Tactically speaking - Stoke City

Tactically speaking - Stoke City

West Ham United travel to Stoke City on Saturday looking for a fourth consecutive Barclays Premier League victory for the second time in 2014.

However, while the Hammers' run of wins in February helped drag them clear of the relegation battle, this time around Sam Allardyce's side are looking to cement their place among the early pace-setters.

West Ham go into the game fourth in the table, while hosts Stoke go in having lost three of their last four matches in all competitions - including a home Capital One Cup exit at the hands of Southampton on Wednesday night.

West Ham United

West Ham United have teamed up with football statistics website WhoScored.com to take a detailed look at Saturday's Barclays Premier League trip to Stoke City.

The Hammers are currently on a great run of form, winning four of their last five league matches. Saturday's 2-1 victory over champions Manchester City will have sent confidence sky high and Sam Allardyce's side must take this form to the Britannia Stadium when they meet the Potters at the weekend.

Summer arrival may again have a big role to play in what will undoubtedly be a tough encounter. The Frenchman has forced his way into Allardyce's starting XI and has rewarded the faith shown in him with a series of assured performances in the middle of the park in the Hammers boss's now favoured 4-3-1-2 formation.

Amalfitano netted the opener against City to make it two league goals for the season, his first coming in the memorable 3-1 victory over Liverpool back in September. A repeat performance will go a long way to helping West Ham consolidate their place in the top-four against a Stoke outfit that has underwhelmed at home this term.

Mark Hughes' side have picked up six points from a possible 12 on home soil this season and with West Ham losing just one of their opening four away games this term, it should make for an entertaining encounter at the Britannia. The Hammers have lost only four of the four league games Amalfitano has started this season, winning each of the last three.

His ability when in possession offers a different dimension to the West Ham attack, with the former Marseille star driving at the opposition defence from deep in the midfield third. Should he then get to the byline, the 29-year-old has the quality to deliver a potentially devastating ball into the box. Amalfitano has completed 79 per cent of his passes in six appearances,

As a result, Amalfitano has developed a statistically calculated
WhoScored.com strength of 'crossing', which could benefit his attacking team-mates.

If Amalfitano can churn out a similar display to the one from the victory over City, West Ham have a great chance of securing all three points when they travel to the Britannia on Saturday.

*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.

Stoke City

Possible starting XI


Cameron  Shawcross  Wilson  Pieters

N'Zonzi  Adam

Walters  Bojan  Moses



It is likely to be a clash of two 4-2-3-1 formations if Stoke City stick to the system that they have used in eight of their nine Barclays Premier League matches this season.

The solid shape is one that Sam Allardyce has also favoured away from home, while Mark Hughes has clearly opted for the same formation as his preferred weapon of choice.

A flat back four will play behind two deep-lying, but not ostensibly defensive midfielders. In front of them, a slightly narrow band of three attacking midfielders will support one centre forward.

In their most-recent home league match against Swansea City, Hughes' players struggled to gain possession in a 4-2-3-1 shape, leading to a change to a 4-1-4-1 formation in the second half. The switch worked as Stoke won 2-1.

Playing style

Stoke fans must be sick and tired of reading that their team 'play more football' than they did under Hughes' predecessor Tony Pulis, but it is true!

While the talismanic figure of Peter Crouch - suspended this weekend after a midweek red card against Southampton - encourages the Potters to hit long balls towards the front man, Stoke do try to pass the ball more than they did under Pulis. That said, Stoke have won far more aerial battles than any other top-flight club this season - 27.1 per game on average, when the second highest is the 21.8 per game won by Burnley.

Stoke have completed 80 per cent of their passes and enjoyed 50 per cent of possession so far this season - numbers far in excess of those achieved under Pulis. That more possession-based game has resulted in more than 13 shots on goal per game - but only eight goals in nine league games.

Style-wise, the Potters play an aggressive game with and without the ball. When they don't have the ball, Stoke press and harry their opponents and are never afraid to put in a tackle - their average of 21.8 tackles per game is the third-highest in the Barclays Premier League, while their 13.2 fouls per game is second only to Crystal Palace.


Stoke will definitely be without Crouch on Saturday, which is likely to facilitate a slight change in approach from manager Hughes.

Without his main striker, the Welshman could move hard-working Republic of Ireland international Jonathan Walters or Senegal man Mame Biram Diouf into the centre forward role.

Behind one of them, left winger Victor Moses should keep his place as he leads the team with three assists to his name, with Diouf likely to be on the right flank ahead of Moroccan Oussama Assaidi. Former right-back Geoff Cameron has moved into a central midfield role in recent weeks, but he is expected to replace the suspended Phil Bardsley in defence. Flamboyant Irishman Stephen Ireland, the enigmatic Austrian Marko Arnautovic or former Barcelona youngster Bojan will likely start.

One player who definitely will not feature is Nigerian Peter Odemwingie, who managed two goals in the 3-1 home win over West Ham in this fixture last season. The 33-year-old is out with a serious knee injury.

The two deep-lying midfield positions are almost certain to be filled by the strong, combative Steven N'Zonzi, whose battle with Cheikhou Kouyate and Alex Song could be a highlight of Saturday's game, and creative Scot Charlie Adam. Irishman Glenn Whelan is injured.

N'Zonzi is a driving force for Stoke, making more passes per game (54.4) than any other Potters player, while he is never afraid to carry the ball forward with pace and purpose.

Stoke's back four has been settled. with right-back Bardsley and centre-backs Ryan Shawcross and Marc Wilson starting all nine league games played so far, while left-back Eric Pieters has started seven. All four are determined characters who will never shirk the physical challenge, but a recent penalty awarded against Shawcross for holding his opponent at a corner could alter their approach somewhat. The full-backs, even with Cameron replacing Bardsley, offer the ability to get forward and support the attack when the opportunity arises.

In goal, Asmir Begovic is also ever-present. The Bosnia-Herzegovina star is one of the Barclays Premier League's top goalkeepers. He is agile, quick off his line, commands his penalty area well and distributes the ball accurately.