Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has vowed to redress his side’s defensive shortcomings immediately in the wake of their 4-1 Premier League defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace.
The visitors found themselves 2-0 down within the opening 11 minutes as Palace defenders James Tomkins and Scott Dann both found the net from set-pieces.
And two further goals in the space of four second-half minutes completed a miserable afternoon for Hughes’ side, for whom Marko Arnautovic mustered a stoppage-time consolation effort.
Stoke have now shipped 50 goals in 2016, eight more than any other Premier League side and have conceded four times in six of their last 11 league games, much to Hughes’ frustration.
“Clearly the start didn’t help our situation,” he said. “It’s been happening almost every game we play; we’ve had to chase games and then we become too open and teams capitalise on that.
“We need to do the fundamentals to give ourselves a platform to get results again, but we’re not giving ourselves that chance.
“It’s key that we stay in games and be ready to affect the game in the right manner. At the moment we’re just chasing games. We’ve got to stop shipping goals, clearly. It’s not like us.
“We’re not the sort of team that allows other sides four-goal head starts.”
Stoke have picked up just one point from their opening five games, conceding 14 times in the process and Hughes has been taken aback by his team’s poor start.
“This isn’t the start we expected,” he said. “We’ve got a similar group, no huge changes and it’s a case of making sure that what we’re doing in terms of a game plan is at a better level.
“We’re struggling to impact games in the way we’re capable of. Our talent has to come through and we have to align it with good work. There is more concern than last season because we’re shipping too many goals.
“We need to address that very, very quickly. Palace have great delivery and good targets, so ideally you don’t want to have to defend those balls. We gave cheap free-kicks away and we’re not dealing particularly well with those balls into the box.”
The Welshman did insist, however, that his squad are well capable of hauling themselves off the foot of the Premier League table.
“We’ve got two games this week, so there are opportunities to get back on track,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of poor performances which we’re not happy about, but the dressing room has good talent.
“[Xherdan] Shakiri is possibly joining training next week, we’re hopeful of that. Glen Johnson got 90 minutes, so we’re trying to build his levels. We haven’t had a settled back four, so that’s something I have to nail down and stick with.
“That’s something we’ll have to do in the next few weeks.”