Stoke are on the verge of back-to-back top 10 finishes
By Alex McMahon
Stoke City have been Premier League regulars ever since their promotion to England’s top flight in 2008. They have rarely been troubled by relegation, and have built up a strong, hard-working unit of players that are more than capable of beating the best teams in the division. Their home form has been instrumental throughout their early years in the top flight, but they have started to pick up wins away from the Britannia Stadium on a regular basis in recent years.
We take a look at some of the reasons why Stoke are the perfect model for newly promoted clubs, and exactly why the Potters have managed to be so successful and avoid relegation back to the second tier of English football.
They have always had a ‘goalscorer’
In six of their seven seasons in the top flight, Stoke have had a striker that would guarantee 10 goals in the campaign. Although the Potters have struggled to score more than a goal a game on average, they have always had Peter Crouch, Kenwyne Jones or Jonathan Walters to ensure that they win the required amount of matches and avoid relegation.
This year, Mame Biram Diouf and Walters have both scored 10 in all competitions, while Crouch has found the net nine times. Furthermore, Stoke have failed to score just once in their last 10 Premier League matches – a necessity if you wish to win football matches. The table below shows the amount of goals Stoke have scored in each season.
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They were not afraid to move on from Tony Pulis
Although it was a difficult decision, the Stoke board of directors were right to sack Tony Pulis and install Mark Hughes as manager. Pulis did an excellent job of getting Stoke into the top flight and then helped to maintain their status as a Premier League club. However, the 57-year-old was struggling and could not take Stoke forward any further.
Former Manchester City manager Hughes has introduced an attractive brand of football, while guiding Stoke into the top half of the division – an impressive feat. More impressively, they are on target for back-to-back finishes in the top 10, and sit just one point behind eighth-placed Swansea City. The Stoke board gambled when they dismissed Tony Pulis, but they are now reaping the rewards of Hughes’ hard work and top flight experience. The table below shows Stoke’s previous finishing positions in the Premier League, and gives a projected finish of 9th this year.
A solid core is the key to success
Stoke have always had an exceptionally strong core group of players, and have built their foundations on a hard-working, physical midfield. The likes of Ryan Shawcross, Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters have all featured on a regular basis during Stoke’s latest spell in the top flight, while Asmir Begovic, Marc Wilson and Peter Crouch have also been instrumental figures in their success in recent years. These players are all willing workers, who have bought into Stoke City’s philosophy of hard-work and commitment.
However, Hughes has also stressed the importance of flair, and the Potters have recently been joined by ‘skilful’ footballers such as Diouf, former Barcelona forward Bojan Krcic and Austrian winger Marko Arnautovic – who have all added a hint of flair and sparkle to the Stoke attack. There is little doubt that Hughes has continued with the tough philosophy that was installed by Tony Pulis, but the 51-year-old has made his team a lot more attractive on the eye, and created a unit that can now counter-attack effectively too.
Stoke have been financially astute in the transfer window
Sensibly, they invested fairly heavily in the first couple of years after promotion – spending around £40 million on ‘proven’ top flight players. Stoke brought in the likes of Dave Kitson, James Beattie, Robert Huth and Abdoulaye Faye to help their bid to remain in England’s top division.
On the whole, the Potters have spent wisely and have refused to overpay for their targets – which is one of the most impressive things about their Premier League story. The club has always insisted that they receive excellent value for money, and Stoke have certainly had that with all of their big money purchases. They paid a club record fee of around £10 million for Peter Crouch – an absolute bargain when one considers his role in Stoke’s success in recent times.
Meanwhile, they also paid £4 million for Charlie Adam, £2.75 million for Jonathan Walters, £3.25 million for Asmir Begovic and Marko Arnautovic for just £2 million. These players have been key to Stoke’s successful era, and – although none are going to become world beaters and win the Ballon d’Or – they have certainly more than paid off their transfer fee at the Britannia Stadium.
Are Stoke City the ‘perfect model’ for newly promoted sides, or is there another club that teams should try to replicate? Let us know in the comments box!