After this season’s unpredictable start to the campaign, Stoke City have shown they are more than capable of competing with the Premier League’s elite after recovering from their sloppy start.
Saturday’s 1-0 triumph at Southampton secured back-to-back victories for Mark Hughes’ side after they also dumbfounded defending league champions Chelsea by the same scoreline earlier this month, helping them climb up to 11th place in the current standings.
But what three things have we learnt about the Potters after 13 games?
1) The Potters don’t miss Begovic
When arguably Stoke City’s best player; Asmir Begovic, joined defending Premier League champions Chelsea back in July for £8m, Potters fans immediately feared the worst.
Left in their goalkeeping ranks was the untested Jack Butland, veteran shot stopper Shay Given and summer signing Jakob Haugaard heading into the 2015-16 campaign.
However; England international Butland, 22, has already filled Begovic’s boots at Britannia Stadium exceptionally well since the Bosnia international’s departure.
Having impressed at loan spells with Barnsley, Birmingham City, Derby County and Leeds United during his time with the Potters; the Bristol-born shot stopper was finally handed his first-team opportunity at Stoke this season under boss Hughes, a decision which has richly profited both club and country.
Butland has been in outstanding form this campaign; keeping five clean sheets in the Premier League, a statistic only surpassed by international teammate Joe Hart of Manchester City (7), Arsenal’s Petr Cech and West Brom’s Boaz Myhill (Both 6).
Plus; Butland has made the second most amount of saves in the English top-flight (51) this term, a benchmark only beaten by Sunderland’s towering Costel Pantilimon (54).
2) Walters is Stoke’s unsung hero
The Irishman’s influence at the Britannia Stadium has forever been overshadowed and underrated by Stoke’s star, creative or headline players. Until now…
The 32-year-old, who joined the Potters back in 2010 from Ipswich Town, has starred for club and country so far this season, bagging an impressive eight goals in 16 games in all competitions.
Away from his international heroics of sending the Republic of Ireland through to next summer’s European Championship finals in France; Walters has been key in Stoke’s rise up the Premier League table by scoring the opener during their 2-1 win over Bournemouth, assisting Marko Arnautovic’s winner at champions Chelsea and scoring twice in the League Cup process to send the Potters into the quarter-finals.
Never write this man off.
3) Bojan is Hughes’ knight in shining armour
After being ruled out for the second-half of last season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the FA Cup against Rochdale, Bojan Krkic has returned to Stoke’s first-team fold as a saviour.
In light of the club’s star summer signings; Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay, failing to live up to expectations in the Premier League so far this term, Bojan’s first league start against Leicester City back in September made Christmas come early for Potter fans all over Staffordshire.
Since his return to action; Bojan has instigated Stoke’s upturn in form by single-handedly netting winners at Swansea City and Southampton, helping the club scalp five league wins in their last seven meetings.
It is as if last summer’s star recruit has just joined the club all over again. Bojan’s return has injected sky high confidence into manager Hughes, his Stoke teammates and Potters fans.