Despite a dull and lifeless campaign last time out, Stoke City go into the new season with renewed optimism following a rejuvenated pre season and a manager with a point to prove. The combination of returning stars and young upcoming talent provides Fantasy Premier League managers with much food for thought ahead of the 2017/18 season.
STAR MAN – Jack Butland (5.0m)
I realise FPL managers will be spoilt for choice in terms of goalkeeping options this season. The ever-reliable Courtois, Cech and De Gea are joined by Man City’s new arrival Ederson. Meanwhile Jordan Pickford remains in the league and will probably have a lot less to do this time around following his move to Everton. However, I can’t stress enough how much every manager needs Jack Butland in their side.
Back from injury in the latter stages of last season, he was back to his absolute best on the final day at St Marys to prevent a late onslaught from the Saints and give us a final win of a miserable campaign. Butland managed to bag 17 saves and 2 clean sheets in his 5-game stint towards the back end of last season – not bad given that last season was one of our worst defensive performances since promotion back in 2008.
As with Pickford last season, Butland is one of those keepers who will have plenty to do – expect the points totals for saves to pile up nicely. There’s always the chance of some bonus points coming his way too, given the current state of the Stoke side!
For 5.0m he’s a must-buy for your backup keeper, at the very least.
HIDDEN GEM – Xherdan Shaqiri (6.0)
I realise I’m pushing it by calling him “hidden”, but after our attacking performances last season, his 6.5 price last season and his injuries, there’s a good chance you’ve forgotten about Xherdan Shaqiri.
With 4 goals and 2 assists last season he wasn’t topping any points charts and this is a huge season for him at Stoke City. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons in the Potteries, but they have often been hampered by regular spells of injury and inconsistent form.
That’s not to say he’s a bad player by any stretch – Shaqiri only played 1,700 minutes last season across 12 games, but managed to create 42 chances and 40 key passes – surpassing Wilfred Zaha’s totals of 38 chances and 29 key passes, despite playing almost double the minutes.
Once his injury troubles passed him by, Shaqiri featured in the final 7 games of the season – only failing to finish the full 90 once. He also had a productive end of season with the Swiss national side, including another trademark screamer from 30 yards.
He’ll need to be ready for the next campaign as Marko Arnautovic, Stoke’s key attacking threat and main outlet for goals and assists, looks likely to depart the transfer window this summer. This puts huge pressure on Shaqiri, who will no doubt step up to the plate and supply the likes of Saido Berahino and the returning Bojan with chances to score.
Given the likes of Zaha (7.0), Lanzini (7.0) and Redmond (6.5) have increased in price this year, Shaqiri could be a cost-effective gem to have in your side.
BARGAIN – Ramadan Sobhi (5.0)
With Marko Arnautovic moved to West Ham, we have a ready-made replacement in 20-year-old Ramadan Sobhi. Signed last summer, he featured across 19 games with limited minutes, and the general consensus is that he should’ve played far more often. When he did play, he quickly won over the Stoke City support with his strength on the ball, positive thinking, dribbling ability and his tracking back to help the defence.
Where young Ramadan Sobhi excels is in creating chances for others – quite literally laying them on a plate within the 6-yard box in many cases. There are very few players in the league who can dribble with the ball better than Sobhi, although his final product is a little way off some of the great wingers in the league.
His trademark is to twist and turn until he’s in the opposition area, before squaring the ball for an onrushing player to finish. Were he in a side of actual footballers, he’d have many more assists by now… alas, he’s at Stoke.
Sitting at just 5.0m – a figure that is often reserved for the defensive midfielders of the game – and with a very good chance of being a permanent fixture in the Stoke City side next season, you could do far worse than having Sobhi amongst your midfield selections.
PREDICTED LINE UP
Zouma – Shawcross – Cameron
Johnson – Fletcher – Allen – Pieters
Shaqiri – Berahino – Sobhi
If you have enjoyed this early view of the fantasy potential of Stoke City, be sure to check the other teams here.
Written by Jase (@scfcjase)