Stoke season review
Stoke City again missed out on the top half in the Premier League this season, and Mark Holmes sees few positives to take from the campaign
By Mark Holmes - follow me on Twitter.
Last Updated: 24/05/13 6:45am
Stoke set their sights on a first top-half finish in the Premier League at the start of the season and looked on course to achieve their aim at the midway point, with a 3-1 win over Liverpool on Boxing Day leaving them eighth after 19 games, just five points off a Champions League spot.
The Potters had lost only three league games at that point, and none at home, but a disastrous second half of the season saw them finish 13th with 14 defeats, five of which came at the Britannia Stadium.
Eight points from their last five games ensured a relatively comfortable six-point buffer over third-bottom Wigan, but just 34 goals scored, the second lowest total in the league, have left manager Tony Pulis heading into the summer with serious questions over his future for the first time during his second spell in charge of the club.
Player of the Year
Asmir Begovic was named Stoke's Player of the Year by the fans, players and management staff (joint with Ryan Shawcross) - and deservedly so. The Bosnian goalkeeper enjoyed an almost faultless season - in 38 games, he did not drop a single cross - and was the key part of the Premier League's seventh best defence.
Ratings Player of the Year
Our reporters agreed with the Stoke coaching staff, with Begovic and Shawcross the equal top-ranked players over the season on our ratings page. Begovic was the outright top-ranked player by our readers, with Charlie Adam second ahead of Shawcross.
Breakthrough Player of the Year
Steven N'Zonzi, 24, won Stoke's Young Player of the Year award, summing up the rarity of a youngster breaking into Tony Pulis' first team. However, Ryan Shotton seems to have established himself as Pulis' preferred right-back ahead of Andy Wilkinson, which represents a breakthrough of sorts. As a winger he has been more miss than hit, but the 24-year-old has proven himself as a capable Premier League defender.
Signing of the Year
Stoke's summer signings enjoyed mixed success, with N'Zonzi and Geoff Cameron establishing themselves as regulars, but Adam and Michael Kightly finding themselves in and out of the team, with Michael Owen failing to make a single Premier League start. Maurice Edu made just one substitute appearance before being loaned out. Cameron has enjoyed a good first season in England, while both Kightly and Adam have been match winners on occasion, but N'Zonzi has regularly been Stoke's stand-out player and would have pushed Begovic for the Player of the Year award had he been a little more consistent.
Could do better
Peter Crouch scored 14 goals in his first season for Stoke but bagged only eight this time around, five of which came in his first seven appearances of the season. The 32-year-old's hold-up play also seriously suffered after he lost three teeth in a collision with Newcastle's Fabricio Coloccini in November.
For the first time in his second spell in charge, Pulis heads into the summer with serious question marks over his future at the Britannia Stadium. Stoke were eighth at the halfway point of the season and showing signs of evolution with Adam utilised as a link between midfield and attack but, for the second year in a row, results took a significant turn for the worse following the turn of the year. The defensive solidity and battling qualities to which we have become accustomed to seeing from Stoke went out of the window, and Pulis was unable to get the team scoring more freely to address the balance, with all signs pointing towards relegation until back-to-back wins at the end of April.
However, 42 points represented Stoke's worst total in the Premier League and, if he remains in charge, Pulis will be under enormous pressure to deliver a more positive style of football and, of course, an improvement in results.
Jamie Redknapp's view
Tony Pulis will be disappointed with the players he's bought and, given the money they've spent, this has not been a good season for them. Over the last few years, whether you liked them or not, Stoke were an exciting team to watch with Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant in wide areas getting crosses in all the time. But in the last three or four months they've tried to be more narrow, a footballing team - and they've lost their identity. Although fans may watch teams like Barcelona and expect their team to play like that, with the players Stoke have got, if they tried that, they'd be lucky to stay in the Premier League next year.
Fan's view (Tim Ward)
Well, what a bizarre season it has been at the Britannia Stadium. To half-borrow the old football cliché it really has been a season of halves. On New Year's Eve, Stoke had the best defence in the Premier League, were eighth in the table, with the only undefeated home record and hopes of attaining a top-10 finish for the first time. Fast forward, and 17 matches, and only three wins later, and the Potters were in complete and utter freefall, with seemingly no clue how to stop it. I was at the soul-destroying Aston Villa match where Villa romped away with a 3-1 win and I convinced myself that we definitely WOULD get relegated. Turns out, thankfully, I was wrong. Stoke will end up finishing roughly where we'd be expected to finish, but I expect there to be some big changes in the summer, to avoid another collapse next season.