The FourFourTwo Preview: Stoke vs Swansea
An operation of attrition. Codename: Don't Lose.
- S’land 3-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 1-0 Newcastle (Prem)
- S’land 1-2 Stoke (LC)
- QPR 2-2 Stoke (Prem)
- Stoke 0-1 Leicester (Prem)
- Swansea 2-2 Newcastle (Prem)
- S’land 0-0 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 Everton (LC)
- Swansea 0-1 So’ton (Prem)
- Chelsea 4-2 Swansea (Prem)
The last weekend of Premier League football was a pivotal one for Stoke. A win against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light would have put them in the record books having matched a personal best of six unbeaten away matches; a defeat would have left them very much at the wrong end of the table.
A subsequent 3-1 loss felt very much felt like a backwards step, then. At times this season, manager Mark Hughes looked to be advancing away from the dour football played under predecessor Tony Pulis. All he needed was a point or three to bolster his side's position.
There are encouraging signs, though. Stoke's counter-attacking play, driven by the nifty types of Victor Moses, Mame Biram Diouf and Steven Nzonzi, have made them an attractive watch. Suddenly, their games aren't the ideal chance to make a Match of the Day brew and they will view the visit of Swansea as a chance to make amends for Sunderland, though how Moses recovers from a recent recurrence of a thigh injury will be key.
Their sniff of blood comes from the fact that these are also topsy-turvy times for Garry Monk's team. Having won four on the bounce, they were top of the league in September with 44:59 minutes played against Chelsea. They then crumbled 4-2 at Stamford Bridge, lost the following week (Southampton) and have since drawn two on the bounce (Sunderland, Newcastle).
In August, much was being made of the international prospects of their English personnel as well as the creative merits of Gylfi Sigurdsson, but that will have to take a backseat for now. After this match, Swansea play Leicester at home before a month of night terrors for Monk: Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, and Manchester City all await to piddle on their November bonfire.
Leon Britton is Swansea's only long-term injury concern with knee knack. For Stoke, there are concerns over the full fitness of Diouf, Moses and Marko Arnautovic, which will cause Hughes to be grumpier than usual.
Player to watch: Peter Crouch (Stoke)
The former England international has been enjoying a relatively healthy run of form of late. Having built up an excellent understanding with on-loan Moses, plus the positive movements of Stoke's swift midfield - the aforementioned Diouf and Nzonzi plus Arnautovic - Crouch is enjoying his time at the Britannia, having scored three times this season and laid on one for his team-mates.
He tends to thrive against Swansea, too. In his past five league meetings against them, Crouch has scored four times. Stat fans will also be interested to know that he's grabbed 27 goals and 12 assists since joining the club in 2011. That's more than any other Stoke player in the Premier League.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Stoke 1-1 Swans (PL, Feb 14)
- Swans 3-3 Stoke (PL, Nov 13)
- Swans 3-1 Stoke (PL, Jan 13)
- Stoke 2-0 Swans (PL, Sep 12)
- Stoke 2-0 Swans (PL, Feb 12)
At Sunderland, Stoke blew their chance to kick on in the league and Hughes knows it. "It was not great from us to be perfectly honest," he said. "We didn't really defend correctly or with any kind of purpose in that opening period and as a consequence we gave up two goals, two really easy goals. Sunderland, to their credit, were able to win the game quite comfortably. We didn't ask enough questions of them. They probably had three strikes on goal and scored three goals."
Monk knows these are early days for his Swansea side. He's been in the job less than a year and perspective on their current form is a must.
"We have got a good squad together but let’s not forget we were touted around as favourites to be relegated and now we’re talking about how we could have gone second in the league and maybe we should have been top. For me it is just about us progressing as a team and myself progressing as a coach and manager. We could be further ahead but the team are performing as we want them, it’s just a few lapses of concentration."
Facts and figures
- Sigurdsson has 6 assists in 7 Premier League appearances for Swansea this season, 2 more than he managed in 58 league games at Tottenham (4).
- Stoke have not won any of their last 6 Premier League home matches played on a Sunday, losing each of their last 4 (D2 L4).
- There have only been 3 goals scored in the 3 Premier League games at the Britannia Stadium this season, fewer than at any other ground.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
An entertaining and attacking draw. 2-2.
Back 2-2 at 16/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication