Mark Hughes has already made a huge difference to the way that Stoke play their football.
The game against Arsenal was one of beautiful football form both sides; constantly passing and moving: Stoke had 507 passes (only 21 behind Arsenal) with an 85% success rate and only 11% of those passes were long balls.
It appeared, towards the end, that Stoke were the home side who play on the perfect greens at the Emirates, spreading play and keeping the ball on the turf, while arsenal (albeit, just defending their three points) were shooting long balls up the pitch, from the keeper, and keeping eight men behind the ball at all times.
Arsenal had 13 clearances to Stoke's nine.
Stoke lost the game, but I think Mark Hughes has a lot of positives he can take away from the game.
Whilst the nicer style of play is something that is extremely impressive, considering Stoke’s form under Tony Pulis, I think what’s most impressive about the way Hughes has changed the Potters is the cleanness to their game – I think both Ireland and Huth were unlucky to get yellow cards for those tackles.
Not one malicious tackle – not that I’m saying Stoke ever used to try malicious tackles, often it was mistiming that caused the issue – and generally a greater accuracy of tackles too.
A quick look at the stats shows you that Stoke won a massive 75% of their tackles, to Arsenals 61%, and although they conceded 14 fouls to Arsenals eight, they were all extremely mild.
In short what I’m trying to say is that Stoke are on their way to something good.
With the squad they’ve got, I wouldn’t have believed that they could play like this.
Stephen Ireland was quite good when he played for Manchester City, and Huth is a classic centre half strong in the air and on the ground, Kenwyne Jones has always been on the line between mediocre and good, but I thought they couldn’t do much more then boot the ball around and hope for the best, but they’ve surprised me, and most of the footballing world.
Mark Hughes has got a bad reputation because of the way he was treated at City and Fulham, but I think in Stoke, the project he’s embarked on is going to be a successful. An 8th place finish is probably the best they can hope for this season, but the future is looking up!
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