When Stoke drew 0-0 with Aston Villa earlier this season, in was the second match in a unbeaten December that suggested that the Potters could end up settling quite comfortably into the top half of the Premier League this season, marking another strong season under Tony Pulis in the division.
However since the turn of the year, Stoke have won one match out of twelve in the Premiership, and have only picked up five points in total. They failed to score in seven of those matches, and the weekend's loss to Aston Villa is the latest disappointing home result at what used to be fortress Britannia.
Stoke are very much now in the relegation battle, with only 34 points to their name with six games left to play. That run of matches sees them play Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, along with clashes against fellow strugglers QPR, Sunderland, Norwich and Southampton.
All of those sides will have plenty to play for, and Stoke suddenly look in real trouble. However, when under the cosh, you would expect their resilience and experience of the league will be enough to see them finish ahead of three sides and stay in the Premiership.
But even if that is the case, Tony Pulis should move on this summer, as his tenure at Stoke seems to have grown stale this season. Stoke have scored the joint fewest goals in the division, and they have been unable to maintain their fine defensive form before the New Year over the past few months.
Pulis’ now notorious style of play is not something that many fans will support for long if the results are not there, and given that Stoke have spent plenty of money, and been in the Premier League for several seasons now, there is an argument that the manager should have evolved his team’s play to something more entertaining by now.
Stoke might want to try a new man at the helm in this regard, and Pulis could also perhaps benefit from a new challenge, or he might risk tarnishing his legacy at the Britannia.
image: © jad99