The start of the 2013-14 Premier League season brings some hope with it for Stoke City, but also anxiety. Having sacked Tony Pulis at the end of last season they now bring in Mark Hughes. For many fans they are hopeful of the changes he will bring as well as a move away from what many saw as “negative” football. It could become a case of be careful what you wish for.
Pulis may have played an overly defensive style, but it was enough to keep them up in the Premier League season after season. Mark Hughes had a decent EPL record with Blackburn and even with Fulham, but has also been sacked by Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers. Most Stoke fans are hoping that Mark Hughes can bring a more balanced strategy of play and bring them something a bit more exciting and attacking.
The problem with this is that they are still lacking in quality attacking options. Their strikers are decent enough with Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome, Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch, but last year they didn’t show all that much having scored the second least amount of goals in the season with 34. They did just sign Juan Agudelo who could give some competition for striking positions.
Defensively Mark Hughes is inheriting a strong back line; one that was sixth in goals allowed with 45. To go with Asmir Begovic they also have picked up the young goal keeper Jack Butland and have veteran Thomas Sorensen available as a backup.
For defenders they still have Robert Huth, Ryan Shawcross, Ryan Shotton, and Geoff Cameron and have also added Marc Muniesa and Erik Pieters. They should be a strong defensive team yet again, perhaps even more so than last year.
In the midfield they do have some decent players and this season could be the time for Charlie Adam to really step up and control the midfield. Stoke also has other returning players including Wilson Palacios, Glenn Whelan, and Jermaine Pennant.
My prediction for Stoke is another difficult season. I think they will continue to struggle to score goals, which comes as much from a lack of attacking quality in midfield as it does from a lack of quality strikers. I’m predicting that they will survive another season, but still get caught in the bottom half of the table. There is also a good chance that they get sent down. This team is largely unchanged from last year when they were almost relegated, and they have a new manager coming in who may not be able to turn it around enough to make a difference.