WHY STOKE CITY ARE EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS THIS SEASON
Why stoke city are exceeding expectations this season. At the start of the season, many expected Stoke City to slip into a relegation battle towards the lower half of the Premier League table. After 13 matches, Mark Hughes’ men are eleventh in the division but have shown plenty of quality in the early stages of the campaign. In fact, it could be argued that they are one of the most improved sides in the top flight.
Traditionally, the Potters have been incredibly strong in front of their home fans at the Britannia Stadium. This season, it’s the other way around. Stoke have transformed into one of the division’s best counter-attacking sides and are lethal on the road. In fact, the Potters have kept four consecutive Premier League clean sheets away from home and five in all competitions – a run that goes all the way back to September 12th.
Mark Hughes deserves plenty of plaudits for all of his hard work at Stoke. The former Fulham manager isn’t a big-name boss nor does he attract the big name players, but he demands a work ethic that is unrivalled across the Premier League. The Potters are industrious and their efforts have been rewarded in recent weeks with clean sheet victories over Chelsea and Southampton.
Right now, inconsistency is affecting their chances of competing for a top-half finish this season. In fact, they could potentially finish in the top eight. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Marco van Ginkel have transformed Stoke City from being a physical, aggressive unit into a free-flowing, passing side. While they still have that brute force in their locker, Hughes is attempting to completely alter their style of play.
Considering how significant the changes to their style and approach have been, Stoke are sitting pretty and look comfortable in their new skin. Many believed that the Potters would struggle to cope with the loss of Steven N’Zonzi but both Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan have, if nothing else, been suitable replacements and have helped to add that little bit of additional energy to the centre of midfield.
Given time, Stoke will climb up the Premier League table – that much is obvious. Hughes’ tactical nous and understanding of the game sets the Potters apart from the majority of the top flight whilst their key men are all experienced, gifted and know how to deal with situations. Although they have endured a slow start to the campaign, the only way is up from here for Stoke City and their ardent supporters.
So, what could constitute a successful campaign? Stoke supporters will be looking for an improvement on last season’s ninth-place finish. In fact, the Potters have finished ninth in each of the last two years. While an eighth-place finish would be fantastic, Stoke’s fans would most certainly take another ninth place finish providing that they continue to play entertaining, attacking football.
Only time will tell but Stoke are definitely heading in the right direction. The Potters are improving and playing some brilliant football. At this rate – and with reasonable levels of investment – there is no reason why Hughes’ men cannot continue to climb up the Premier League table in the coming years and who knows, they could even challenge in one of the two domestic club competitions this season.