Kicking off 2017 with a win at the first time of asking was a good start to banishing a poor end to 2016. What are three things we learned from the win over Watford?
Peter Crouch is scoring goals, the defence looked assured, and Mark Hughes feels upbeat now that Stoke City are out the fixture-list woods…for the time being, at least.
With an FA Cup tie with Wolves looming, let’s have a quick glance at the main talking points from Tuesday’s victory.
1. Where has Peter Crouch been hiding?
At 35, it’s unlikely that Crouch is going to turn into Stoke City’s 20+ goal striker this season.
For the time being, however, he’s definitely making the most of the new lease of life instilled into him by manager Mark Hughes.
Wilfried Bony was playing on borrowed time in the starting XI, and it wasn’t long before Hughes lost his patience with the Ivorian.
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Crouch wasn’t the first choice solution to the problem either. Both Mame Biram Diouf and Marko Arnautovic were trialled before Hughes turned to Crouch.
Despite the his recent inspired run of form, I feel that it is only temporary – as much as I’d like it to continue, of course.
For the moment, though, keep doing what you’re doing, Crouchy.
2. Lee Grant throwing a cat amongst the pigeons
The performances that the previously on-loan stopper has put in since his move from Derby in the summer transfer window have been immense.
Becoming Stoke City’s number one quickly after Shay Given wasn’t impressing, Grant has quickly adored himself to the Potters’ faithful.
With these inspiring performances, and subsequent permanent deal now sorted, it’ll be tough for him to be now relieved of his duties.
Of course, I’m talking about the impending return of Jack Butland. When Grant initially made the switch, it was of course only a temporary move.
Now, with Grant impressing week-in-week-out, where does that leave the England international? Will he remain at Stoke City?
3. Hughes needs to be certain of Stoke City’s formation
Since the away trip to Anfield Hughes has opted to adopt the Antonio Conte approach to the formation conundrum.
Switching from a standard back four to a back three probably wasn’t the wisest of choices prior to visiting the Premier League’s top scorers.
However, he seems adamant to make it work.
Switching things up and being adaptable during a game is a fundamental part of the sport of course, but drastic changes such as the defensive set-up mustn’t be taken lightly.
Managers traditionally like to hone their team’s identity during the pre-season, however Hughes has obviously decided it may form part of the solution to the current goalscoring issues.
While the team improved between the Liverpool and Chelsea games, it will take time for the new system to take proper effect should he decide to stick with it.