Since taking over as Stoke City manager for the start of the 2013/14 season, it has to be said that Mark Hughes has done an excellent job. In his first season in charge at the club, he led Stoke to a ninth place finish which was their highest finish in the Premier League since promotion in 2008. It was also Stoke’s highest finish in the top flight of English football since 1975. He has carried on in the same vein this time round after back-to-back victories leaves the Potters in tenth place, with a top eight finish – bettering last season’s high- very much within their reach.
One of the most impressive feats is the way Hughes has managed to change the style of play at Stoke. Under Tony Pulis, the club were very much known for their direct football, utilising Rory Delap’s amazingly long throws – which they scored a large number of goals from. Since Hughes’ arrival, his team look to pass the ball on the deck a lot more, building from the back and looking to retain possession regularly, which is the polar opposite to the Pulis days. They are still hard to break down but look a lot more dynamic going forward.
Exciting attacking players such as Bojan have been added to the squad – who was signed from Barcelona in the summer. The young Spaniard was impressive, scoring four times in 16 appearances, before being ruled out for the season through injury. But it’s these types of players that are going to elevate Stoke to the next level and away from being a team stuck in the bottom half of the table.
Also in attack, Mame Biram Diouf (5) and Jonathan Walters (7) have been able to provide goals, with Walters bagging an impressive hat-trick at the weekend against QPR. This was Stoke’s first hat-trick in the Premier League and a sign of how far Walters has come during his spell at the Britannia Stadium. Peter Crouch has still been able to chip in with four goals but plays in a deeper role and Hughes tries to use him as an impact player, rather than starting him in every game.
A trip to Hughes’ old club Blackburn awaits in the FA Cup fifth round and the cup presents the club with an excellent opportunity of a Wembley appearance. Although three of the big boys still remain, with the likes of Man City and Chelsea already out, Stoke are capable of giving anyone a game and could be a dark horse in this competition.
Stoke continue to go from strength-to-strength in the Premier League under Mark Hughes with the club improving all the time. Winning more matches than he has lost during his time at the club, Hughes has an impressive win rate of just over 40, which is a measure of the kind of job he is doing at the midlands outfit. There are still areas that can be enhanced but right now, Stoke fans can be very satisfied at where the club is at.