It’s safe to say not many saw this good run of form coming a few weeks ago…
Although Stoke City picked up a win away at Bournemouth during Valentines weekend, there was a high level of concern amongst supporters regarding the amount of defensive injuries, and although the next two fixtures were at home to relegation threatened clubs, the expectation was they would come with some fight.
Despite not being at their best; six points were gained, but that run of three straight wins without playing particularly well was always going to end away at a Chelsea side unbeaten in 12 Premier League games, right?
Wrong. Not only did the Potters manage to pick up a first Premier League point at Stamford Bridge, but a convincing one too, with manager Mark Hughes a little disappointed it wasn’t a fourth straight league victory.
Four unbeaten doesn’t sound a lot; but that mid-table area is highly congested with some clubs underachieving and others having a good campaign, plus ten points out of twelve goes a long way in cementing your place in the top-half of the table.
It’s not just the results that have caught the eye, but the defensive displays with such little options are a credit to the back five that have been out there.
The returns of Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa have certainly helped, but the absence of Glen Johnson and captain Ryan Shawcross has made life difficult for boss Hughes.
Many say the season is dead for clubs such as Stoke at this stage, but if you aren’t going to get relegated, then why not have a go and try and achieve something?
The Potters need just twelve points from their last nine games to break their record points total for a third season running, and although outsiders, a Europa League spot isn’t impossible either.
Considering the tough run of injuries has gone on for almost the entire season, credit must go to Hughes for making things work and providing what is set to be another successful season for Stoke.
His finest hour, just in front of the ‘false nine’ formation that breezed past Manchetser City and Manchester United, has to be the signing of Gianelli Imbula.
Just four games in, the £18.2m signing looks the real deal, and is yet another statement intent from the board that they want this club to go places.
The next test is Southampton at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, and it’s a tricky test, as most are proving to be in this unpredictable Premier League season.
Ronald Koeman has one of those sides that are capable of producing something special at any moment, and to make a change, Stoke will face a side with defensive issues of their own, with captain Jose Fonte unavailable through suspension.
Another win on Saturday, with an inviting trip to a struggling Watford to follow, would send Hughes’ men well on their way, especially with the fact the win would come against one of their fellow mid-table sides that sit just one point and two places behind them.