Stoke went rather under the radar last season as they secured a second ninth place finish in a row. After a terrible start to the season, the Potters recovered with a number of solid defensive displays. One of the highlights of Stoke’s season was the emergence of Jack Butland as the club’s number one, with the Englishman keeping 10 clean sheets from his 31 games. Goals were the problem for Mark Hughes’ men though, as they scored less (41) than relegated Newcastle (44). Marko Arnautovic was the only player to reach double figures, whilst only 11 players scored for the Potters in all competitions last year. So far Hughes has not addressed his striker issue, but the Potters have been very heavily linked with West Brom’s Saido Berahino. Hughes has brought in Egyptian winger Ramadan Sobhi from Al Ahly and Welsh deep-lying playmaker Joe Allen to provide some extra creativity to his midfield. After having a season to adapt to the Premier League, you can expect Shaqiri, Afellay and Imbula to contribute more than the 7 goals and 9 assists that they provided last season. Stoke face a number of the weaker teams in the league in September and October, so expect the Potters to be in the hunt for the European places by Christmas.
Key Man: Ryan Shawcross. One of the main reasons for Stoke’s poor start to last season was Ryan Shawcross’ absence through injury. After the sale of Robert Huth, Shawcross’ physical presence has been key to Stoke’s success throughout their time in the Premier League, and his form last season led to some calls for an England recall. His no-nonsense style certainly suits Sam Allardyce’s style so a good season could revive the centre back’s international career.
One to Watch: Ryan Sweeney. The centre back signed for Stoke from AFC Wimbledon for around £250,000 and will be looking to get his chance in the Premier League. Sweeney made his Football League debut at the age of 17 and played ten times last season for the Dons. Sweeney is a physical presence despite his young age, and could see some first team action as he looks to be a long term successor to captain Ryan Shawcross.
Last Season: 9th