Season Preview: Stoke CityFriday, August 16, 2013
Alex Grant - Portsmouth - Free
Marc Muniesa - Barcelona - Free
Erik Pieters - PSV Eindhoven - £3m
Juan Agudelo - New England Revolution - Free
Dean Whitehead - Middlesbrough - Free
Michael Clarkson - Released
Rory Delap - Released
Matthew Gledhill - Released
Jadan Hall - Released
Matthew Lund - Released
Andrew Musunga - Released
Carlo Nash - Released
George Rigg - Released
Matthew Upson - Brighton - Free
Mamady Sidibe - Released
Michael Owen - Retired
The king is dead. Long live the king.
That feeling of consistency despite change is emanating from the Britannia Stadium. Tony Pulis is gone after his brand of football finally wore out Stoke's players, fans, and ownership. Probably in that order.
In his place comes Mark Hughes. A manager with big pretensions, and a reputation to restore. He also was most successful in management with a Blackburn Rovers side not a world away from the Stoke style of physical defending, and quick play out to wingers to feed the strikers.
The problem for Stoke is that the necessary quickness isn't in abundance in this side. Fringe players like Michael Kightly and Cameron Jerome possess it, but not incumbents like Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch. Hughes has only brought in Erik Pieters to give the side a little more impetus, but it's a big ask for an oft-injured left back to change a culture. That burden can't fall on the young Marc Muniesa either, despite his Barcelona pedigree.
Stoke may rediscover their physicality and resilience if they only lost it as a result of Pulis' losing the dressing room. If so, Asmir Begovic, who returns to Stoke despite interest from other, bigger clubs, could benefit and again be a fantasy asset. However, unless Stoke makes good use of the remaining weeks of the transfer window, their attack may sadly be as anaemic as it was last season. Former fantasy standouts like Charlie Adam and Matty Etherington may see their status remain as former fantasy standouts.