After six full games of the 2015/16 Premier League campaign, Mark Hughes’ Stoke City currently languish 18th in the table among the dreaded relegation zone. Whilst it still remains early days for the Potters at this stage in the proceedings, six matches without a single win certainly doesn’t make good reading for the club’s loyal fan-base.
Although their side may have admittedly been leading throughout a handful of their fixtures so far this season – a notion you would nonetheless expect from a team as bolstered up as this particular Stoke City outfit – the Britannia faithful have witnessed their team subsequently throw away a succession of points in 2015/16, ending several games in a frustrating stalemate when they should have gone on to win them.
For a squad that eventually finished in an impressive ninth place last season, it remains difficult to explain just what has gone so wrong for the Potters so far this term. Perhaps the club’s decision to sign over ten new players over the summer has ultimately hampered the team’s cohesion out on the pitch rather than improve it.
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So then, in light of all the newly acquired faces currently struggling to tie down some decent form in the Premier League with Stoke – do the Britannia faithful have genuine reason for concern this campaign, or is a little faith from the Potters fan-base all that’s truly needed to get the new signings firing for Mark Hughes in 2015/16?
The sensible line of argument would seemingly follow the latter part of that question.
Whilst Stoke City have arguably gone down as one of the most organised and defensively solid units operating among the English top-flight in recent seasons, the overall level of entertainment value has hardly been extensive in and around the Britannia Stadium in the past.
Aside from some sections of the 2014/15 campaign – a seemingly transitional season for Stoke in which Mark Hughes admittedly tried to establish a fresher style of play that was much kinder on the eye – the Potters have previously arrived as a no-nonsense outfit that prioritized the points over literally any other aspect within football that makes the Beautiful Game oh so captivating and enticing.
Despite there being nothing technically wrong with taking the direct route and keeping things resolutely tight at the back, Tony Pulis’ notorious reign at the Britannia simply took such an approach a little too far with all things considered. The media may have been a bit harsh on Stoke for their previous match-day tactics – yet under the now current West Brom boss – the Potters were nonetheless seen as a side to look down upon considering their distinct lack of style within the Premier League.
It’s not enough to simply keep a side free from the threat of relegation, both Swansea City and Southampton have proved that it’s possible to survive in the Premier League and play good football at the same time.
However, in the current era Stoke City simply no longer resemble that very same side. Yes, the Potters still include several technically lacking players in their starting XI (especially among their back-line), but through the additions of Xherdan Sahqiri, Ibrahim Afellay, Marko Arnautovic and of course the wonderful talent that is Bojan – this is a team certainly trying to improve their public image.
Very few expected Stoke to complete as many promising signings as they eventually did over the summer – so although the new additions at the Britannia are certainly yet to truly find their feet in the Premier League – the club have ultimately taken some admirable steps in the long-run. It’s seemingly just going to take a little time to gel them all together and establish some proper team chemistry amongst Mark Hughes’ ranks in the English top-flight this season.
As things unfortunately haven’t gone to plan for the Potters so far this term, the word ‘transition’ still remains an apt one for describing the scene around the club in the modern era. Rome wasn’t built in a day after all. It’s going to take a little more time to get Stoke playing the beautiful free flowing football some of their current players are certainly capable of producing – and finally move on definitively from the Tony Pulis days that arguably only really served to damage the club’s overall identity among other football fans in general.
Although Stoke’s new signings may not arrive as the most consistent looking bunch on paper, with a little management here and there from Mark Hughes and co, the future remains as bright as it’s ever been down at the Britannia Stadium.
All that’s needed now is a little faith from the supporters and the results will likely follow…