It’s safe to say it has been an interesting start throughout England’s top division so far. Nobody expected Chelsea to be sat near the bottom end of the table, or West Ham and Leicester to make such flying starts.
The same could be said for Stoke, I guess, who sat in the bottom three after six games without a win on the board. I stressed the importance of a win against Bournemouth in my previous blog, and that alongside a win at Villa Park sits Stoke a much healthier 14th in the table with nine points from eight games.
It’s still not quite the start Potters fans would have wanted, but I’m sure all will agree game by game it’s slowly getting better. Having said that, I think you can argue it’s tougher to get points this Premier League season than any other, and teams like Stoke can far from assume they are guaranteed a comfortable finish.
This term more than any is also huge for all towards the bottom end of the table with the extra money coming into the Premier League next season and, for that reason, no game is a given.
Looking at what Stoke have produced so far, it’s safe to say the first half a dozen games were extremely frustrating. Everyone will know it’s difficult to watch your side when they are performing okay, but you know they can perform much better. Putting two good halves together is something that has been an issue for a while, but I think that box was just about ticked at Villa.
With the league position not looking too bad and few points separating us from the top end of the table, the real test comes soon with a difficult six weeks or so, including just two league home fixtures in the next seven matches.
The positives are that captain Ryan Shawcross began his comeback trail from back surgery for the Under-21 side on Wednesday night, and we are yet see the best of record signing Xherdan Shaqiri, which you would expect to come sooner rather than later. The start the Switzerland international has made reminds me a lot of Bojan last season. It took him a while to get going but when he did he was sensational, and hopefully Shaqiri can hit the same levels.
If the current side can keep improving along with those two finding form, the potential is definitely there for another successful season.
A place where the Potters have frequently struggled since promotion is the Liberty Stadium, and that’s where they head next a week on Monday. I’m not sure who decided it was sensible to send Potters fans on a journey to South Wales for a 7.45pm kick-off, rather than Everton vs Manchester United for example.
For that reason around 250 fans will be backing Mark Hughes’ side rather than a few thousand. Thank you, Sky Sports.
It’s common knowledge that Swansea play some of the best football in the division, and Stoke are going to have to be at it from the first minute to the last if they want to get a result. Arguably though, playing away suits the Potters this season more than ever, and their only away defeat in all competitions this season has been at the Emirates. If they can continue that with even a draw at the Liberty, it will be a great result.