Stoke City make the three-hour journey north this week, with hopes of putting their dismal performance against Sky Bet Championship team Wolves, behind them.
However, it does not make pretty reading for Stoke fans, as they have only managed to pick up two points out of 24 away at Sunderland, failing to register a win since their return to the Premier League. Their only victory in fact came in the Capital One Cup back in 2014, when an unexpected Marc Muniesa brace split the two sides.
A win would alleviate some of the pressure off Mark Hughes’ shoulders, as fans and media have started to question if he has taken as far as he can, a similar situation to which former manager Tony Pulis found himself in at the end of his reign in the Potteries.
The last time the two sides met, Joe Allen, a £13 million pound summer signing from Liverpool, netted two to ensure the Potters picked up their first win of the season. It was win that kick started Stoke’s season after going onto be unbeaten in the next three games after that. Hughes will be hoping another win against the Black Cats is the start of another upturn in results.
Sunderland’s previous results are a mixed bag, with results such as beating current Premier League Champions Leicester City 2–1, but the previous week shipping three goals away at Swansea. David Moyes should however take confidence in the fact that Stoke have an abysmal record there.
What needs to change
For Stoke to get an result up on Tyneside they need to change back to the tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation, not that 3-4-3 has not been successful for the eleventh placed side, but with squad Hughes has at his disposal and the players available, 3-4-3 should be left behind.
If the switch to 4-2-3-1 is made I’d expect the Potters expected line-up to be: Grant; Johnson, Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi Pieters; Allen Adam; Arnautovic Afellay Shaqiri; Crouch.
Bringing back Xherdan Shaqiri into the mix would bring back the craft and guile needed to return back to ST4 with all three points.
A return to a four back formation would also make better use of the defenders at the club, Johnson reverting back to his much more natural position of right back. The return to the trusted formation would also benefit the partnership Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi have struck up.