I will be the first to admit I was not feeling overly optimistic when I set off for South Wales on Monday afternoon.
Despite Stoke’s form and Swansea’s lack of it, the Liberty has been a bogey ground for the Potters since both sides were promoted, and even beyond that in the lower divisions.
I’m pleased to say the side proved me wrong, and a fourth win in a row along with three clean sheets was secured. Most who watched on TV or indeed travelled will know it was far from a classic, and apart from a fantastic Bojan penalty there wasn’t a great deal between the teams.
I thought Stoke were marginally better and were always in control of the game, and besides one Shelvey effort hitting the post, the Swans didn’t really threaten Jack Butland’s goal.
After what was a disappointing start to the campaign, all of a sudden things are looking a lot better, and a win against Watford on Saturday could send Mark Hughes’ side into the top half of the table. It looks like Stoke’s top players are starting to perform, and when they do they can threaten any side.
The trio of Arnautovic, Bojan and Shaqiri behind the striker can cause real problems, and will perhaps suit Stoke more away from home on the counter attack.
With captain Ryan Shawcross to return and club-record signing, Shaqiri, surely only going to get better, there’s plenty of optimism with some winnable, but tough as always, fixtures around the corner.
When all of the players are fully fit, Mark Hughes is going to have a real headache on his hands picking his squad, let alone the starting XI. He’ll without a doubt have to leave some players out of the 18 who would make some Premier League sides’ first-team, and keeping the dressing room happy is going to be a difficult task.
Experienced Peter Crouch has hardly kicked a ball in the league this season, and I’m sure most clubs towards the bottom end of the table would like somebody like him around the place.
And how about the back four? Three clean sheets in the last four with your captain to return from injury, it would be unfair to drop anybody, but surely you can’t leave him out?
So, four consecutive wins, three clean sheets and at home to a Watford side without a win in three… Easy, right? Far from it. You don’t need me to remind you of some of the unexpected results that have occurred through the first half of this season. In addition, Watford seem to prefer playing away, having scored just once at Vicarage Road in the league this season.
Troy Deeney’s wait for a first Premier League goal surely isn’t going to go on much longer, and the in-form back four of the Potters certainly need to keep an eye on him.
You have to fancy Stoke’s chances mind, considering the form not just the team, but key individuals are in. Another three points this weekend would leave the table looking good, and confidence and morale the highest it has been in a while.