So far this season, Stoke City manager Tony Pulis has utilised two separate systems. He can use three central midfielders and play Jon Walters on the right, or he can field only two players in the centre, push Walters behind the main striker, and play two proper wingers.
It’s surprising Pulis has used the former so frequently in recent weeks: the use of that system coincided with a run of five matches without a victory. The fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were clearly difficult games, but an aggregate score of 0-8 from those matches hardly suggests the system was working. With Michael Kightly fielded on the right, and Walters another aerial target in the penalty box, Stoke look much more potent going forward.
So what will Pulis do this weekend, away at Fulham? Left-back John Arne Riise has been reinstated to the side after a disagreement with Martin Jol, and Pulis will be contemplating whether it is more useful to attack Riise in the air through Walters, or on the ground with Kightly. The latter seems more useful, with Walters moved inside to help Peter Crouch battle against centre-back duo Philippe Senderos and Brede Hangeland in the air.
But maybe Pulis needs to consider his side in isolation, rather than looking at the weaknesses of the opposition. Fulham aren’t a side that require a reactive approach, and as a side based around height and aerial ability upfront, fielding wingers on both flanks appears the more natural system for Stoke.
This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.