2016/17 Stoke City Season Preview
Last Year’s Position: 9th
Current Manager: Mark Hughes
Positives From Last Season
For a third consecutive season, Stoke City finished in ninth place. The Potters had a much better first half of the season than the latter half, with the club taking 29 points in their opening 19 matches. Wins over Manchester United and Manchester City in December were two notable results during the middle part of the season.
Marko Arnautovic had a stellar season in midfield, as he led the club’s goalscoring chart with 11 goals in 33 appearances. Bojan also had a solid campaign with seven goals.
Goalkeeper Jack Butland had a stellar season between the sticks, producing some spectacular saves. The 23-year-old is one of the up-and-coming goalkeepers to watch this season in the Premier League.
Weaknesses From Last Season
Stoke City started and ended the season in poor form. They found themselves in the bottom half of the table in the first few weeks of the season with only three points; it took until their seventh game, a 2-1 victory against Bournemouth, for the Potters to record a win.
In the final six matches matches of the season they lost four of six: it was a disappointing end to what looked like a promising season.
Another weakness was goalscoring. The Potters only had one player produce ten or more goals, and centre-forwards Mame Diouf and Jonathan Walters were only able to contribute five goals each during the season. They were also shutout in 10 matches last season, which included three consecutive 3-0 defeats at one point in the campaign.
The back line was suspect in many matches, with a total of 55 goals conceded during the season. Discipline was also an issue at times. Erik Pieters had a total of 11 yellow cards last season, which was the second most in the Premier League. The loss of captain Ryan Shawcross was another major blow to the club’s defensive unit.
It hasn’t been a notable summer for Stoke City. The club only had one major signing in Joe Allen, who cost the club a transfer fee of £13 million. Allen spent most of his summer with Wales, as the midfielder was a part of his country’s incredible run to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. He scored two goals for Liverpool last season and should be a solid addition to the club.
Their pre-season matches haven’t shown anything that impresses at first glance. In the most recent friendly they fell to Hamburg SV by a final score of 1-0.
Players to Watch
The Swiss midfielder did not live up to the transfer fee he was acquired for last season. A solid appearance at Euro 2016 has fans excited once again. If he can find good form this season, then he can truly show why he was brought into the squad.
Diouf had a hard time finding the back of the net in last year’s campaign, and he will certainly want to improve his goalscoring record this time around. Stoke will need their strikers to produce this year, and the Senegalese striker has the ability to become a lethal threat.
Arnautovic was arguably Stoke City’s best player last season. After a disappointing performance at the Euros with Austria, he will most certainly be looking to start off on the right note in the Premier League. He will once again provide a large presence in the midfield that is so crucial to this clubs play.
Key Matches This Season
Stoke City’s toughest stretch of the season, on paper, is the three final matches of 2016, in which they face Leicester City, Liverpool, and Chelsea. Last year the Potters had a horrible three-game losing streak in the middle of the season. If they want to improve on last year’s finish, they will need to take away points from at least one of these three matches.
For the most part they have a fairly balanced schedule in terms of the distribution of the quality of opponents. In the opening ten matches of the season, their toughest competition will be Manchester City, Tottenham, and Manchester United. The rest are all matches that they can take points from. A strong start to this season may be paramount in the club’s success.