Stoke made it three losses in a row with a disappointing 1-0 defeat against a less-than-impressive Burnley side on Tuesday night, a result that saw them drop out of the top half of the table. It was a game contested by two teams looking low on confidence but despite the visitors bossing the first half, it was Burnley who took their chance after the break.
A speculative dribble forward from Jeff Hendrick was enough to unlock a defence hell bent on watching the ball instead of seizing possession of it before George Boyd slotted home unopposed. Having taken the lead, the Clarets were happy to sit back and see the match out, which they managed to do with ease amid Stoke's desperate attempts to get the ball forward to a disorganised front line.
The change in shape saw the side find much more space all over the pitch and is certainly a tactic that should be used ahead of the less-effective 4-4-2 that's been preferred in recent weeks.
Despite the change in tactics offering plenty of passing opportunities into midfield, the defenders still insisted on hoofing the ball forward to a diminutive Saido Berahino, who naturally struggled to control it. Ironically, when they went behind and sent bodies flooding forward they reverted to trying to pass on the ground.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- It was to Mark Hughes' credit that he changed the shape and personnel of his side, but having had little time to practice in-between games the players weren't always on the same wavelength. With creative options available on the bench his decision to bring on Peter Crouch was ill-judged, as was waiting until five minutes before the end to make his second change.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lee Grant, 7 -- Showed one or two moments of indecision and wasn't always as vocal as he could have been with his defence. Didn't seem to enjoy being put under pressure when clearing the ball.
DF Ryan Shawcross, 8 -- Looked much more at ease with two other centre-backs and Geoff Cameron in front of him. Worked well in tandem with his defensive colleagues to outnumber the opposition attack.
DF Bruno Martins Indi, 6 -- Was neat enough in possession, but didn't enjoy the three-man defence as much as Shawcross. Found himself unnerved and distracted by several physical challenges from Ashley Barnes in the second half.
DF Marc Muniesa, 8 -- Coped well with the pace and power of Burnley both in the air and on the ground. Joined the attack with moves forward and, as always, was more than capable on the ball to cap a successful return to the side.
MF Mame Diouf, 7 -- Showed plenty of impressive touches in possession and his pace caused Matthew Lowton trouble all evening. Faded as the game went on and the hosts took control.
MF Joe Allen, 8 -- Enjoyed having options around him and looked better with time on the ball to find teammates in good positions. Was the only one of the midfield five to complete more than 70 percent of his passes.
MF Geoff Cameron, 8 -- Was an important defensive shield in addition to covering the centre-backs seamlessly when they found themselves out of position. Brought the ball forward well, but was let down once more with his sub-standard distribution and final ball.
MF Charlie Adam, 6 -- Had a poor game considering how much time he had on the ball. Too many of his passes were rushed or ill-advised in his haste to create the perfect chance. Was waltzed past with ease for the winning goal.
MF Erik Pieters, 7 -- Worked his way into some excellent positions on the overlap, but was unable to deliver a cross worthy of his efforts to get there. Failed to shine in defence or attack with an average performance.
FW Saido Berahino, 7 -- Put in his best game in a Stoke shirt, as he finally managed to get some service into his feet. Linked well with Marko Arnautovic and arguably would have finished some of his teammate's chances had they fallen to him.
FW Marko Arnautovic, 7 -- Made some brilliant runs through the middle and enjoyed a central-striking role, but was wasteful with his chances. Does not seem to like having time and space when bearing down on goal, with a poor touch his worst enemy.
MF Ibrahim Afellay, N/R -- Was brought on far too late to make any kind of impact.
FW Peter Crouch, 6 -- Won his headers, but was unable to fashion any meaningful chances on goal.