After leaving Manchester City “embarrassed” at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, Jack Butland believes Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri finally announced his arrival in English football.
Mark Hughes was seen to have pulled off a huge coup when he landed the signature of former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan midfielder Shaqiri at the end of August, yet prior to this weekend there was little evidence of the form he had shown on the continent.
That all changed at lunchtime on Saturday, though, when Shaqiri was City’s tormentor-in-chief in the Potters’ 2-0 victory, laying on both goals for Marko Arnautovic in a man-of-the-match display.
Goalkeeper Butland never doubted Shaqiri would eventually come to the fore and was delighted to see him do it against the side who started the day as Barclays Premier League leaders.
“We’ve been waiting for him to really turn up and really show everybody what he’s about – he did that,” said the England international.
“Marko’s been brilliant, Bojan (Krkic) has been good but we’ve just been waiting for that spark of Shaqiri. He was really good.
“We knew it was there and it was going to take him some time to adjust to the Premier League but that was a really eye-opening performance and one that we knew he was capable of.”
The scoreline hardly reflected Stoke’s dominance and Manuel Pellegrini’s visitors were fortunate to escape a drubbing like the one they received against Liverpool as Butland’s rival Joe Hart experienced a far busier afternoon in the battle of the England keepers.
“I think they were probably quite embarrassed at the end,” Butland declared.
“We just played really well, even with the conditions, we still got the ball down and played some really, really good football and they actually couldn’t live with us.
“I’m really proud of the lads that they played that well – it’s been a while.”
Hughes’ selection drew parallels with the tactics Jurgen Klopp deployed in guiding Liverpool to their stunning 4-1 success over City a fortnight earlier, with Bojan Krkic fulfilling a similar centre-forward role to the one Roberto Firmino occupied.
And they were not the only team Stoke looked to emulate as they plotted the demise of Pellegrini’s men.
“Full credit to the management for changing things up, it’s slightly different to the way we performed before,” added Butland.
“The way we went, it worked, it caused problems. We haven’t worked on it much so it’s great credit to the lads who have taken it on board.
“We’ve looked at teams that have caused Manchester City trouble – Liverpool being one of them, Southampton to a certain extent, Tottenham. We took it on board and put in a very good performance.”