Stoke City are frequent tips to be relegated, and they are also frequent occupiers of the mid-table positions. After another comfortable season in the top flight, football supporters should really start questioning why Stoke are constantly slated.
Under Tony Pulis, they had a reputation as a tough team to break down, putting it kindly. Many teams, not least Arsenal, hated they way that Stoke played and the tactics they employed. Whilst Arsene Wenger and co. were searching for the perfect goal, Stoke were looking for a scrappy one-nil. The frustrated managers, they frustrated players, and they frustrated fans – but they got results!
They have now been in the Premier League for 6 consecutive seasons, and they don’t really look like they’ll be leaving anytime soon. But, which is more, they also do not now look like the team they once were! Mark Hughes took over as manager last summer, and he has since tried to promote his own footballing philosophy. A mixture of the grit and determination that Stoke traditionally show, and an infusion of creativity that may have been a little lacking at the Britannia Stadium before.
Players like Matthew Etherington, Steven N’Zonzi and Peter Odemwingie have pace and flair. Yes, there is still a role for Peter Crouch and the long ball, but that is no longer the only weapon that Stoke possess. Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross are still amongst the strongest, hardest defenders in the league, but what club wouldn’t care for their services? When Chelsea line up with Gary Cahill and Branislav Inanovic it’s masterful, when Stoke play a powerful back-four it’s murderous.
Ultimately, Stoke City are a team that will always have their critics. But they are also a team that will always be a safe bet for Premier League survival. They do not have the funds that some clubs enjoy, but they do possess the know-how. The Potters are currently championing a distinct brand of football, that blends style with strength, tricks with tackles.