The biggest transfer saga Stoke have been involved with over the off season is a potential swoop for free agent and benchwarmer extraordinaire, Michael Owen. It says a lot for the progress the Potters have made under Tony Pulis that his signing would pretty make no difference to the expectations surrounding the group. He’s a name and will probably attract more attention than the club are accustomed to, but the reality is they already have strikers who are equally, if not more, threatening than a 32-year old who has started 18 games (six of which were in the league) in the last three seasons. Robert Huth being diagnosed with meningitis has thrown a late spanner in the works. He has been a huge part of the club’s progress and a prolonged absence would be hard to cover for.
Something to be positive about
One of Tony Pulis’s great skills is producing good results without ever really making any of his players looking especially appealing to other clubs. ‘Arsenal in £15 million plunge for Glenn Whelan’ is never a tabloid headline we’re very likely to see, no matter how far Stoke move up the table. Yet again, the Potters look like they’ll hold on to their key players and if they do that, they should steer well clear of the relegation scrap and have more than one eye on booking another place in Europe.
Something to be a bit worried about
For the first time since taking charge of the Potters for a second time, Tony Pulis came under some fire for Stoke’s poor run of form in the second half of the season. They won four Premier League games in 2012 and 9 points out of a possible 33. In fairness, it may have been down to the fact they were safe from relegation early on in the season and the intensity was lacking thereafter. But sometimes a manager can only take a team so far and Stoke fans will be hoping that point hasn’t been reached just yet. They were the league’s lowest scorers last year and that needs to be improved upon.
An optimistic season bet
Stoke to win the league with a +37 point handicap at 16/1. If they can avoid the second half of the season and keep going all the way to the line, they should improve on their points total and with a further 37 points to be added to it, that could put them very close to the top of the handicap table.
A more realistic season bet
For all the obvious progress Stoke have made since arriving in the Premier League, they haven’t broken their way into the Top 10 come the end of the season. They’ve finished 12th, 11th, 13th and 14thin the last four seasons and they’re 15/8 to end the season in the top half of the table.
Jamie Ness (Rangers, free)
Michael Kightly (Wolves, £3m)
Packing their bags
Jonathan Woodgate (Middlesbrough, free)
Andrew Davies (Bradford, free)
Salif Diao (released), Ricardo Fuller (released)
Louis Moult (released)
Tom Soares (released)