Stoke need reinforcements virtually everywhere after miserable campaign

A disappointing season, which picked up where the previous one ended, completed 18 months of misery under an increasingly floundering Mark Hughes.

Rating out of 10: 2


Sadly, there has been very little to celebrate this season, making it nigh on impossible to pick even a solitary highlight from it. The manager himself was asked the same question, and his response was to champion draws against Manchester United and Manchester City, which gives a telling indication of just how underwhelming his latest campaign has been.

Low point

If there's one thing Stoke fans have always known they can rely on, it is that their side always strike fear into the hearts of Arsenal's players. But Stoke's 4-1 loss to Arsenal on May 13 was different. On that day, the manager and players failed to offer their opponents any challenge for the points, and being outfought by Arsene Wenger's men in the manner they were was simply inexcusable.

Star man

It's perhaps a measure of the Potters' fortunes that it was goalkeeper Lee Grant who swept the board at the end-of-season awards. Having finally recognised that Jakob Haugaard was woefully under-equipped for the top flight and Shay Given a spent force, Hughes ventured into the Championship to solve his woes.

There he found Grant, a third-choice keeper kicking his heels in the stands at age 33, having been unable to consistently make the match-day squad. His debut was a man-of-the-match performance at Old Trafford in what was his first taste of Premier League action. The rest, as they say, is history.

His consistency was as impressive as his ability to make the step up so seamlessly, having never before competed at that level, and he more than played his part in a season that demanded a safe pair of hands between the sticks.


There is a long list of players who have performed poorly this season, but the most disappointing was Giannelli Imbula. Having arrived for a record £18 million in January 2016 and a mixed maiden campaign, hopes were high that he could push on this season.

Unfortunately, he showed that he had learned little in the way of what to do when out of possession, and he became a bigger and bigger liability in a midfield that was consistently overrun. There's perhaps an added frustration that, having seen him star in a handful of games soon after arriving, his early form couldn't be replicated. The blame for that doesn't just lie with the player.

Given his price tag, some might suggest that he should already be a rounded midfielder, but the onus also lies on the coaching staff to harness his undoubted talent and work with him to improve other areas of his game. Unfortunately, a combination of their inability to do so and the player himself doing little to improve his own fortunes means he is likely to leave for a significant loss in the summer.

Transfer Talk

Where to start? Reinforcements are required from back to front to transform a slow and aging squad into one capable of matching the pace and agility of their opponents. There's more than an argument to be made for at least three additions to an ailing defence, with right-back, left-back and at least one of the centre-back spots all in need of an upgrade.

For the centre-back signing, the club continue to make hard work of the permanent transfer of Bruno Martins Indi (despite earlier insisting an option was in place to sign him at the end of his loan), while Erik Pieters and Glen Johnson both need meaningful competition at full-back.

In midfield, with both Geoff Cameron and Glenn Whelan struggling to play as both destroyer and creator, a bona fide defensive midfielder is arguably the most crucial addition needed. Welshman Joe Allen has struggled to make any position his own and is expected to make a more permanent shift back into one of those slots, most likely alongside a new signing purchased with the proceeds from the sale of Imbula.

Up front, January's arrival of Saido Berahino would appear to signal the extent of the manager's desire for a goal scorer, so it is unlikely that money will be spent there. There is, however, a question mark remaining over Hughes' plans for Bojan Krkic, who returns to the club following a successful loan spell with Mainz in the Bundesliga.

His intelligence in the No. 10 role could well prove to be the catalyst for Berahino's success in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but it remains to be seen whether Krkic slots back into the starting XI or whether the manager sticks to his guns and instead seeks a replacement there, too.