Stoke City enjoyed a pretty acceptable 2014/2015 Premier League season where they finished 9th for the second season in a row. In reality, Stoke found themselves a mere 6 points short of qualifying for the Europa League, but the past season can be classed as a satisfactory one with a plethora of memorable results – beating Manchester City 1-0 at the Etihad, doing the double over Spurs, beating Arsenal 3-2 and of course the unprecedented 6-1 dismantling of Liverpool at the Britannia on the final day – a fixture which is coincidentally Stoke’s first in the coming season.
Stoke are quite an interesting team to analyze as they do not tend to rely heavily on one player while a lot of other teams do. Last season, they had three players who scored at least 10 goals in all competitions (Crouch, Diouf and Walters) and even though they finished 9th for the second consecutive season, they accrued 4 more points than in 2013/14 while scoring 3 more and conceding 7 less goals. It is fair to say that Stoke will be trying to take their club forward by finishing in a position that will allow them to feature in the Europa League qualifiers (or the tournament itself) for the first time since 2011/12.
STAR MAN – Mame Biram Diouf (6.5m)
The Senegalese striker who was signed by Stoke on a free transfer in June 2014 enjoyed a satisfying return to the Premier League following his stint at Blackburn which ended in 2011. Despite being played out of position by Mark Hughes on the right wing, Diouf was Stoke’s highest scoring player in terms of FPL points as he picked up 128 points over the course of the season, as well as being their highest scorer in the Premier League with 11 goals and 3 assists in 28 starts and 7 appearances from the bench. The most memorable of those goals was registered at the Etihad in late August 2014 as Diouf ran 70 yards before nutmegging Joe Hart to help Stoke to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City. At 6.5m, Diouf is likely to be well worth his value and is a decent proposition to have as a backup striker as he averaged roughly one goal per three games in 2014/15. Therefore Diouf is not necessarily a must-have player, but as events unfold this coming season he could turn out to be a great differential to have.
HIDDEN GEM – Ryan Shawcross (5.0m)
The experienced captain of Stoke endured a disappointing 2014/15 by his high standards as he picked up 92 total points, his joint worst points tally since joining the Potters in 2008. Nevertheless, Shawcross could be a reliable player to have at certain points in this coming season as he has proven himself as one of the focal points of Stoke’s defence which is certainly capable of keeping at least 10 clean sheets in one season. Not only that, but Shawcross could also reward FPL managers who entrust him with a starting position in their teams with the odd goal, as his tall and bulky build has helped him score approximately 2 goals per season since 2008. Despite ending the season with a mere 7% ownership, we expect Shawcross to enjoy a successful 2015/16 season and he could be a valuable asset to have from gameweek 6 where Stoke’s fixtures are Leicester (H), Bournemouth (H), Villa (A), Swansea (A), Watford (H) and Newcastle (A).
By The Arsenal.