Stoke City have never fully recovered from the departure of holding midfielder Steven N’Zonzi.
The French international, who moved to Spanish side Sevilla in July 2013 for club record fee of £7 million, left a massive hole in The Potters midfield.
Despite impressive performances from new arrival Joe Allen in the centre of the park, the ex-Liverpool player fails in his attempts to turn defence into attack.
A flat Stoke, is an unwanted Stoke
Last season Leicester City thrived through the rigorous leg work of N’Golo Kante, who made more interceptions and tackles than any other player in England’s top division.
Kante who helped Leicester adopt their counter-attacking style ultimately engineered The Foxes successful charge to glory.
Like Leicester, at points last season, Stoke City thrived through quickly sprung attacks led by either Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri or Bojan Krkic. This form of football helped Mark Hughes’s side topple those deemed a stronger force than themselves. Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea were all nullified by their form.
Capoue would fill N’Zonzi’s shoes
This season the side have failed to fire on all cylinders, even with the added reinforcement of Manchester City striker Wilfred Bony, who has scored just two goals in nine games.
In truth, Mark Hughes needs to adopt the philosophy of ex-boss Tony Pulis who built his side on brute strength.
The Bet 365 Stadium was previously a fortress feared by all. It’s team of giants intimidated opponents forcing them to roll over and accept defeat prior to kick-off. Currently, it lacks such an eerie atmosphere.
Stoke have lost their mantel as 'the bullies in English football'
This Sunday Stoke may not be playing at home but the side must still offer more physicality within their play.
Watford host a though test for The Potters, and the form of holding midfielder Etienne Capoue is something for Hughes to ponder over. Many Stoke fans would love the French international to represent their side rather than oppose them this weekend.
The ex-Tottenham midfielder has recaptured the impressive form which saw him earn a nomination for Ligue 1’s ‘Young Player of the Year Award’ in 2013, while representing Toulouse.
Capoue, 28, outshines Stoke’s Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan. The 6ft 2’ midfielder would be an ideal candidate to line-up next to Joe Allen in the heart of midfield.
Who knows…he may be sporting a red and white shirt come this January transfer window.