The victory means that Stoke have taken 19 points from a possible 27 over the past nine matches. With Stoke now looking up the table to the European places what can the victory tell us about the likely hood of this being achieved, and further tell us of Mark Hughes’ plans for the future.
The 3-4-3 continues
With Ryan Shawcross still unavailable after an injury to his calf, Hughes chose to stick with the system he utilised so well against Watford. The formation again led to some excellent performances, with Erik Pieters being the most improved as he got to grips with the role of a wing back. The Dutchman made the most attacking third passes of anyone in the match (17) and contributed to a dominant first half for Stoke.
The first half was certainly belonged to the men in red and white as they had 68.5%; made 274 passes (compared to Burnley’s 121); and completed 11 take ons. This early dominance allowed Stoke to sit back in the second half, keeping Burnley at arm’s length, controlling the play to ensure all three points were collected.
Shaqiri and Arnautovic have freedom
Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic are known far and wide as being the two most dangerous players in Stoke’s side, and the inclusion of wing backs is increasing the danger the two pose. At times both have struggled to get involved in the game as they are forced to balance maintaining width with an urge to come inside.
The inclusion of two wing backs withdrew this contradicting style of play as the two were allowed to drift across Burnley’s back line. The two had excellent games and both played key roles in each goal, and it would appear the new formation plays to their strengths.
Patience pays off
It has been a difficult few months for Marc Muniesa who has struggled to get any game time whatsoever. The Spaniard said has much himself recently when he admitted that if his lack of involvement continued he may be forced to consider a January move away. With Shawcross out injured Muniesa has taken his opportunity.
Two starts, two clean sheets and topped off with an excellent goal which he started off with a marauding run from the back and finished like an experienced top level striker. Emotional celebrations ensued, as the fan favourite was playing in front of his new born son for the first time.
Burnley’s media darling status is unwarranted
Sean Dyche deserves a lot of credit for the work he has put into getting Burnley promoted twice, and far be it from me to take any of that away from him. However many have over romanticised a side who play tough, physical and pragmatic football.
They ove- stepped the mark in Saturday’s clash as Ashley Barnes played a performance not often seen on the pitch. He left an elbow on Bruno Martins-Indi that nearly caused the Dutch international to break a cheek bone, and it looks likely that retrospective action will be taken.
It appears that Mark Hughes is determined to anger a vast majority of fans as he continues with his run of extremely negative substitutions.
Peter Crouch was again preferred to Bojan and Ramadan Sobhi to enter the pitch, and the fact the former England international has not scored a league goal for 560 days is the source of some anger from the terraces. Many are confused as to why, when two up against Burnley at home, Hughes has made subs that focus on shutting the game out. The bench is packed with flair and talent and Hughes needs to have faith in these players to make their brief cameos count.
Next up for Stoke is an away trip to inform Arsenal, and it appears that the 3-4-3 could provide Stoke with an opportunity to get their first ever points at the Emirates.