Hughes perplexed by Stoke's inconsistency
By Football News
Mark Hughes admits he is at a loss to explain how Stoke City can beat the bigger teams and yet struggle against so-called lesser opponents.
Stoke recorded a 1-0 win over Premier League title hopefuls Arsenal on Saturday as Jonathan Walters' late penalty moved the hosts six points clear of the relegation zone.
The result follows home triumphs over Chelsea and Manchester United, while high-flying Manchester City could only take a point from their visit to the Britannia Stadium in September.
Yet Hughes' men have one of the worst records in the division against bottom-half sides, something the Welshman struggled to explain when questioned.
"I've been trying to work that out myself," the manager said. "I just think when we play the top sides there's a determination, an intensity, a drive from us. More often than not the top sides will have more possession than us so we perhaps need a different game plan.
"We've struggled maybe against lesser teams, so to speak, because when the onus is on us to take games to the opposition we're not as accomplished as when we go up against the top teams and we need to pick our moments.
"But we need to get better at that because we've got key games and key fixtures against teams that no doubt will come here and make it difficult for us.”
Ryan Shawcross once again played a leading role in Stoke's defence, helping them to a seventh clean sheet of the campaign, and Hughes hopes that the 26-year-old will attract the attention of England coach Roy Hodgson.
"I think he's been playing well for a number of months now," Hughes added. "Obviously when you go up against the top teams the profile of the game is raised, so hopefully that will raise Ryan up in to the attention of the powers that be because he deserves recognition for how he's played this year."