Well, the summer break has flown hasn`t it? It only seems like yesterday that Stoke were playing against Southampton on the final day of the season, and we were moaning about how long it is going to be until the new season. Fortunately, we`re nearly there, and with the Championship season officially starting this weekend, I thought that it is about time to show you all my feelings toward the Potters 2013/14 campaign ahead.
Obviously, the biggest change for Stoke is the change in manager. I`ll be honest, I was dead against signing Mark Hughes as manager, but I`ve had a few months to think about this, look at the signings and look at some of the football the Stoke have been playing. Hughes seems to have instantly solved the famous ‘left-back problem`, by signing Erik Pieters and Marc Muniesa, two extremely high profile signings for the Potters. I`ve also seen some videos of Stoke playing in friendly games over the course of pre-season, and it seems that Stoke are playing passing, free flowing football. At the Burton Albion friendly game, Stoke made a combination of around about 30 passes without losing the ball. All I can say on this side of things is to get behind Hughes this season, because it`s going to be very different.
Potential Transfer Targets.
Stoke have been linked to anybody and everybody over the course of this transfer window, and I feel there are a few problem areas that they need to work on to get the squad into a squad I feel that Hughes will be happy with:
Right-Back – As much as I admire Andy Wilkinson for his work rate, and his heart, I think that Stoke need a new Right-Back. Muniesa is technically billed as a Left-Back, along with Pieters. With it being very unlikely that Hughes will play players out of position, Unless Geoff Cameron is willing to play at right back, I can`t help but feel that a new Defender is entering the Stoke ranks. POTENTIAL TARGETS – Pedro Cavanda, Faouzi Ghoulam
Winger(s) – This season, Stoke need a major revamp of their midfield again. I can see Palacios coming good with Hughes managing him, so I can`t see the center of midfield as a main problem, but the Potters need some out and out wingers as I feel that Etherington and Pennant won`t be good enough. That said, I genuinely feel that this season will be the making of USA winger Brek Shea. I`ve maintained since the Potters signed him that this lad will be absolutely huge, and I am sticking by that statement. POTENTIAL TARGETS – Shaun Wright-Phillips, Scott Sinclair
Striker(s) – I feel I write this every season, Stoke need a proven goalscorer! Jones and Crouch are going well but they aren`t really 15 goals a season material, are they? The people I`ve seen Stoke linked with are crazy recently, so this will definitely be the one to watch. POTENTIAL TARGETS – Jermaine Defoe, Demba Ba, Matteo Ardemagni
Every full season that Mark Hughes has had with a club, that club has finished in the top 10. Realistically, I think that is a big ask so I will be happy with 12th or above. Obviously above 12th in the league will be a serious bonus, and I`ll be in dreamland if Stoke can finish in the top 10. It`s going to be a difficult season, and I feel that all Stoke fans will need to get behind the lads, and the manager to push Stoke higher and higher!
Enjoy the season guys.
P.S. I would also like to add a note about Christian ‘Chucho` Benitez. It wasn`t long ago when Stoke were linked with Chucho, and for him to lose his life at the mere age of 27 is extremely upsetting news for everyone. My condolences to his family, friends and clubs that he has previously played for. R.I.P. Chucho.