It continues to be evolution rather than revolution for Mark Hughes’ Stoke City.
The Welshman is slowly introducing a more aesthetic style at the Bet365 Stadium but, in terms of results at least, nothing much has changed. Three successive ninth place finishes show real consistency but so far a push towards the European places has proved elusive.
Hughes remains ambitious, however, and has been prepared to invest when the right player becomes available. Giannelli Imbula was the big money signing in January while Joe Allen has already joined from Liverpool this summer.
The club continue to be linked with West Brom’s Saido Berahino so expect the club to spend more before the window shuts, the problem is the teams above them may invest even more.
Reasons to be cheerful:
Joe Allen will add quality to the Potters midfield while the club have also been able to hold onto their best players such as Marko Arnautović and Xherdan Shaqiri. Hughes is starting his fourth season as Stoke manager and the club should benefit from a level of consistency many other Premier League teams can only dream about.
Reasons to be fearful:
It is difficult to see how much higher Stoke can realistically expect to finish without major investment or a Leicester City style miracle. Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea all finished around them in the table last season but have invested heavily and you’d expect Stoke’s main rivals for the European places to be significantly better this time around.
Joe Allen (Liverpool, £13m), Ramadan Sobhi (Al Ahly, £5m).
Out the door:
Peter Odemwingie (released), Steve Sidwell (Brighton, free), Mark Waddington (Kilmarnock, loan), Ben Barber (York City, free).
Xherdan Shaqiri – The former Bayern Munich midfielder gives Stoke City that extra something and is integral to the direction Mark Hughes is trying to move the club in.
One to watch:
Ramadan Sobhi – The Egyptian winger joined Stoke in a £5million deal from Al Ahly and is said to be a hugely exciting prospect.
First five games:
Middlesbrough (A), Manchester City (H), Everton (A), Tottenham (H), Crystal Palace (A).