Jon Walters, Stoke a step behind throughout in predictable setback at Leicester
Another game on the road and another predictable loss for Stoke, who added to their long list of poor performances with a 2-0 defeat to resurgent Leicester. The writing was on the wall soon after kickoff with the Potters second to everything and a yard behind their hosts all over the pitch; who duly took advantage.
The opening goal was perhaps overdue and came because of a succession of individual errors that conspired to tee up Wilfred Ndidi for a goal-of-the-season contender, with more comical defending later gifting Jamie Vardy his side's second. Peter Crouch was the man Mark Hughes turned to on the bench, but his inability to convert three gilt-edged chances meant that his side left the King Power Stadium with nothing.
Other than the final whistle, it's a struggle to find anything to be encouraged by amid another clueless showing from manager and players alike.
The side were well-beaten from back to front in a game that further highlighted just how immobile the current group are. The defensive line dropped deep to try and combat the pace of Vardy but the midfield didn't follow suit, which led to a gaping chasm between them; which the Foxes happily exploited.
Manager rating out of 10
3 -- In facing Leicester, Mark Hughes should have known exactly what threat was going to be faced and set up accordingly, but the apparent lack of game plan was frightening. He continues to shoehorn Saido Berahino into a shape (4-4-2) that is fundamentally flawed because of the limited ability of those players at his disposal. The sight of Crouch and Charlie Adam coming on to rescue things sums up the mess he currently finds himself in.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lee Grant, 8 -- Kept the scoreline respectable with several important, albeit largely routine, saves.
DF Glen Johnson, 4 -- All too easily bypassed by the opposition who skipped around his floundering attempts to win possession unopposed. At fault for the second goal with a complete lack of awareness of Vardy's close-attendance.
DF Ryan Shawcross, 7 -- Exposed by the absence of Geoff Cameron in front of him and struggled with the pace and movement of Vardy. Was kept busy and topped the clearance charts with a mammoth 14.
DF Bruno Martins Indi, 6 -- Tried his best but a lack of agility, not to mention support from his left-back, hampered his efforts to keep up with the pace and trickery of the hosts' front line.
DF Erik Pieters, 4 -- Another poor showing from the Dutchman who looked eager to hand opportunities to the opposition with several tepid, failed clearances.
MF Marko Arnautovic, 7 -- As the only real goal threat in the side he carried the weight of expectation throughout, but the manager's tactics coupled with being stuck out on the right meant he struggled. Having timed his run perfectly, was unsurprisingly frustrated to have a goal wrongly disallowed for offside.
MF Joe Allen, 6 -- Found himself the only player trying to cover the huge spaces between midfield and defence and attack which led to an afternoon chasing shadows. Lost more tackles than he won.
MF Glenn Whelan, 5 -- As one of the least mobile players in the side, he looked exposed against a fast-paced Foxes side and was subsequently hampered by his booking for pulling back Demarai Gray. It was his poor clearance that led to the opener.
MF Ramadan Sobhi, 7 -- Saw plenty of the ball in both defence and attack and was much better with his decision-making. That said, he struggled to get past the opposition and in fact found more favour with a couple of decent through-balls.
FW Saido Berahino, 5 -- Showed a good touch but is being hung out to dry by the manager's tactics which, in no way play to his strengths. Thus, he found himself starved of service and unable to meaningfully contribute..again.
FW Jon Walters, 4 -- Apart from a solitary decent pass did little to impact the game in a positive way all afternoon. Much like his strike partner, he is struggling to both create and finish in the absence of a link-man from midfield.
MF Charlie Adam, 5 -- Was always calling for possession but his end-product was poor with a plethora of failed deliveries.
FW Mame Diouf, 7 -- Showed a good touch in the middle and played two inch-perfect balls, both of which should have been assists but for one being missed by Crouch and the other flagged for being ruled "offside" on Arnautovic.
FW Peter Crouch, 7 -- Frustratingly missed three chances that on another day he would have buried but was at least in the right area to miss them in the first place.
James Whittaker is ESPN FC's Stoke blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @northstokie