Stoke are a well-established Premier League outfit, having been in the top division of English football for the past seven seasons.
The Potters have finished in the top 10 in both of the last two seasons in the Premier League under the management of Mark Hughes, who took over from Tony Pulis in May 2013. Pulis had a very successful time at Stoke but the board decided to terminate his contract in a bid to change Stoke’s footballing philosophy.
Stoke had been renowned as the long ball specialists and this was something that was not going to change with Pulis at the helm. It was a successful tactic, but was not what the board or fans wanted.
Mark Hughes was brought in to succeed Pulis and implement a more exciting brand of football. Many fans and pundits alike questioned Stoke for the sacking of Pulis and questioned Mark Hughes but were all proven wrong, when Stoke jumped from 13th to 9th in the Premier League, playing some outstanding football at times.
Hughes has managed to improve what was already a very well-organised and strong Premier League outfit, into a team who could challenge for Europe this season.
Stoke have added an abundance of new talent this season, including experienced professionals, such as Glen Johnson from Liverpool, Shay Given from Villa as a replacement for Asmir Begovic, and Ibrahim Afellay from Barcelona.
Stoke have signed numerous Barcelona players over the past couple of seasons, including Krkic Bojan, Afellay and Moha El Ouriachi.
Bojan signed a four year contract with Stoke in 2014 following his move from Barcelona. He was a revelation and his class was there for all to see as he scored five goals and recorded many assists too.
His debut season for Stoke was cut short though, unfortunately, as he sustained a serious knee injury in an FA Cup match against Rochdale, which ruled him out for the rest of the season. Bojan did not participate in Stoke’s opening Premier League game against Liverpool on Sunday, but is said to be on his way back. Mark Hughes has admitted however, that he will not ‘rush’, star striker Bojan back to fitness and that it will take time.
Afellay looked bright in the opener against Liverpool in which Stoke were defeated 1-0, and showed some excellent touches and pieces of skill. Afellay could definitely become a fans favourite with the Britannia Stadium crowd, especially if he can perform at a consistently high level.
The marquee acquisition for Stoke this season is Xherdan Shaqiri, who sealed his move from Inter on the 11th August, 2015. Stoke signed the Swiss international for a club record, £12 million, with the hope that he can take the club to the next level. Shaqiri is undoubtedly an amazing talent, having previously played for some of Europe’s elite such as Bayern Munich, Basel and Inter Milan. His pace, skill and creativity will be a welcome addition to Stoke and to the Premier League as well.
Stoke have made some excellent signings in this summer window and will now look to push on and improve on what was a good 9th place in last season’s Premier League. If all the new signings can hit the ground running and Bojan can regain fitness there is no reason why Hughes’ Stoke, cannot push on for Europe this season!