Season Preview: #14 Stoke

The Potters enter their fifth season in the top flight, having finished 14th – the lowest of the Premier League tenure, albeit, they have been consistent with their points tally in each season: 45, 46, 47, and 45. Last season, however, was different for Stoke as they played in their Europa League, their first foray in Europe since 1975 – it did add 12 extra games onto their season, but they managed to make it through the group stages and reach the round of 32 where they were knocked out by Valencia.

Tony Pulis has now been in charge nigh on six years, making him one of the Premier League’s longest-serving managers behind Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and David Moyes. Under Pulis, Stoke have enjoyed some of their best years in the club’s history – they’ve never been in danger of relegation from the top flight, reached an FA Cup final and finishing runners-up, then last season’s European adventure. This season, Stoke will celebrate the club’s 150th anniversary since their foundation.

When it comes to the transfer market, the Potters are usually pretty canny, but they have been rather quiet this summer, that is not to say that Tony Pulis won’t pop up and pull some deals out of the bag before transfer deadline day. Salif Diao, Jonathan Woodgate and Danny Collins have all been given free transfers. Arriving at the Britannia is the highly rated midfielder, Jamie Ness, while Michael Kighty and Geoff Cameron have signed from Wolves and Hueston Dynamo respectively. Defender Goran Popov has also joined on loan from Dynamo Kiev. The Potters have recently been linked with a move for Michael Owen who is without a club, but no contract has been offered to the former Manchester United striker yet.

Last season, Stoke were one of the lowest scorers in the Premier League scoring just 36 goals in 38 games – pitiful return of less than a goal a game. 10 of these goals came from one individual, Peter Crouch, the next highest was Jon Walters with seven and then Cameron Jerome with four. If the Potters were to address one it area in their squad, they could certainly do with an extra man up front of poacher type player.

The Potters continue to court criticism for the style of football that they play, but ultimately it falls on deaf ears as long as Pulis and co remain in the Premier League. In the season ahead, Stoke will be without the distraction of European football leaving them to focus on finishing as high up the league table as possible; maybe even a run in one of the cups is possible also.

Opening five fixtures: Reading (A), Arsenal (H), Wigan (A), Manchester City (H) and Chelsea (A)

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