Tony Pulis’s Stoke can now be considered as a fully fledged member of the Premier League after consolidating their place in the league over the past two season – in their first season after promotion to the top flight the Potters finished 12th and last season, somewhat surprisingly, given how competitive the league was, they managed to go one better by finishing 11th, which was another very respectable finish for the Potters. Although, chances are that this season they will probably regress under Pulis for the first time.
“It’s really like taking a new girlfriend out – for the first couple of times it is so fresh, but then over a period of time that fades. I’m not saying you don’t still love her but it does die down a little bit.” Those were the words of the Stoke manager as he compared his sides second season of Premier League football to the first. The fans, however, might disagree with him as research has found, they are among the loudest in the Premier League at 101.8dB, meaning they have not lost the love of the league, not yet anyway.
There was meant to be a flurry of activity taking place at the Britannia Stadium on Thursday and yesterday, Friday, with Loic Remy being reported as having a medical but to no avail. Other targets include Kevin Prince Boateng, Jon Walters, Kenwyne Jones and Mark Noble, but none of those names have signed for the Potters just yet – the main thing is, there is money in the bank to be spent, and so, signings before the season begins cannot be ruled out. Ibrahima Sonko, Diego Arismendi and Louis Moult have been all loaned out to Portsmouth, Barnsley and Bradford respectively – while, Amdy Faye, Andy Griffen and Steven Simonson have departed permanently.
Ahead of the new season, Stoke City still lacks a proven goalscorer or more to the point, scorers in general. Last season, the Potters finished the season as joint second lowest goalscorers – with Hull and Portsmouth who were both relegated – in the Premier League with 34 goals scored – managing a paltry ten of those away from home. Luckily for them, they managed to racked up considerably more points than the two sides who dropped down to the Championship.
If we delve deeper in Stoke’s (11th) form last season we see that in their 11 victories – seven at home and four away – nine of those wins came against sides that finished below them in the table, bar two – those were the victories which came against Spurs (5th) and Blackburn (10th). It is a worrying statistic, but as the saying goes in football – a win is a win – also, being realistic for a moment, are Stoke expected to be beating your Liverpool’s, Manchester United’s, Manchester City’s, Arsenal’s and Chelsea’s week in, week out? The answer is no.
However, they did give a great account of themselves in last season’s FA Cup where they reached the quarter-finals for the very first time since 1971 – beating York City in third round before dispatching with Arsenal and Manchester City in the fourth and fifth rounds respectively. Sadly, the Potters were beaten by eventual winners Chelsea in the quarter-finals.
If Stoke do manage to go one better and finish tenth this season, then it will be a great achievement, but as stated in previous previews the Potters fall into the bracket of teams who will be battling it out in that mid-table area. Tony Pulis will need to make a couple of more signings before the season begins – a good run in both of the cups and finishing as high up the table as possible and the fans will be happy. Certainly, Stoke don’t really strike me as a team who will struggle this season.