Centre Backs Against The Wall
Feature by Dan Buxton
Updated Wednesday, 7th October 2009
Alec Vjestica's latest column centres around the City defence
In recent weeks, Stoke manger Tony Pulis has been lining up with a back four composed of four players who are primarily centre backs, Danny Collins playing at the left back, Abdoulaye Faye and Ryan Shawcross in the middle and Robert Huth on the right. I'm a fan of Pulis, and agree with most of the decision he makes and I can see the rationale behind this one. We've just come through a run of tough matches, against the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Everton, and it seems sensible to want to pack our defence with the biggest, strongest players possible in an attempt to counteract those sides' attacking prowess. I hope, however, that as we enter an easier stretch of fixtures, with our next six home games all on paper ones we should look to win, that he does not persist with this tactic
At home, and away against the weaker sides, we should be looking predominantly to attack down the wings, which, is far easier if the designated wingers have the support of their full backs going forwards. With players who are accustomed to playing a central defensive role at full back, this is never going to happen to the extent that would be ideal. With natural full backs in the side, our wingers, Matthew Etherington and Liam Lawrence, both of who can be tricky customers would find themselves able to be better involved in the game and would help us to find an alternative attacking outlet to the long balls that often characterise our play.
I also feel sorry for Andy Wilkinson. The young right back has always been superb since winning a regular place in the side last season and, by merit, surely deserves to start the majority of matches. Unfortunately for him, since Huth and Collins joined us in August he's been largely frozen out. For me, after spending a combined ?8.75 million on those two players, Pulis, understandably feels that he should be playing them, it's just a shame that players like Wilkinson lose out as a result.
Don't get me wrong; I think Huth and Collins are good signings. Collins is a vastly experienced Premier League player who, after a shaky start at Stoke seems to be settling down well, while Huth has looked the pick of our summer recruits to date. The problem is, they're centre backs, and shouldn't be playing at full back. I hope Pulis recognises this and changes it for the better soon, starting with our next match in two weeks time at home to struggling West Ham.