Football News: Stoke City Season Review

 

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Stoke City Season Review
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Stoke City Season Review

After finishing in 9th over the last few seasons, Stoke took a step back in the 2016/17 season, finishing 13th. Mark Hughes has been in charge for a while and is still struggling to convert the style of play from the one that was left behind by Tony Pulis. Despite spending large sums each season, bringing in the players he wants, still the team is built around those left behind by Pulis and still the team gets its best results when it reverts to the more direct play it was once famous for.

6 (six) times Stoke were beaten in a match and conceded 4 goals during it. That suggests something of a problem, a real attitude problem, as they fold very easily when things are not going their way. While some teams, such as Burnley, keep going when things go against them, the Potters under Hughes just get nasty and start lashing out. There is no togetherness, no working together to try and resurrect things, just individuals getting spiteful and kicking anything that moves.

This has been a problem everywhere Hughes has been, this lack of a team pulling together and all pulling in the same direction. That has been what caused his downfall in other jobs, the way when things turned against him, his whole squad failed to stand with him. In previous jobs, players complained that Hughes and his coaching staff would travel to games, eat etc separately from the players. This led there to be a real separation between the two groups, which showed at times of adversity when he would talk of them all being in it together. Is that still the issue?



Mark Hughes

It is difficult to see what Hughes is bringing to the job, in terms of forward momentum. Has he moved the club forward? No, not at all. Last season, in fact, he took the club backwards. Even the style of play shows little to no improvement over the way things were before Hughes. To my mind, he is very lucky that the Coates family show patience, as most other clubs would have looked to change things after last season.

Marks out of 10: -2


Jack Butland

A few years ago Butland was the top young English goalkeeping talent, with little real competition, in terms of media perception, for the role of next long term England keeper. His star was so high that Asmir Begovic was sold to Chelsea to make room for him to take the number one shirt at the Potters. Since then, injuries have held back his promising career badly. Last season alone, Butland was only able to play in the final 5 Premier League matches due to a knee injury. It does not matter how good he is if he is unable to stay fit.

Marks out of 10: 0


Shay Given

When Given joined Stoke on a free from Aston Villa, he did not expect to do any more than use his time as a step into a coaching career, like so many other veteran keepers who sign for Premier League clubs as a 3rd choice. Last season Given had a chance to be so much more, with Butland's injury handing him the starting spot as the season opened. Unfortunately Stoke were unable to pick up a league win with him in goal, in fact they lost four in a row of the five Premier League games he started, conceding 4 goals in 3 of those matches. It was no surprise that he was replaced.

At one time Given was highly rated because of his shot stopping prowess, but age has dimmed his agility and speed, while he has still not learnt how to organise a defence. That has left him as a shadow of the keeper he once was. Where a keeper like Shilton was able to perform to a high level, even in his late 30s, due to being excellent at organising his defence in front of him, Given has never had that ability, so his career was fading out in his early 30s.

Marks out of 10: -5


Lee Grant

Due to Given's struggles, Grant was recruited from Derby County bench in a last gasp transfer deadline day move on loan for the season. His form was, surprisingly, good and it led to Stoke converting the loan to a permanent deal in January. However, despite drawing plaudits for his performances, Grant ended up back to benchwarming when Butland returned to fitness.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Bruno Martins Indi

The Dutch defender joined on a season long loan from FC Porto and was an ever present all season long. He performed well enough to convince the Potters to attempt to sign him permanently this summer, though a deal has yet to be agreed. Indi provided some pace to an otherwise slow backline, but struggles with his positioning.

Marks out of 10: 5


Ryan Shawcross

Club captain Shawcross has been the mainstay of the Potters defence for a fair few years now, holding on to his place (and the shirt of any opposition player within reach) for a few years now. Despite Hughes' attempts to change the style of football, he has stuck with Shawcross, who is the epitome of a Pulis-style physicality over ability. There are signs his legs are going and that he is getting slower, however that is not an issue for him as he has always looked to drop deep and grapple with opponents to stop them using their pace against him. It is an issue for the team, as it is forcing them to play a different style from the one Hughes is aiming at.

Soon a decision must be made over whether to stick with an ageing Shawcross or make the change and be able to play a more expansive style. He will never be good enough on the ball to fit comfortably into the way the team is looking to play.

Marks out of 10: 5


Philipp Wollscheid

The German centre back made a couple of Premier League appearances before being sent out on loan to VFL Wolfsburg for the remainder of the season.

Marks out of 10: 2


Marc Muniesa

Muniesa was brought in from the Barcelona youth teams in an attempt to build a passing style from the back and, at times, he has looked a quality player. However injury and form struggles have seen him struggle to hold down a regular first team place over the course of the season. Last season he sat on the bench watching more often than he played for the first team.

Marks out of 10: 1.5


Geoff Cameron

Utility players often struggle to find themselves a regular role in the modern game, with the larger squads meaning there is normally a specialist option to choose over them in each position they play. American international Cameron has managed to make himself a genuine first choice player for Stoke, one of the first names on the team sheet, though you can never be sure whereabouts on the pitch he will be playing. Last season alone, despite a spell out with a knee injury, he played at centre back, right back, defensive midfield and central midfield.

Cameron never really excels in any position, lacking the technical qualities many players have, but he is tall, quick and strong, very much allowing the Potters to continue on playing the bullying football they have become known for. His lack of vision and passing range do hinder the side when they try and play the more expansive style Hughes was brought to the club to introduce.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Erik Pieters

The Dutchman is now firmly established as first choice left back/left wing back despite being yet another player more suited to a Pulis team than an expansive, attractive, attacking team. Tall and physically strong, Pieters is very much a Pulis fullback.

Marks out of 10: 5


Glen Johnson

Niggling injuries have held him back in recent years, though his overly laid back attitude to defending has become more and more of a problem as his legs go.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Phil Bardsley

Bardsley has been marginalised since Johnson joined a couple of seasons ago, with him now being very much second choice. Partly due to his lack of quality and partly due to his tendency to pick up idiotic cards through a complete lack of discipline.

Marks out of 10: 2


Giannelli Imbula

Go back to the January transfer window of 2016 and Imbula was brought in for a big price tag with high expectations from Porto. Fast forward to now and Imbula is no longer considered a coup, more of a flop right now. His performances have been poor and he has been relegated to a bit part role, making just 9 Premier League starts and being left out of the squad altogether 11 times.

Marks out of 10: -1


Glenn Whelan

Irish international Whelan may be knocking on a bit, in terms of football players ages, but the 33 year old is still a mainstay in the Potters midfield. Despite his advancing years, he still provides the drive, passion and workrate in there to push his team on. The player brought in as a long term replacement, Imbula, being unable to dislodge the tenacious Irishman.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Joe Allen

Allen was signed from Liverpool following the Welsh midfielder playing a starring role for his country in the summer's European Nations tournament. While he faded badly as the season went on, his first season saw him score just one less goal than he managed in his 100+ games at either Liverpool or Swansea City, with 6 goals.

Marks out of 10: 5.5


Charlie Adam

Since leaving Blackpool Adam's career has been slowly sliding away, down and down gradually. At one time his left foot was seen as a deadly weapon, with his delivery from set pieces making him valuable. Since then, things have not gone well for him and even his set piece delivery seems to have lost something of its quality. Now Adam is a bit part player for a Stoke side that struggled to create chances and his delivery has been largely poor when he has managed to break into the side.

Marks out of 10: 2


Ibrahim Afellay

Once a big star of the future who moved to Barcelona, injuries have battered him constantly since he got that dream move. Still injuries plague Afellay, with a knee injury ruling him out until December, then another, requiring an operation, which saw his season end in April. Until he finds a way to lift his injury curse, his career will never be any more than flashes of what could have been.

Marks out of 10: -3


Bojan Krkic

Another of those signings that were thought to be a coup when they were landed, that now, in hindsight, do not seem so good. Krkic was held up as the symbol of the change from Pulis's physical style of play to a more technical, attractive, attacking style. However Hughes has constantly returned to a a style more akin to Pulis's style, and so Krkic has struggled to fit in. This season, unhappy at mainly watching games from the bench, Bojan headed off to the Bundesliga in January for a loan with FSV Mainz 05.

Marks out of 10: -2


Marko Arnautovic

The Austrian winger is temperamental, mercurial even, with a tendency to pick up cards he would be better off avoiding, leading to a couple of suspensions last season. That has also led to his form being patchy at times, when they needed him at his best, during the early season struggles, he was out of form and contributing little other than petulance. However Arnautovic still showed flashes of his ability, which is plentiful, at times, which carried his team in patches.

Marks out of 10: 3


Ramadan Sobhi

The young Egyptian winger arrived from Al Ahli in the summer and has been on the fringes of the team ever since. Sobhi managed to make a number of starts and sub appearances, showing enough for the fans to be excited about him for the future.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Xherdan Shaqiri

Shaqiri is yet another seen as a coup at the time of arrival that has failed to live up to expectations. The huge tree trunk legs are regularly injured, with calf injuries particularly plaguing the Swiss winger. Shaqiri possesses ability that tempted Bayern Munich and Inter Milan to sign him, but lacks the attitude and workrate to actually utilise that ability to its best. When you need an example to illustrate the phrase 'flatters to deceive' there is no better example than Shaqiri.

Marks out of 10: -4.5


Jonathon Walters

Walters is a player who is suited to a physical style of play, with his hard running, high intensity, brute force approach to the game. It is very telling that he has been able to make a place for himself in the side under Hughes.

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Wilfried Bony

In years to come, when we discuss the worst transfers of all time, Bony's name may very well come up as one of those, in regards to his move to join Manchester City from Swansea. While at Swansea Bony was a star, a central figure with a team built around his skillset. At Man City, the Ivorian was totally out of his depth and never managed to produce anything of note. So much so that he was sent out on loan to the Potteries last season. It was not a worthwhile exercise for him, though Hughes gave him an early run of games, he offered little, scoring just twice in 10 games and barely breaking sweat.

Bony's performances were so poor that he featured in just 6 more minutes of play in the entire season, failing to even make the bench in 15 games. While it is clear he is suffering from a crisis of confidence, which is badly affecting him, it is Bony's workrate that is mostly at fault for his inability to make the squad. The attitude, the desire and, consequently, the effort are sorely missing in his play.

Marks out of 10: -8


Saido Berahino

It was not so long ago that Berahino seemed to have the world at his feet, with Tottenham Hotspur desperately trying to sign him. Since then, his choices, none more so than the agent that represents him, have been poor. Sulks, strikes, doping bans and lack of fitness have all contributed to a complete loss of form. West Bromwich Albion were glad to see the back of him in the January transfer window, as Stoke offered him a lifeline. So far it has not worked out, Berahino was miles away from being fit and he looks a shadow of the player he was. No goals and no sign of quality to show for his games at the end of the season. He was more of a liability than a passenger most of the time he was on the pitch.

Marks out of 10: -10


Mame Biram Diouf

Diouf was a striker that was known for his aerial prowess, but he is now used more often out wide, usually on the right. That has badly affected his goal return and impact on games. Diouf does a job there, but no more than that.

Marks out of 10: 3


Julien Ngoy

A young Belgian forward who managed to make a handful of substitute appearances over the course of the season.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Peter Crouch

Crouch has never relied on pace, which is lucky because at the age of 36 those long limbs of his are clearly struggling to keep up. His awkward, gangly appearance belies a nice touch and good control, his presence is always a problem for the defence which has to face him. Crouch still has a use as an impact sub.

Marks out of 10: 3

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