Premier League Preview: Stoke City
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on August 8, 2016
The new Premier League season looms over us and many will agree that it will be one of the most unpredictable seasons to date, with all teams setting specific goals for themselves. I will be reviewing where the Stoke City team is at the moment and what I am expecting them to achieve in the season.
1. Transfers and signings
As of writing, Stoke have added three new players to bolster their squad for the upcoming season. The first signing was Ramadan Sobhi from Al Ahly, costing £5million. He is an explosive winger who will challenge Shaqiri and Arnautovic for the first team places. In the same day, fans of the Potters were thrilled as the club announced the second signing of the transfer window- Joe Allen. Allen signed from Liverpool for a fee rumoured to be in the region of £13million. Allen will add to the talented midfield Stoke already have, linking up with players such as Afellay and Imbula. Only time will tell if he fits into the squad, however, if his performances for Stoke match the performances he produced in the Euro 16 tournament, Stoke fans will be in for a treat. The third signing probably won’t affect the first team, but 19 year old Ryan Sweeney signed for the Potters for an undisclosed fee. A strong youngster with lots of potential, Stoke warded off interest from Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United to secure the services of him.
In terms of players leaving the club, Stoke have been successful in that area. They have not lost any of their players yet. Marko Arnautovic, the club’s top scorer last season was strongly linked with a move to Everton but quashed rumours as he signed a new deal with Stoke.
2. Key players
A player who I think will have a real impact in the upcoming season for Stoke is Jack Butland. After a stellar campaign for Stoke in which he earned himself an England call up, his season was cut short after suffering an injury while playing for England. This season he will be looking to build on his magnificent performances from last year, which earned him Stoke’s player of the season award.
Another player that can make an impact this season is Gianelli Imbula. He has impressed since joining in January, also showing that he can shoot as well, with a mean left foot on him. Even though he is a strong, defensive player, he is certainly not slow by any means, he could play as a Yaya Toure type in the heart of the midfield.
Finally, the last player that you should be looking out for during this season, is the new boy, Joe Allen. The Welsh maestro was criminally underplayed by Liverpool last season and his performances at the Euros showed everyone just what he is capable of. If he performs like that in the BPL, Stoke fans will be in for a treat.
The Manager- Mark Hughes is an incredible manager for Stoke, he has transformed them from a team known for booting long balls up the pitch to a team that can play and manage possession well, instead of punting any loose ball forward in the hope that it doesn’t go out for a goal kick. Hughes has the support from the chairman and is also renowned for being a calm, steady manager, not controversial like others in the BPL.
The Chairman- Peter Coates has done a marvellous job as the chairman of Stoke, he has shown that he is not afraid to splash the cash, breaking the transfer record twice last season, but he has also tried to be efficient with money as well. He is a very quiet chairman, not outspoken and he wants the club to succeed as much as the fans do, which makes him very popular. Coates also fully backs Mark Hughes to lead the club in the right direction.
Premier League experience- Stoke, since coming into the Premier League in 2008, have never been relegated and have achieved midtable/top half of table finishes each time. Players such as Glenn Whelan and Ryan Shawcross have stayed at Stoke since promotion, so they are very experienced and will be able to tell new players how the BPL works and the types of different players.
Lack of a striker- One thing that has always eluded Stoke City is the acquisition of a good striker, one that can get them 15 or more goals in a season. The lack of firepower up front meant that we finished the 15/16 BPL season with only 40 goals, which was the 5th worst in the league. Currently linked with Berahino, Stoke will hopefully find the funds for a proven goalscorer. If they do, their strikeforce will be extremely powerful, with the wingers able to feed balls to the striker.
Injuries- Injuries were a huge factor in our less than impressive ending to the season, in which we saw many of our key players such as Glen Johnson, Afellay and Butland all out at the same time, which exposed our lack of defenders and thus, we even had to resort to playing Mame Biram Diouf at right back after Phil Bardsley was sent off during the League cup 4th round. If Hughes can keep the squad injury free and if luck is on our side, we could be in for a successful campaign.
Consistency- Stoke are very inconsistent in their results, take the transition from 2015 to 2016 as an example. After being defeated by Crystal Palace beforehand, the Potters triumphed in wins against Manchester United and Everton, two very well established sides. After these two wins however, we slipped to defeat against West Bromwich Albion but turned it around to win against Norwich. The lack of form and consistency blighted us during this campaign as we performed stupendously in one match, only to crash out with a whimper in our next. Hughes must make sure that he rides the wave of momentum that his team has to produce the best results possible.
In my opinion, for this year, Stoke will come 8th. The reason I think this is that we have boosted our squad with the signing of Joe Allen, who looks to be a very exciting player, along with Ramadan Sobhi. If Hughes focuses on making sure the team work on their weaknesses (Goals scored, carrying momentum forward etc”) then I don’t see why we can’t push forward higher into the league and if players such as Shaqiri and Bojan hit top form, we might even be able to sneak into a Europa League spot. However, a striker is key to the goal and if Hughes doesn’t improve on his current strikeforce, then we may be in a spot of bother.