Spurs vs Stoke is next for us in the Premier League, so we look at the strengths and weaknesses of Mark Hughes’ men.
After their customary slow start, Stoke are in the midst of another good season. We’ve historically struggled against Mark Hughes men, but do back-to-back 4-0 thumpings mean that Mauricio Pochettino has got the measure of them? Ahead of Spurs vs Stoke we look at their strengths and weaknesses.
Weakness: full back zones
Stoke have struggled against teams that have attacked them through their full back zones.
The main area of issue has been right back. Glen Johnson when he plays there is solid. However, injuries to Johnson have meant that Phil Bardsley and Geoff Cameron have stepped in and this is often where the trouble is.
Take their last away game in the Premier League. Stoke controlled much of the match, but right back Phil Bardsley was exposed for most of the WBA’s chances and their goal.
Nacer Chadli was on Bardsley’s flank and he ran at the right back at every opportunity. This included creating the only goal of the game for James Morrison as West Brom won 1-0.
Manchester United were another team that attacked Stoke through their full back zones. The Red Devils had success against both Glen Johnson and Eric Pieters as they created chances from wide.
Although not shown on the graphic, Wayne Rooney scored Man Utd’s only goal of the game from a free kick after being fouled in the right back zone. That saw Rooney break Sir Bobby Charlton’s club goals record.
Interestingly, Mark Hughes has adopted a back three when travelling to the Premier league’s powerhouses. Recent trips to both Chelsea and Liverpool saw Hughes go with the tactic. Maybe he will try the same at White Hart Lane?
However, a back three didn’t stop both Chelsea and Liverpool notching four times. Chelsea ran out 4-2 winners, Liverpool emerged victors 4-1. At Anfield, Liverpool created numerous opportunities and goals from both full back areas. The better chances inside the box and goals came from the right back zone.
Whether Glen Johnson will be fit enough to return will be one of the big questions ahead of Spurs vs Stoke on Sunday? Johnson is their defence’s key player and if he doesn’t make it then Spurs need to attack his replacement.
Weakness: Moving the centre backs
What has become apparent in our recent games with Stoke is just how much Harry Kane is signalled out for attention.
Mark Hughes has one of his centre backs track Kane wherever he moves. This has both positive and negative effects. On the plus side it can stop Kane being a goal-scoring factor. However, the negative is much bigger. Kane’s movement is smart enough that he pulls the tracking centre back way out of position, which creates space for others to run through.
In last season’s match at White Hart Lane, Kane’s movement out towards the touchline dragged centre back Geoff Cameron with him. This allowed Ben Davies to burst past in to the space and set up a goal.
Kane’s movement to drag his covering centre back is highly effective when he comes short. It also works in the box as we can see from Stoke 0-4 Spurs earlier this season. His movement deep in the box drags both centre backs in. This allowed Son Heung-Min acres to drift in to and convert the pull back from Christian Eriksen in to the net.
Stoke are so worried about Harry Kane that they are prepared to sacrifice one of their central defenders to try and contain him. In spite of effectively being man marked, Kane has really excelled against it. Not only has his passing come to the fore to create opportunities for others, but he also has three goals in the last two encounters.
Strength: running the channels
Mark Hughes often sets up in a 4-3-3 and uses his three attackers to run the channels. This sees them split a back four by having each attacker run in between the defenders. We can see it here from our match earlier in the season as Wilfried Bony, Marko Arnautovic and Jonathan Walters try and overload our centre backs by running the lanes between them.
They also did it regularly during Spurs 2-2 Stoke at White Hart Lane last season to overcome a two-goal deficit.
Stoke are dangerous when they do this as it gets men in the box. This is something that has come to the fore with the inclusion of Peter Crouch up top and their move to increase crossing.
Peter Crouch has been revitalised recently. Four goals in eight Premier League games have seen him enjoying a good run of form. With his inclusion, Stoke are crossing the ball much more.
Up until Crouch’s regular inclusion, Stoke were crossing the ball 17 times per match. Since Crouch was installed against Liverpool, the Potters are putting in 22 crosses per game. The main supplier has been Marko Arnautovic, Stoke’s most dangerous man.
Key match-up: Marko Arnautovic vs Kyle Walker
Stoke like to get the ball early to their wide forwards. This sees them often look quickly for Marko Arnautovic to instigate attacks. We can see this from the length of the passing lines to him in Stoke’s last away match with West Brom. Stoke look to get the ball to him up the line or over distance from central midfield.
Once on the ball Arnautovic can then dribble and try to get a cross in or a shot away. He is highly dangerous when on his game as he is difficult to stop off the dribble, but equally delivers a very accurate cross.
Right back Kyle Walker will be in for a busy afternoon to keep him in check, although I wouldn’t put it past Mark Hughes to switch Arnautovic to the other flank. That will see him against the slower Ben Davies and with a real advantage.
Spurs vs Stoke outlook
Stoke have been very strong at home recently, but have won just two and lost four of their last six away. How our lads will respond after we played 50 minutes against Gent with ten men will be a huge factor. A number of players looked exhausted at the end and very little recovery time will play a part.
Due to the close attention he’ll receive, Mauricio Pochettino will need to include plenty of players that will run past Harry Kane. Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli should be the standouts to have big games.
Spurs vs Stoke prediction: Spurs 1-0 Stoke.