Stoke boss Mark Hughes has stressed sticking with the same dynamic line-up that dismantled Manchester City last weekend may not necessarily be the right approach for Saturday’s game at West Ham.
The City clash at the Britannia Stadium saw Hughes select playmakers Ibrahim Afellay, Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan Krkic together from the start for the first time, while Jonathan Walters dropped to the bench.
And the decision was handsomely rewarded as the Potters delivered a superb performance in a 2-0 victory.
The win has generated considerable excitement about Hughes’ men – one Spanish newspaper labelled them ‘Stokelona’ – and the Welshman admits it has given him plenty of confidence in that system.
But he has also emphasised it was a gameplan he had felt was appropriate specifically for the City contest.
“It was something I had been thinking of for quite some time and it was just about making sure we picked the right game to do it,” Hughes said.
“We looked, as we always do, at previous games the opposition had played, what they had done well, what they had done poorly, what their strengths and weaknesses were and what we could exploit, and built a gameplan based on that knowledge.
“And that is exactly what we are doing with the game we are preparing for this weekend.”
When then asked if that meant it might be all change selection-wise for the meeting with the Hammers, Hughes replied with a smile: “I wouldn’t say that – but you never know!”
Stoke go into the match lying 11th in the Barclays Premier League table, a point worse off than seventh-placed West Ham.
The Potters started their league campaign poorly and, although they have recovered significantly and managed to follow up last month’s victory over champions Chelsea by winning at Southampton, they were subsequently beaten at strugglers Sunderland before bouncing back with the City result.
Hughes is eager for Stoke to build on last Saturday’s efforts and feels finding more consistency will be key as his side looks to fulfil the potential they have shown.
“We have had big results in the past and maybe haven’t backed it up, and we stumbled somewhat against Sunderland only a few weeks ago,” Hughes said.
“So we are hoping now to get that consistent level of performance over a longer period, and that games where we kick ourselves after when we don’t get maximum points are few and far between.
“We really feel confident in the potential in the team, but it is about realising that potential.”
Stoke could have fit-again defender Marc Muniesa back in their matchday 18 on Saturday.
Muniesa has missed the last six first-team games in all competitions while recovering from a hamstring injury, but has returned to full training and played for the under-21s.
Forwards Peter Crouch and Peter Odemwingie (both hamstring) and goalkeeper Shay Given (knee) remain sidelined.