Stoke City finally got the monkey off their back on Saturday. A healthy, much needed win over Sunderland stopped the barren, winless run. An overall impressive performance, but which three things stood out?
1. Joe Allen just does no wrong
Joe Allen is unquestionably on fire. The Welshman netted his fourth Premier League goal in three games on Saturday.
Remarkably, Allen has scored as many goals for Stoke in eight games as he did in 91 for Liverpool.
Four in 91, four in eight. The numbers are just so far apart.
Allen has seen himself in a much higher place up the pitch at Stoke. Under Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, Allen was always marshalling the back-four – when he played – and was rarely allowed to stray.
Mark Hughes though, seems to have found a much stronger use for the 5 ft. 6 in. talisman. Playing in a more central, number 10 role, Allen has licence to dictate.
His ability to get on the ball and pull the strings will only get stronger in time. He seems to have a previously undiscovered talent for being in the right place at the right time.
Timing runs well, knowing when to gamble, and when to hold his position on the edge of the box – as he demonstrated expertly for Wales in Austria last week with his volley.
More from Analysis
- Will Stoke City’s Recent Fixture Schedule Hamper Performance?
- How Many Points Does Stoke City Need To Avoid Relegation?
- Three Keys for Stoke City Against Swansea
- Stoke City vs. Swansea: Preview & Prediction
- What the Analytics Say About Stoke City’s Blackpool Loss
Allen’s confidence is through the roof and it shows no signs of dropping off. Long may it continue.
2. Marko Arnautovic has found his ‘mojo’
While Allen may be taking most of the plaudits right now, Arnautovic is slowly seeing his performances turn.
He may not be back to his best, but Saturday’s showing was signs that he was getting there.
The Austrian has had a shaky start to this season, and has taken a lot of criticism – perhaps deservedly so. A very noticeable drop in form since the last campaign seems to be making way for the Arnautovic we all know.
Arnautovic was eager to get on the ball on Saturday. Something he hasn’t been too fond of in recent weeks.
His ability to beat players, pick a pass, and grab a goal or two when needed has been missing; a have a feeling that he found it against Sunderland.
3. Stoke City wanted to defend
The Potters initially had a lethargic look about them at kick-off. Sunderland were keen to force the issue and were looking the likely source of chances.
However, the ever-gelling partnership of Bruno Martins Indi and Ryan Shawcross finally looked to strengthen.
The defence was organised, and after Sunderland’s initial pressing, they began to lack ideas and a cutting edge.
Ryan Shawcross in particular, looked incredibly determined on Saturday. Rightly so, perhaps, being Stoke City’s captain. After all he has a huge responsibility to lead by example.
A fantastic block on a Jermain Defoe shot mid-way through the first period showed that Shawcross – and Stoke, for that matter – had woken up to the situation they were in.
Sunderland’s chances were limited and Shawcross can take pride in knowing his “body on the line” attitude carried throughout the team.
It’s a sign of things to come for Stoke City
Although those three individuals were the stand-out performers on Saturday, the squad finally looks like it knows their league position isn’t representative of the talent.
Hughes seems to have a grip of his starting XI, with a settled pattern starting to emerge.
Stoke can hope to see a quick return for Glen Johnson, while willing long-term absentee Jack Butland back into the fold.
It’s been a good month for Stoke so far, let’s keep it going please, lads.