As they went into the international break, Stoke City had a respectable four points from an available nine. This included a tough game against Arsenal at home. But where should Stoke fans expectations lie this season?
The players Stoke currently have available are that of an upper-mid table team. Building on last season’s defensive frailties, Stoke permanently signed Martins-Indi as well as Kevin Wimmer. Kurt Zouma has also been brought in on a season long loan.
The defence has looked strong so far, doing very well to keep a clean sheet against Arsenal and unlucky to concede against West Brom.
However, the attack is different and appears to need time to gel. New free agent Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has so far played everywhere across the front 3 and looked best out wide. Loanee Jese was good in spells against Arsenal but went missing against West Brom. And Saido Berahino is yet to score his first goal for the Potters.
Overall it seems Stoke have a similar level of squad to last year but very different in terms of personnel and individual strong points.
After falling from 9th the previous season to 13th last season, there was a fair amount of unrest from the fans. It seemed as if Mark Hughes may even be on his way out.
But the relatively strong start to the season seems to have fans in good spirits. So far the team has put in the graft it sometimes lacked last season and many are optimistic that the passing, flowing football will return soon.
I myself complained fan unrest last season was down to having too higher ambitions for the club but our good start may only increase the pressure. It feels like a top half finish is an absolute minimum. This is a big ask with some of the resources mid table clubs now have.
Looking forward Stoke should be planning to be in a position similar to Everton. It is entirely possible in 5-10 years to be putting pressure on the top 6. However, this will require an ability to hang onto big players and much more progression through the academy.
Stoke have really struggled to breed new youngsters and as a result may end up stuck under a mid-table ceiling. With fan ambitions being much loftier this could be a serious problem.
Personally, I feel a realistic ambition for this season is a 10th placed finish and a respectable cup run. The dreamer in me wants us to try and win a cup and anything could happen.
So where do you think Stoke City’s ambitions should lie? Let us know in the comments