When Stoke confirmed the £5 million signing of Middlesbrough’s attacking livewire and Turkey captain Tuncay last month there was widespread joy and excitement amongst fans. The move raised more than a few eyebrows though. On paper, Tuncay is hardly the kind of player that fits in with the perceived view of a Tony Pulis Stoke side as a hardy battalion of 6’5’’ strongmen, whose preferred tactic is to throw the ball into the goal, and when that fails, to kick the opposing players until they’re too injured to defend. At a slight 5’11’’, Tuncay is neither the target man, nor the burly poacher that has for so long been effectively used in Stoke sides. A comment made a lot of Middlesbrough fans both while he played for them and when he joined us was that he’s a player with no real set position. After two consecutive substitute appearances for Stoke, it seems he’ll soon be pushing for a regular starting place, but the question is, just where?
Here are the possibilities:
As an out and out striker: Playing as an all out, 'fox in the box' type striker, Tuncay’s lack of physicality compared to many other Stoke players would be less noticeable, and, with the requirement of nippily taking on defenders in the role, could well be an asset. The problem, however, would be his goalscoring. Despite finding the net regularly for Sakaryaspor and Fenerbahce in Turkey, he’s never been prolific in England, managing just eight Premier League goals in each of his seasons with Middlesbrough, which suggests that this role is not right for him.
In the hole: Tucked in behind another forward, most likely Ricardo Fuller, Dave Kitson or James Beattie, Tuncay could use his clear creative abilities to great effect, and would surely produce a hatful of chances for other players. To optimally use him in this position though, we’d have to see a change in our tactics. The second striker in a Pulis side is generally primarily there to gather long balls from the back and win flick-ons. Tuncay isn’t going to do a great deal of this, and our direct style is unlikely to change significantly, which again means that he’s not best suited to this position.
On the wing: Tuncay is more than capable of playing out wide and causing full backs problems with his pace and skill. Many Stoke fans would see this as a waste of his talent though. Premier League managers are often criticised for leaving quality attacking players out of the wing, and I’d certainly like to see Tuncay in a position where he’d see more of the ball. Besides, Liam Lawrence and Matthew Etherington are going to be hard to displace from the wide berths.
The answer is, therefore, I don’t know. There seems to be an equal weight of pros and cons for every position in which Tuncay could play. Pulis surprised us all by signing him though, and I have faith that he can surprise us again by moulding a niche in his team from which Tuncay can excel, and I’m looking forward to spending the next three years watching him in a red and white shirt.