Manchester City put four goals past Mark Hughes’ Stoke for the third time in the sides’ last four meetings in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off, to highlight similarities between the Potters’ trajectory under the Welshman and that of Everton under Roberto Martinez.
Hughes was tasked with adding artistry to the hard-to-play-against defensive chops instilled by predecessor Tony Pulis when he arrived at the Britannia Stadium, just as the Spaniard was when assuming control of the Toffees following David Moyes’ departure for Manchester United.
Martinez initially seemed to find success on such terms at Goodison when very nearly guiding the Merseysiders to fourth place in his first season at the club, playing more expansive, possession-based football whilst still boasting the Premier League’s third-best rearguard.
Likewise, Hughes has led the Potters to three successive top-half finishes (an altitude that always eluded them under Pulis) whilst updating their agricultural attack with more enlightened operatives.
However, in time, focusing on improving Everton’s playing style with the ball at their feet began to come at the cost of maintaining the formerly-relied-upon defensive understanding until eventually the Spaniard paid the price for the Toffees’ occasionally farcical lack of organisation last season with his job.
Stoke’s latest thrashing at the hands of City suggests Hughes’ reign in Staffordshire may be panning out in similar fashion as he struggles with same act of alchemy that did for Martinez.
Despite finishing ninth for the third successive campaign last term, the Potters shipped 55 goals, the worst concessions total in any of their Premier League seasons.
Meanwhile, only Aston Villa gave up more goals in the division between the first match of 2016 and the end of the 2015/16 campaign.
Focusing on stopping the rot when it comes to Stoke’s slow defensive disintegration is a must if Hughes is to avoid the fate that befell the Spaniard.