Premier League 2013-14 preview: Stoke City looking to bury ghosts of past under Hughes
For the first time, since their inclusion in the Premier League, Stoke City will be without their manager Tony Pulis. The club felt the need of a change and only time will tell whether the lurch in the fresh direction pays dividends or not.
Mark Hughes has been appointed as the new manager, whose stint with Blackburn Rovers can be called a success, but from then on, it has been pretty disappointing managerial journey. He failed horribly at QPR, and it was surprising to see that Peter Coates has still faith in him.
Under Pulis, Stoke City developed an identity, where the Britannia Stadium, their home ground became a daunting place for the visiting teams. Their style of playing long ball football and physicality was hardly pleasing for neutrals but the fans didn’t complain, despite the natural frustration, as the team delivered results.
Last season, it reached its zenith, as discontent within the club was apparent. The club’s chief scout, Lindsay Parsons, publicly criticized the style of play and Pulis was sacked in the end. The question remains is the chosen replacement at all any better?
This is about a manager, whose footballing vision has been questioned for long. His Blackburn side was known for playing dirtiest football in the league, while his blundering capture of £17.5 million striker Roque Santa Cruz to Manchester City and further wanting the Paraguayan at Fulham, only shows his lack of vision, as Philip Cornwall of F365 says “an almost Pulis-like narrowness of vision.”
Hughes has signed a 21-year-old defender from Barcelona’s reserves, Marc Muniesa, and a new left-back in the Holland international Erik Pieters in the summer. It shows that Hughes has looked to bolster his defence, when actually he should have concentrated on improving his attacking line that scored only & yes only 34 goals last season. This less than a game goal ratio was lower than any other clubs in the Premier League except QPR.
Stoke will start their campaign away to Liverpool, which is followed by a home game against the newly promoted Crystal Palace. After that, they will face West Ham away, Manchester City at home and Arsenal away. Stoke has always relied on their home form and the same trait is expected to continue under Hughes as well. But, of all the Premier League clubs, they look the most vulnerable at the moment.