Stoke can't breach Hull

Posted by James Whittaker

Stephen Ireland Hull v Stoke chanceGettyImagesStephen Ireland spurns a chance to put Stoke in front at Hull.

It was hardly a classic, but Stoke won’t be too disheartened to leave the league’s meanest home defence at the KC Stadium with a valuable away point following a 0-0 draw on Saturday.

Much like the Chelsea match before it, this was another example of a game of two halves with the hosts seeing the best off the chances in the first period despite Stoke enjoying extended periods of possession.

That possession came to very little in that first half as Hull defended their area manfully, with the majority of their players behind the ball. The second half saw the Potters seize the initiative and start to make their possession count, bringing with it a number of gilt-edged chances to go ahead as they turned the screw on their not-so-grrrreat hosts.

The talking points:

Geoff Cameron -- I’m almost tired of writing about Cameron, such is his prominence this season. It was another assured performance from Stoke’s flagship American. While this comes as little surprise these days, I felt the need to wax lyrical once more at his ability on the back foot. I’m not sure my words can do justice to his uncanny ability to use his body to get the better of his man, without fouling him, and come away with the ball when he has absolutely no right to.

Just when you think the player is past him or that he has missed his chance, he emerges with the ball leaving the attacker dumbfounded. I would go as far to say that he is the best standing tackler I think I have ever seen at Stoke. That might sound like an exaggeration, but I can’t remember seeing anyone else so effective in duels on the deck and all with a smile on his face and an assured swagger.

Marc Muniesa -- When Marc got the nod to start against Everton I was worried, and rightly so as the side was well-beaten all over the pitch. I came away from that game trying to take away the positives and thought that it was a harsh baptism of fire for the young Spaniard, though I harboured doubts at his ability to step into the first-team picture in the Premier League and hold his own.

To his credit he fared better against Cardiff while the side was on the front foot, but was found out on more than one occasion when attack turned to defence. I was of the opinion that Erik Pieters should have started at Hull such was Ahmed Elmohamady’s form on their right flank, and that worry was borne out as they relentlessly targeted Muniesa.

Every time Hull worked the ball forward it found its way out to their right side, more often than not in the air, and Muniesa was getting beaten time and again. Having lost his man at the far stick in the second half, manager Mark Hughes had seen enough and thankfully brought Pieters in.

The effect the Dutchman’s introduction had was immediate; I can’t remember Hull getting down that side for the remainder of the game. The problem was solved, the balance restored and from that moment the side could push forward safe in the knowledge that any attacks down that flank would be nullified. I’m not sure what the future holds for Muniesa, but I do know what it does for Pieters -- he’ll be starting at left back for the foreseeable future, as well he should be.

Marko Arnautovic -- Such was the lack of invention and flair under the Tony Pulis regime the Stoke fans could be forgiven for overstating the impact of mercurial Marko. When he arrived, it seemed to be a case of giving him the ball at every opportunity. While the flicks and tricks were a joy to watch, the side just weren’t scoring.

Since then Hughes has successfully started to mix the play up and as a result Arnautovic’s impact has been much less. In fact, at times it seems like he is an almost unnecessary luxury. That’s not to suggest there is no place for him -- far from it -- he is much more of a threat over on the left side and once he switched there he seemed to work harder for the team and look much happier.

It’s my thinking that the additions Hughes will hopefully make in January will see players arrive who are more on the wavelength of the likes of Arnautovic and he will go from strength to strength as a result.

An away point is an away point, so it’s difficult to be too disappointed. More important, the side seem to be putting in more consistent performances and this latest draw makes it just one defeat in eight games for the Potters.

I’m not sure many fans would have turned their noses up at four points from the last two games and with the window opening just around the corner I’d say, the transition under Hughes is well on track.

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