STOKE City demonstrated at the Stadium of Light last week that there is more subtlety to their game these days than hit and hope.
The pace injected into their ranks by Mark Hughes during the summer has made the Potters a genuine threat on the counter-attack and they head to the Stadium of Light tomorrow unbeaten from their three away games so far this season.
But there is still that element of aerial weaponry in Stoke’s armoury.
Peter Crouch was a late substitute in the Capital One Cup victory on Wearside, yet the ex-England frontman remains Stoke’s first-choice frontman.
His match-winning header in Monday night’s victory over Newcastle United demonstrated the threat that Hughes’ side continue to pose from crosses.
And after speaking with his Republic of Ireland team-mates in the Stoke squad – Marc Wilson, Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters – Sunderland skipper John O’Shea has warned of Crouch’s integral role for the Potters.
O’Shea told the Echo: “Stoke can pass the ball as well.
“But definitely when they’ve got Crouch in their team – speaking to some of the Stoke lads who are away with Ireland – they seem to be a lot more cohesive.
“They seem to be able to link around him and read things a lot better, as you saw with Newcastle the other night.
“And with the goal he scored against QPR as well (last month’s 2-2 draw) he showed how he’s able to use his size to his advantage.
“You’re fully aware that if they get into crossing positions, we’ll have to keep an eye on him.”
The cup game between the two sides was a close-run affair, with Stoke’s superior ruthlessness in front of goal ultimately proving to be the difference.
And O’Shea expects a similarly even-balanced encounter this weekend, as Sunderland continue their search for a first Premier League victory of the campaign.
“The Premier League is tough as we all know and there’s very little between a lot of teams,” added the vastly-experienced centre-half.
“The game where we didn’t get anything from (QPR) was the one where we felt we should have at least got a point, with some of the chances we had.
“You have to make sure you’re doing the basics right.
“And generally if you keep on top of those, that bit of quality will come at the right time and you can take your chances.
“We’re ready to win some matches, but we have to maintain the basics.
“The attitude and the discipline that we had against Swansea was very good, but the composure at times could have been a little bit better in the final third.
“You want that intensity, but you also need that clinical edge or composure to hold the ball a second longer.”