After a second draw in two games for both teams in the league this season, Norwich stand one place above Stoke in the table. What do you mean, that means nothing at this point in the season?! Wolves are quite obviously favourites to win the league you know? In a match that went to ‘Fergie’ time, were Stoke their usual tight fisted self’s? Or did they open up in the face of seemingly inferior opponents?
Carrow Road, Norwich – Attendance 26,272
Referee – Neil Swarbrick
Norwich City – Ruddy; Barnett (Red), Naughton, Tierney, de Laet (Goal!); Pilkington, Crofts, Johnson, Bennett; Martin, Holt. Subs – Ayala for Pilkington, Surman for Bennent, Jackson for Martin.
Stoke City – Begovic; Woodgate, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson; Etherington, Whelan, Whitehead, Pennant; Jones (Goal!), Walters. Subs – Pugh for Pennant, Shotton for Woodgate.
Anytime I look at Stoke City stats, they never seem to have a majority of the possession. Good news! This is no longer the case, as Stoke managed 53.4% possession to Norwich’s 46.6%. Stoke also massively improved on their pass completion rate, with 80% to 72% – an improvement of 25% from their previous game against Chelsea.
The major talking point of the game was the 66th minute penalty, conceded by Barnett, who was sent off for his efforts; and missed by Jon Walters – Stoke’s first saved penalty in the EPL.
As a trend, Stoke have been a tough to break down, solid at the back whilst lacking something up front team in their time in the EPL. Today, it was Norwich who were trying to be the tough guys, winning more tackles (14-6), conceding (slightly) more fouls (13-12) and winning more possession duels (44-41). Stoke managed more than double the number of shots (13-5), and won more often than not in the air (14-13).
Stoke created 14 chances to Norwich’s 6, showing further dominance where previously there has been very little. Stoke also outdone Norwich when it came to dribbling (6-2), successful attacking half passes (202 -123) and final third passes (112 – 59). The difference in the attacking half/final third passes suggests a lot of possession in the middle of the park from Stoke, without having that true cutting edge to stay for longer in potential scoring areas. Norwich, of course, had more defensive half passes (117-104) and the two teams were matched on the number of long passes, while Stoke lived up to the stereotype by attempting 22 more long balls.
What has this match told us then? That Stoke are capable of overpowering another team, and that to make this work, they need a cutting edge up front and a better ball playing central midfielder. Stoke fans are forever telling me that Jones is a top quality EPL striker, but his stats say otherwise. Whelan and Whitehead, while decent midfielders, aren’t of the quality of the teams they want to be around – the Evertons, Villas and Fulhams of the world. Pulis needs some attacking signings, and with only 10 days left until deadline day, he’s better get moving.