Season Previews 09/10 – Stoke City

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stoke

Last Season: 12th.

Say hello to your new teammates: Dean Whitehead.

Close the door on your way out: Seyi Olofinjana, Vincent Pericard.

Predicted star: Ryan Shawcross and Abdoulaye Faye will once again be dominant in defence while providing an attacking outlet for Rory Delap to aim at.

Needs a big year: James Beattie needs to continue the form he showed after signing in January. Too often in the past he has had good runs of form before drifting away and becoming ineffective and fat. Stoke will need his goals to ensure another season of Premier League football.

One to watch: Liam Lawrence scored 14 goals when Stoke got promoted from the Championship but injury limited his effectiveness last season. Now fit again, he should provide crosses and goals from the right wing.

What they want to happen: Another season where they’re difficult to beat, with home form keeping them safe once more.

Nightmare scenario: The direct tactics don’t work and Stoke’s lack of creativity sees them struggle this time round.

Plan A: Use free kicks and throw ins to supply ammunition to Fuller, Beattie, Faye and Shawcross.

Plan B, just in case: Delap -> box -> confusion -> goal.

Wing Commander Delap launches Stoke's aerial attack...

Wing Commander Delap launches Stoke's aerial attack...

Predicted finish: 14th.

Why? Stoke were never in trouble last season, their unique brand of simple yet effective football causing problems for many teams. As with any promoted side who wants to stay up, they realised that home form was key and they lost just four times at the Britannia Stadium while conceding just 15 goals. 35 of Stoke’s 45 points were gained at home and this compared favourably to all the teams below them as well as several above. It would have kept them up even if they had lost every single away game!

12th place was just reward for a team which was incredibly difficult to break down, with only Man Utd, Arsenal, Man City and Blackburn beating them by more than two goals. This was in part due to a team full of strong players who were 6ft plus and very well organised. Manager Tony Pulis kept things simple and played to Stoke’s strengths. Rory Delap’s throw in skill was one of them and for a while they would cause havoc against every team Stoke played. As powerful as a cross but more accurate, Delap assisted several goals. He wasn’t just a one trick pony though as he also provided hard work and assists from open play.

Got to love a 51 year old wearing a baseball cap.

Got to love a 51 year old wearing a baseball cap.

In terms of this season it’s as you were squad wise with only Dean Whitehead coming in from Sunderland. He’s another defensive midfielder to add to the riches the Potters have in that department. It will be harder for them this round but I don’t see too many problems in terms of staying up for a third season. If nothing else, Pulis can try and repeat the impact of last January’s signings if things are sticky mid-season. I don’t think he’ll need to though as Stoke should finish in around 14th place.

.

T.

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