Stoke are going backwards. They’ve previously been lauded for the acquisition of five Champions League winners: Muniesa, Bojan, Affelay, Shaqiri and Arnautovic – but realistically none of them played a big role in their former club’s glory. Former Barca men Bojan and Affelay now can’t even get a game for Stoke.
Third round cup exits to Wolves and Hull were unimpressive, and given their lack of European football you’d imagine they would have prioritised those competitions.
The numbers behind Stoke’s campaign are damning. They accrued the second least points in their nine year Premier League stay and their joint second lowest finish. They only won 11 games and conceded more than they ever have in the current top flight. For a side that pride themselves on being hard to break down that must be hard to swallow.
Productivity was all over the place. Peter Crouch top scored for the first time since the 2013-14 season with 7 after not scoring last time around. Arnautovic almost halved his output while Joe Allen had his best goalscoring season ever, increasing his total Premiership tally by 150%. Interestingly they scored the most own goals and benefited from the second most scored by other teams, meaning their games saw more own goals than anyone else’s.
The aim must be to finish in the top half again, a task which is getting harder and harder. Three successive 9th place finishes is impressive but slipping five places shows how difficult this league is becoming. A stronger showing in the cups would please the fans too. In order to achieve this they need to either significantly strengthen or start getting the best out of their current crop.
Butland will be like a new signing but they need to strengthen in defence and have been touted to make a permanent move for Martins Indi. Kurt Zouma could also join on loan. Englishmen Gibson and Delph have been linked but would probably prefer a move to a bigger club.
Despite losing Arnautovic to West Ham, Walters to Burnley, Bony returning to City and Crouch being 36 they don’t seem to be linked with any attacking players. It wouldn’t surprise me if they tried to get Snodgrass as part of the deal with West Ham or moved for Negredo.