Stoke City defeated Midlands rivals Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park.
The Potters hadn’t started the season particularly well, picking up just two points in their opening five matches and suffering a 1-0 defeat at home to fellow Midlands side West Bromwich Albion.
However, a narrow victory over Bournemouth last week helped to ease tensions somewhat at the Britannia, and they looked much more like their former selves at Villa Park – strong and compact.
Marko Arnautovic scored the winner 10 minutes after the half-time interval, yet it was Stoke’s defensive capabilities which arguably won them the match and prompted recognition afterwards.
Great win for @stokecity and a clean sheet as well!! Keep the clean sheets coming and it will be a very good season.— Matthew Etherington (@mattyethers) octubre 3, 2015
Great result for @stokecity and dug in when needed to and protected Butland very well. Two wins in a row. Hopefully season gets going now— Danny Higginbotham (@Higginbotham05) octubre 3, 2015
While Mark Hughes has slowly been trying to change Stoke’s direct approach to a style more pleasing on the eye, the Potters’ success has largely been based on solid foundations.
Last season, their ninth-place finish and impressive haul of 54 points was built on a defence which conceded just 45 league goals over the campaign – a better record than Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
In the early stages of this season, their defence seemed to be a bit wayward but at Villa Park, goalkeeper Jack Butland was protected well and limited to making just a few routine saves.
Stoke have plenty of attacking talent at their disposal, but more important will be getting things right at the back, and repeat performances of today’s efforts will soon see them shoot up the table.