It’s nearly deadline day, and what does that mean? Last minute panic buys from mid table clubs, and selling your best player with no time to spend the money of course. Stoke have done some good business this summer, with Jonathan Woodgate and Matthew Upson both coming in to improve on an already very solid defence, but with no new strikers or midfielders coming in, Pulis seems set to rely on youth to back up his established stars.
A lot has been made of Stoke’s pursuit of Wilson Palacios. I’ve been told he’s better than what they’ve already got, that he’ll make an instant impact and will transform their midfield into one of a premier league quality. I’ll admit, I’ve never been convinced of big, lumbering central midfielders – Maurice Edu at my team Rangers being one of the most confusing signings I’ve ever seen.
Similarly with Peter Crouch, many Stoke fans would love to see the 6’7 striker at their club, and I remain utterly unconvinced. Again, I must go back to previous experience with Rangers for my reasons for not rating tall, blonde strikers – with Tore Andre Flo haunting my dreams in the early 2000’s.
The question here is not if Palacios and Crouch fit into Stokes style, that’s not under investigation. The question is, are these two better than Stoke already have. Let’s have a saunter through some stats, shall we?
Now, Whitehead did play in 15 more games than Palacios last season, so it is a possibility than stats such as total shots (19-7) and chances created (18-9) would possibly even out if Palacios had played more games. Despite this, the difference in the other crucial stats in negligible, with only a 12% difference in pass completion, and only 1% differences in the percentage of successful tackles and possession duels won.
Is this very vauge improvement worth the reported £7million outlay that Stoke would have to make to sign Palacios? I seriously doubt it.
Here’s a fairer comparison, Jones and Crouch both played in 34 league games last season, and from their equal number of games – Jones outscored Crouch by over double the amount – 9 goals to 4. Crouch does seem to fill the assist creating striker gap which I’ve been mentioning for a while, creating 6 assists last season – only Etherington with 8 created more for Stoke last season. Jones had absolutely no assists, but did create 25 chances to Crouch’s 22. Both struggled slightly with their pass comepltion rates (65% for Crouch, 58% for Jones), while Jones won a higher percentage of both possession duels (53%-51%) and aerial duels (59%-58%).
Is Crouch worth it? Well in a similar situation to Palacios, I just don’t see what he would add to this Stoke team. He makes chances, sure, but after seeing the stats, you have to conclude that Jones offers more, both in chance creation and in tucking away the chances that he gets.
While both players offer what Stoke need to fit into that system of play, both won’t have the immediate impact many fans will be hoping for. I believe that by going after players of this standard – struggling to break into a premier league side, Pulis is showing a lack of ambition which will hurt the club in the long term. Will I be proved wrong? I hope so.
Note – After finishing this, it was announced that Palacios is officially a Stoke player. Eejits.