Coach: Mark Hughes
2015/16 Finish: 9
2016/17 Preseason Ranking: 11
Sportify Rating: 1529
2015/16 Wagebill: £67M
Stadium Capacity: 27,470 at Britannia Stadium
Departures: Ben Barber (York City); Peter Odemwingie (released); Steve Sidwell (Brighton); Mark Waddington (Kilmarnock)
Arrivals: Joe Allen (Liverpool); Ramadan Sobhi (Al Ahly)
The good: They can play with anyone…
Stoke have a squad filled with players who’ve been with Europe’s biggest teams; Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Inter Milan, Manchester United, Real Madrid and the list goes on. At times they looked a world class side, taking points off every team to qualify for European football last season and having the higher xG in seven of those 14 fixtures. In the end Stoke finished a respectable 9th place.
Only five teams – the bottom five teams in the table – had more losses by 2+ goals than Stoke (9) last season, and when they didn’t play well against top teams, they were put to the sword: 3-0 against Leicester, 4-0 against Tottenham, 4-0 against Man City, 4-0 against Man United. In the end, Stoke finished top of the ‘mid-table’ sides in ninth place and nine points back from eighth place Liverpool, but they had a worrying goal differential of -14. To put that in perspective, so did 17th place Sunderland.
Case in point: Xherdan Shaqiri. The Swiss national scored one of the best goals of 2016 Euro:
But on a day-to-day basis, he didn’t come close to meeting his potential as one of the highest paid members of the squad last season: three goals on 2.4 xG from one of Stoke’s highest value wingers isn’t going to cut it.
With the influx of big names through the top of the table, upsets will come by harder this season. After three seasons of ninth place finishes, the top half of the table could prove more elusive for Stoke this year.