Date: 11th September 2015 at 10:07am
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There’s no doubt that Stoke’s attacking talent now compared to the Pulis era has improved dramatically.

The likes of Bojan, Arnautovic and Shaqiri have all signed for the club, leaving fans of other sides taking the Potters more serious than ever before.

There’s plenty of optimism amongst fans but as it was last campaign, it’s important to be patient.

Potential is without doubt there for the side to surpass last season’s ninth placed finish and record points tally, but it’s going to be extremely difficult.

After four games the Potters lie in 18th position, but we’re in such an early stage of the season that two or three wins on the bounce can shoot you straight up towards the top.

22nd July 2015 - Pre-Season Friendly - Wrexham v Stoke City - Stoke manager Mark Hughes - Photo: Simon Stacpoole / Offside.

Mark Hughes’ side were unfortunate to not take a point against Liverpool on the opening game of the season, with one wonder moment from Philippe Coutinho the only difference between the two sides.

Consecutive away games at Norwich and Spurs brought back two points after gutsy performances, and it’s tough to read too much into a West Brom game where we played with nine men for an hour.

The season is yet to really get underway from a Stoke perspective, but them first three points need to be in the bag sooner rather than later, if not for the look of the league table then just for the confidence of the players.

Last season began with disappointing home defeats to Aston Villa and Leicester and a draw at relegated Hull, who had ten men, but they were followed by a win at the Etihad against Manchester City.

This season has also started with two home defeats and away draws, and who’s up next? Another away game at a Champions League side in Arsenal.

There’s no doubt about it that any away fixture is tough, never mind at Arsenal who keep the ball better than most in the league on a big pitch.

Arsene Wenger’s side are going to need to have some sort of off day and Stoke need to be at it if they are to take anything from the Emirates, but the Gunners’ very early home form this season provides a glimmer of hope.

As Tony Pulis used to say, games against the big boys are ‘bonus games’, and won’t define your overall league position, but particularly with the Stoke/Arsenal rivalry it would be special to get something there to go alongside the five home victories over the Gunners at the Brit.

If it is to be an eighth straight defeat at the Emirates on Saturday, or even a draw, it’s crucial one, if not two league wins need to come at home to Leicester and Bournemouth in the next two fixtures.

Nobody in this league has a god given right to beat anybody, proven by Palace’s win at Chelsea and West Ham’s win at Anfield prior to the international break.

Saying that, if you want to be looking to finish ninth or above they are fixtures you should be looking to take maximum points from.

We also must not forget that Mark Hughes currently has no Ryan Shawcross and a half-fit Bojan, arguably the club’s two best players.

It is very much early days, and I’m sure, as soon as the first win comes, the Potters will start to kick-on.

 
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