We can imagine that all of Crystal Palace's players who have ever played a square pass, or kicked the ball despite it being more than six inches off the ground, are currently penning their transfer requests. Yes, Tony Pulis appears to be the choice to replace Ian Holloway at Selhurst Park. What was once the Championship's most fun side are now perhaps going to become one of the dullest in the Premier League.
The merits of aesthetics vs. practicality have been discussed many times, but the question remains. Is Pulis actually good enough to pull off survival? He did well with Stoke, but couldn't progress them as his side got found out. In being portrayed as a dinosaur, isn't Pulis a man out of time, who will be quickly found out by the better sides in the league?
The problem with this logic is that Stoke City weren't struggling because of Tony Pulis' playing style. Direct football is still effective, as he proved... it's just that more people are trusting themselves to play otherwise now. They were struggling because they had a bad squad of players, because most of the ones that had been bought were ignored, wasted, or not good enough. The likes of Matthew Etherington were never sufficiently replaced from their prime in Stoke's side, while the club came to rely on the same few faces at all times. And when those players entered poor form, it cost the side dearly.
Over that period, in an attempt to progress the club, Pulis made a variety of buys. He bought Tuncay Sanli, whom he never seemed to be able to use, much like Eidur Gudjohnsen. The same can even be said of less technical players like Wilson Palacios. Above all, Pulis simply never seemed to trust his players. The only ones he ever did were either giants like Robert Huth and Steven Nzonzi or wingers, getting some excellent form out of Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, but it wasn't enough.
At Crystal Palace, Pulis will be forced to change. He cannot simply leave people out because he doesn't trust anyone under six-foot-two, or is fearful of introducing someone with skill into his solid outfit, because that solid outfit doesn't exist yet. Furthermore, all of his best players that are likely to have the guile to get them out of the relegation zone are not in the Rory Delap model. It will be interesting to see what Pulis ends up doing with Jon Williams, Barry Bannan, Dwight Gayle and Jose Campaña. Even if he were determined to leave them out, he simply can't afford to waste that kind of talent.
Yet, along with that, Pulis will find he has some options which are more his style, too. Glenn Murray may take some time to return to the team, but should be back in January and is a classic No. 9. He might also feed off the service of Yannick Bolasie, another player Pulis is likely to appreciate. Mile Jedinak could certainly have fit right in at Stoke. It was the basics that let Palace down under Ian Holloway, so going for the opposite of the continuity candidate makes sense.
It's certainly reasonable to despise his brand of football, but there's no doubting its effectiveness. Mark Hughes was oddly cast as one of the worst managers around after his Queens Park Rangers tenure, despite his record being better than most*. Now, he's brought a freshness to Stoke that they desperately needed by introducing the likes of Stephen Ireland, turning a team that had never enjoyed the majority of possession in a game to one that was capable of going to Old Trafford and dominating the game.
Tony Pulis may benefit just as much from working with a new group of players. Given that he already has the more aesthetically pleasing talent at the club, rather than having to search for, buy and introduce them himself, he may just find that he has more strings to his bow than we'd previously thought.