Wednesday 13 December 2017

Mark Hughes praises Stoke's collective strength after victory over Burnley

Mark Hughes' Stoke are into the top half
Mark Hughes' Stoke are into the top half

Mark Hughes saw his decision to stick with a winning Stoke team vindicated as they moved into the Premier League's top half with a 2-0 home win over Burnley.

Beset by injuries and suspension last weekend, the Potters switched to a 3-4-3 system for the victory at Watford and Hughes persisted with the formation and personnel against the Clarets as first-half goals from Jonathan Walters and Marc Muniesa moved them ninth in the table.

With Joe Allen, free from suspension, and Glenn Whelan, back from injury, only on the bench, Hughes praised the collective strength of his squad.

"It's pleasing - given the run we're on there's a good feeling at this moment in time," he said.

"It was a difficult game for us. The decision before the game was whether or not I made changes from last week. I just felt it was important to recognise everybody in the group.

"We're coming into a period where we're going to need everybody and I felt given the good performance last week, I couldn't find a reason to take anybody out of the team.

"Sometimes you have to trust your group, not disappoint them, and that was my thought process. They didn't let me down."

Walters hooked in a 20th-minute opener with a reactive volley from Mame Diouf's cross before Muniesa added a second with his first Premier League goal, bursting forward from defence to start an attack he finished by turning home Marko Arnautovic's cross.

"As a three, we encourage them if there's space in front, sometimes you can exploit that," Hughes said.

"Opposition players in front have to make a decision - do they stay with their man or come to the guy on the ball?

"We encourage Marc and Glen (Johnson) because they're good footballers. Technically they're good enough to carry the ball at pace.

"He's carried on his run, he's been picked out and it's a great strike. Technically he's a very good player. We're pleased with him. It's his first goal in the Premier League so we're absolutely delighted.

"It's been frustrating for him because I haven't given him a lot of game-time but that's two games back to back and as always he's never let me down. He's always played at a high level."

It was a fifth defeat in six for the Clarets on the road, who have taken just one point on their travels compared to 13 in east Lancashire, and t heir manager Sean Dyche urged his team to get more streetwise having been punished in the build-up to the second goal.

After Stephen Ward played the ball out to allow Walters to receive treatment, Charlie Adam returned it to them only via a throw-in deep in their own half, with a Stoke goal arriving less than one minute later.

"We've got to learn more about the Premier League," Dyche admitted.

"I thought the gamesmanship was on show. I think they do it way better than we do - we're still a bit green.

"We're too honest at times for this division, more so than any other, I think. That's part of our growth - understanding the game through gamesmanship."

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