After a slow start to life at the Britannia Stadium, Mark Hughes guided Stoke City to ninth position in the Premier League with 50 points – their best finish since the 1974/75 season – before finishing in ninth again last year, but with an extra four points compared to the year before.
Hughes’ first two seasons in charge since succeeding Tony Pulis has already seen the Potters’ style of play become a lot more easy on the eye, with a more possession-based game replacing the physicality that has been synonymous with Stoke in recent years.
Strong showings in the last two seasons suggest that Stoke should have no fears of relegation and instead will be more concerned with proceedings in the top half of the table once again. Online Bookmakers give Stoke an outside chance of qualifying for European football, with the FA Cup and Capital One Cup deemed the club’s most likely chances of winning any silverware.
Stoke splashed the cash in the summer transfer window, landing Spanish forward Joselu from Hannover for £5.75m. Philipp Wollscheid has also made the permanent switch to the Britannia from the Bundesliga, with the former Bayer Leverkusen defender also being joined by Danish goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard from FC Midtylland.
But the biggest deal of all was Stoke’s capture of Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter for £12m and the Swiss midfielder is sure to have fans at the Brittania Stadium on their feet over the coming season.
Stoke City Summer Transfers
Players In (club from):
Joselu (Hannover 96)
Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen)
Jakob Haugaard (FC Midtjylland)
Shay Given (Aston Villa)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona)
Sergio Molina (Real Madrid)
Xherdan Shaqiri (Inter)
Players Out (club to):
Robert Huth (Leicester)
Alex Grant (Perth Glory)
Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla)
Asmir Begovi? (Chelsea)
Towering striker Peter Crouch and midfielder Jonathan Walters have been burdoned with goalscoring responsiblities for the last few seasons, but the arrival of Mame Biram Diouf from Hannover 96 helped ease the burden – as he topped the Stoke goalscoring charts in his first season with the club.
Despite a number of players contibuting to the overall tally from midfield, only Diouf managed to get into double figures in the Premier League and Potters fans will be hoping that some of the other squad members can improve the club’s fortunes in front of goal this time round.
Stoke Top Scorers In 2014/15 (All Comps)
Mame Biram Diouf – 12
Jonathan Walters – 11
Peter Crouch – 10
Charlie Adam – 7
Marko Arnautovi? – 5
Bojan Krkic – 5
Victor Moses – 4
Steven N’Zonzi – 4
Aside from Stoke’s strong finish to the season, they also reached the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, where a surprising 4-1 loss put Championship side Blackburn Rovers through at their expense. Meanwhile, a decent run in the League Cup saw them make it as far as the Fourth Round, but Southampton proved too strong in the end and ran out 2-3 winners at the Britannia.
A challenge for European football this season is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility for Stoke – especially if they can pick up where they left off last season – and it will be interesting to see how far they can go in the cup competitions, if they can learn the lessons of last season.