We all know that Stoke City are in a world of hurt, and it’s difficult to pinpoint one reason for being so futile. Charlie Adam being fat, Saido Berahino being a dick, Jesé thinking he’s Batman, Hughes just being awful are just a few that come to mind. Putting all of these to the side, I think Stoke City Football Club have been blindsided by football’s newest and most important gadget: pace. As supporters, we love pacey players who buzz around the pitch and wreak havoc. I can only recall one time we’ve done this all year, and ironically it was Paul Lambert’s first match against Huddersfield. Are the likes of Bauer and Campbell actually good, or are they just a breath of fresh air to a fanbase that hasn’t seen speed and pressure on the ball since the Stokelona days of years ago? It’s likely somewhere in the middle.
First, look at the top teams in the premiership. Manchester City play a high press with a front line willing to run themselves into the ground. Liverpool’s heavy metal football is a bombastic combination of pace and flair. Chelsea won the league last year because of their defensive pressure high up the pitch, forcing turnovers and creating chances off mistakes. Manchester United are often loathed for being boring, but when did they play their best? The second half at the Etihad, when the likes of Lukaku, Pogba, Lingard and Alexis pressed high up the pitch.
Let’s look at the teams around us in the table, as I know you’re probably thinking “how are Stoke supposed to have pace like the top four?” The players who play on the front lines of other bottom teams often have little ability but have pace, and it’s no coincidence that many of them have ripped us apart this season. Palace have Zaha and Townsend, Newcastle have Gayle and Kenedy, Brighton have Izquierdo, Bournemouth have Ibe and Callum Wilson; I could go on and on. Stoke are stuck in a phase somewhere in between Pulis, Hughes, and Lambert, yet none of those managers have proven to understand where the Premier League is headed.
This league, from top to bottom, is currently about speed. If you don’t have it, you’re going down (just ask us and West Brom). Gone are the days of hoofing the ball to a stout center forward to hold up and wait for others to join the attack. If we are serious about promotion next season, we need Peter Coates to spend some serious money to inject some pace into the squad. The board has tried for the past three seasons to ignore the demands of the ever-changing premiership, and it has cost us dearly. We need to get back up, and do so FAST (in every sense of the word).