Defeat to Columbus Crew in Ohio on Monday evening underlined the need for manager Tony Pulis to make changes to his tactical approach and playing staff.
The fixture may have only been the second of what is always a gruelling pre-season but the performance was quite poor. People may well point to the fact that Columbus are in the midst of their league season while the Potters have only been back in training for the past two weeks, but that is no excuse for a Premier League team to only orchestrate a solitary effort on target all game.
Pre-season is admittedly about building up your squads’ fitness levels but it is also a time to try new methods and tactics before it really matters for your first league game.
Last night proved that Pulis is as stuck in his ways as in any other of his 10 seasons in charge of the club.
Playing an almost identical starting line-up to the one that finished last season and selecting his only summer recruit so far, Jamie Ness, at left-back proves the desperate need to sign one, if not two, recognised full-backs.
Throughout his reign as manager, Pulis has failed to pick a team without two accustomed full-backs instead feeling the need to sign burly central defenders and play them out of position.
Recent comments by assistant manager Dave Kemp about prospective signing Geoff Cameron being earmarked to play at full-back, just as Ness has been, only goes to show that the boss has no plans to change his policy.
The Welshman has worked his magic since returning to the club, albeit with the huge financial backing from chairman Peter Coates, but to have failed to ever select a first eleven without a square peg in a round hole is massively infuriating. You can only dream of how much better we would be if the manager picked a team full of players comfortable in their position and aware of their teammates’ movement.
The tail end to last season’s league campaign gave way to cause for concern. Teams started to create far more chances against any previous Tony Pulis team and even more alarming, it was happening at home as both Everton and Arsenal cut open our backline on countless occasions. Add to this, the desperate lack of chances created and shots at goal, and it provides a recipe for disaster.
Here’s hoping that TP can change his ways, not necessary to a large degree, but in a way that can help us improve upon our previous success during his tenure. A couple of full-backs and more pace and creativity in midfield and up-front would be warmly welcomed.