Stoke City in 2014/15 – Bojan will add spark to solidity

Read Southampton in 2014/15 – Saints are starting all over again

Read Sunderland in 2014/15 – Black Cats must land on their feet

Mark Hughes’ first full season in charge at the Britannia heralded a change in style from his predecessor, as the new man looked to impose a more possession-based approach on his side. The positive effect of this change took a while to kick in, as after a couple of tidy wins in August, the Potters would take until the 23 November to record their third win of the campaign, as it became obvious they required more firepower.

Nigerian striker Peter Odemwingie arrived during a winless January for Stoke, adding pace and five goals in his first 15 league games and supporting the goalscoring contributions of Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters and Charlie Adam. On-loan Oussama Assaidi impressed on the left flank while the Stoke backline also proved fairly solid, conceding either one or zero goals in 28 of their 38 Premier League games. A more successful 2014 saw wins against Man Utd and Arsenal, while a victory over Newcastle helped the Potters eventually leapfrog the North East side as they finished the season with a very commendable ninth place.

Aims for the season ahead

Having eventually reaped the rewards of his own philosophy, particularly between February and May, Hughes will look to use this momentum to push on this season. After being criticised for not bringing in enough firepower last summer, the Welshman has acted quickly this year to recruit former Barcelona wonderkid Bojan Krkic who is looking to kickstart his career in the Premier League.

The young Spaniard will add a spark to the front line alongside Mame Diouf from Hannover, while Hughes will likely use a solid backline marshalled by Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Asmir Begovic as a platform on which to grind out low-scoring victories. They may well need to improve on the nine clean sheets they managed last season if they are to consolidate a top half finish, and free recruits Steve Sidwell and Phil Bardsley will surely add bite to the starting eleven.

Key summer signing so far

Steve Sidwell. Despite being relegated with Fulham last season, the 31 year old midfielder can help dictate play from the centre of the pitch, score goals and protect the defence. Sidwell scored seven goals last season and boasted a pass completion ratio of 83%. Comparing his performances to standout Everton midfielder Gareth Barry, Sidwell outdid his counterpart in categories including tackles won (26 more than Barry), interceptions (27 more) and blocks (seven more). These all round attributes can help provide more cohesion between defence and attack, and Sidwell will also bring leadership, experience and influence to the Britannia.

Predicted finish: 10th

Spending only £3m so far this summer, Mark Hughes has still managed to bring in some solid acquisitions and with a couple of new faces, I can certainly see Stoke continuing to be a side difficult to break down. If they can turn a few of those 1-0 defeats into draws or even scraped victories, and if Diouf, Bojan and Odemwingie can create fast and effective link-up play, Stoke should be more than secure in 2014/15.

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