HomeFeatured ArticlesNew Season, Old Tactics as Stoke choke at Reading | Stats Report

New Season, Old Tactics as Stoke choke at Reading | Stats Report

Stoke in control as Kightly scores 34th minute opener.

Stoke failed to hold on to a 1-0 lead after three questionable substitutions allowed Premier League new-boys Reading a route back into the game.

The Potters took a first half lead in the 34th minute through debutant Michael Kightly and went on to control the game going into the latter stages. However a devastating change in tactics from the Stoke manager allowed a late Adam Le Fondre penalty to secure the Royals a point on their return to the top flight.

Stoke fans are becoming increasingly familiar with the shut-up-shop attitude applied by the manager when his side take the lead, only this time (like many others before it) was to the detriment of the result as three points were cruelly turned in to one.

Reading were struggling to make any sort of impact on the game whatsoever and in the final 20 minutes Stoke were continuing to challenge their back line,  with Kightly and Matthew Etherington posing problems for the full-backs.

This is the time that a Stoke fan fears the most, leading 1-0, with the team still on the ascendancy. Why? Because, the manager decides to take a giant hammer and repeatedly nail a massive square peg into what should be a very small round hole.

Natural winger Kightly off, Cameron Jerome on; forcing Jonathan Walters out wide, to help defend a lead. Etherington off, Delap on. Possibly the most bemusing substitution of all. Moving a 36-year-old right footed centre midfielder, to the left-wing. In effect cancelling out any threat that Stoke had posed all afternoon and inviting the pressure.

Throw in the fact that Dean Whitehead was already treading on thin ice after picking up a yellow card and the choice of substitutions becomes more and more bizarre.

Why take Kightly off?

It was clear to all that Michael Kightly was enjoying himself, picking up his first league goal and supporting the front two all afternoon. He had the beating of his man time and time again and was a real thorn in the Royals side for the 75 minutes he was on the pitch.

With 43 he had the most touches of any attacking player on the pitch. With 13 he lost possession less than any of the Stoke midfield and front two who played at least as long as he did. He had the third highest passing accuracy of all players involved. He also made the joint highest number of successful tackles, along with Ryan Shawcross, Danny Guthrie and Mikele Leigertwood.

Taking all this into account it is simply crazy to think that the manager would consider taking off the best player on the pitch, and by doing so with 15 minutes to play it sent a real signal of intent that Stoke’s desire to get forward and attack was over.

Why Bring Delap on?

Given that he was introduced to help secure the victory, the following hardly covers the man in glory, even considering he only played ten minutes:

Now its clear it wasn’t Delap’s fault that Stoke failed to win the game, but considering the role he was asked to play when he was introduced, you could hardly say he helped the cause.

The question on every Stoke fans lips would be “why?”. Why was it necessary to make the changes that he did? Why was Whitehead not replaced earlier on given the fact he had already been cautioned? Why was Jamie Ness, a Pulis summer signing, not introduced instead of Delap?

And Perhaps more importantly, would the three points have been in the bag, heading into an incredible tough sequence of games had the tactics not been drastically overhauled in the last 15 minutes? I believe had the focus stayed the same, Stoke would have seen the last moments of the game out without a hint of trouble, in fact they could have gone on to score again and put Reading to bed once and for all.

Anyway onwards and upwards to the next game, Arsenal at home. Stoke fans will be hoping for a positive attitude from the start  in their first home game of the season, a fixture that has become massive to both sets of fans and one that will be interesting to watch in more ways than one.

All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.comSubscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.

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