically decided but I'd like to think it's a mixture of input from both coaching and playing staff before agreeing on who in the team is best placed to shoulder the responsibility. It's not like the Stoke side is filled with bottlers or players with poor technique. I'm sure there are plenty of candidates should the opportunity present itself. Charlie Adam is the one that springs to mind; he never hides on the pitch and is always happy to take responsibility, and tasked with that role at Blackpool he took more penalties in the 10-11 season than 16 of the other sides in the league.

I can't imagine he'd be averse to assuming that role at Stoke. In fact, when he was in that rich vein of form, he and DJ Campbell had to be separated on and off the pitch in an argument over who should take one in a game against Spurs. That success and desire would make him the obvious choice, but then there are others too. Matty Etherington went through a phase of penalty taking and Robert Huth has been known to send a pile driver in from the spot as well. Add to that list the likes of Peter Crouch and Steven 'calmness personified' N'Zonzi and the case for Walters' continued role becomes even harder to stomach.

I've seen people quote statistics of other penalty takers and citing that Walters has a better conversion rate than the likes of Jermaine Defoe and Cesc Fabregas. What that doesn't take into account is both of those players play(ed) for teams who create infinitely more chances than Stoke and the consequences of any failures are not on the same scale as those realised by the Potters.

It's clear to anyone who watches the side where improvements are needed at Stoke: the front line was woefully exposed at Anfield and it may be that Mark Hughes can kill two birds with one stone by bringing in the attacking players he so desperately needs, and in doing so removing Walters from the firing line (literally) and negating the need to have that difficult conversation.

It's easy, this management lark.

Vis Unita Fortior


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