The Opposition: Stoke City

Last updated : 07 April 2010 By Dan Buxton

The Gameplan
We play the 4-4-1-1 with Sidibe wandering around between midfield and Ric up front. We can knock it about and have had good results when we have done that but can also knock it long. If we do that it's not without its skill as our philosophy is why play 20 passes around the defence before lumping it forward, as 90% of sides do, when you can get it forward with one pass and not let the opposition get organised? Once in the final third Fuller, Tuncay, Lawrence, Etherington, Kitson, Whitehead and Whelan show their skill and we prove we aren't just a team of cloggers.

Pace, power and effort. This season Matty Etherington has been on fire and troubles every full back he comes up against. We are strong on set pieces and have skill in the final third to unlock any defence outside the top 4. Defence is well organised and whoever plays from Faye, Huth, Higginbotham and Shawcross is class in the centre. We never give teams a moment's rest and this is what beats most of them.

We rarely get more than 50% possession, mostly hovering around the 35-40% mark. If we had more of the ball our players wouldn't be as knackered come the end of the game. There is no real specific way of conceding what we are weak at. At a push I'd say Sorro isn't fantastic at long range free kicks but he's more than capable of saving them.


Whitehead returns after a one match ban. Shawcross should return from injury. Beattie's already out. Faye and Kitson were both taken off last weekend and their fates are unknown so it'll be interesting to see how they get on.

Player by Player

GK - Thomas Sorenson
Strengths - No joke: I would put him in the top 5 keepers in the country. Claims crosses, stops shots, distribution is good and is a leader

Weaknesses - No real weaknesses but can be slightly suspect on free kicks and from distance, tendancy to parry ball into dangerous areas.

Any good? - As stated above I'd put him in the top 5 keepers in the country. One of our most vital players

RB - Robert Huth
Strengths - Big, strong, dependable and fantastic on the ball

Weaknesses - Not the most fluent mover, doesn't really get forward

Any good? - Nearly 20 Germany caps says all you need to know

LB - Danny Collins
Strengths - Passing and composure on the ball is good. Gets forward when possible

Weaknesses - Suspect against pace and can get caught out positionally

Any good? - Jury is still out. Improvement on Higginbotham when it comes to attacking but not as good defensively

CB - Ryan Shawcross
Strengths - Heading (both defensively and offensively), passing, control and composure

Weaknesses - None

Any good? - Future City captain and England international. Rejected bids from Liverpool and Manchester United last summer and is a real star in the making. England call up even after the Ramsey incident shows how highly regarded he is

CB - Abdoulaye Faye
Strengths - Composure, speed, agility, heading, positioning and leads by example

Weaknesses - With his composure comes this ability to get out of any situation. He can be on one leg, off balance with the ball stuck under his feet and a striker all over him yet he will come out of it. However this season he has turned his way into trouble and hasn't been fit all season

Any good? - Was sensational last season but this term has been a passenger for long periods due to his fitness issues

RM - Liam Lawrence
Strengths - Crossing and set pieces, whether it be shooting or crossing, are top drawer and a regular source of goals. Energy is fantastic

Weaknesses - Not blessed with a lot of pace. Currently struggling for fitness and form

Any good? - A poor man's David Beckham, and wouldn't we all like to be that. Well worthy of being a top flight player on his day but needs a run in the side to find himself

LM - Matthew Etherington
Strengths - Pace to burn, crossing is getting better, finishing is spot on and full backs are just watching him fly by this season. Has toughened up aswell and doesn't let full backs get the better of him

Weaknesses - None at all

Any good? - At the minute our best player. If he gets the better of the full backs early on it could be a long afternoon for Hull. Fabio has recently said he was looking at getting him in the England set up before he injured his knee in February so thats testiment to how good he has been

CM - Dean Whitehead
Strengths - Strong in the tackle, senses the danger and has amazing energy levels, a true box to box midfielder.

Weaknesses - Not many. Suppose he could be more composed in front of goal

Any good? - After a dodgy start he has really settled in and is up with Ethers as our player of 2010.

CM - Rory Delap
Strengths - That throw-in is an obvious weapon but he also breaks up play really well and puts himself about, great fitness

Weaknesses - Not the quickest and finishing is wayward

Any good? - Worth a place in the side but one of the players I wouldn't be too upset to see fazed out over the next 12 months.

CF - Mama Sidibe
Strengths -'ll have to ask Tone.

Weaknesses - Can't head, shoot, pass, jump and definately can't finish.

Any good? - Has been in the past but since returning from injury in November has really struggled to get his game together and has lost the aerial ability that was his big strength prior

CF - Ricardo Fuller
Strengths - Pace and power means, on his day, he is unstoppable for ANY defence. Many fans think he's lazy but I see all the work he does off the ball and all the chasing lost causes down the channels, as well as runs that our midfield don't see

Weaknesses - Dodgy knees mean he will never pass a conventional medical, and that's why he's at Stoke, but game-wise he can get a bit hot headed and sometimes go in a sulk

Any good? - Our most skillful player of the last 25 years, if not longer. Has ability to win a game on his own as he showed last weekend at West Ham 

Dan Buxton is editor of The Boothen Roar (Stoke City Mad)

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