It’s not often that you see a top-level side take to the field having obviously adjusted their usual tactical plan purely to contain their opponents, but that’s exactly what Stoke City attempted to do in their 1-1 draw at Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday.
Roberto Mancini has repeatedly deployed his wingers on the opposite flank from their usual side since he arrived at Eastlands, with left-footers Martin Petrov and Adam Johnson typically playing on the right and right-footers such as Craig Bellamy and Craig Tevez starting on the left.
In a shrewd attempt to accommodate for this, Stoke coach Tony Pulis switched right-footed defender Andy Wilkinson from right-back to left-back, theoretically giving Stoke’s defence a much more natural means of coping with a left-footed player cutting infield from the right.
The trouble for Stoke was that Shaun Wright-Phillips, a predominantly right-footed winger, began the game on City’s right flank and unsurprisingly gave Wilkinson a torrid time by running at his left side. Pulis quickly remedied the problem, moving Wilkinson across the pitch to right-back and pulling left-footer Danny Higginbotham across from centre-back to cover Stoke’s left side.
Mancini, somewhat mischievously, reacted by sending Wright-Phillips over to the left, but the cat-and-mouse was brought to an abrupt end in the 55th minute when Wilkinson was forced off by injury.