Last Season: 11th
New Signings: Cuvelier, Nash
Key Player: Matthew Etherington
One To Watch: Tom Soares
Needs A Big Year: Sanli Tuncay
Would Quite Like: To be given credit for something besides Delap —> big man’s head. Might help trying some different tactics besides Delap —> big man’s head.
Thoughts: I find it hard to like Stoke. It’s partly because they know what Arsenal’s weaknesses are and ruthlessly expose them every time the Gunners visit the Britannia. It’s partly because one of their central defenders put one Arsenal’s best prospects out for nine months with a filthy tackle. It’s partly, well, they’re just not a likeable club.
Credit must be given to Tony Pulis, who has slowly been improving Stoke season by season but you feel that until they play some more expansive football, they’re not going to be recognised for their efforts. Stoke should absolutely play to their strengths but they can’t complain if people say they play crap football.
Whilst there are some quite creative players at the club, most notably Etherington and Tuncay, plan A seems to predominantly be to hit it direct to Fuller or Beattie. This has resulted in quite a contrast between home and away form, with just four victories on their travels last season, as home teams dominate possession and Stoke fans can’t play as much of a part.
Stoke do seem to be looking to get the next level, given some of the players they’ve been linked with and some of the transfer fees suggested. Someone like Kenwyne Jones or Carlton Cole would be a good signing given the circumstances (unglamorous club/no European football yet) and they probably will improve, though perhaps only by a place or two.