Mark Hughes
Hughes is under pressure to repeat the heroics of the 2014-15 season Getty

Last season

Premier League: 9th

FA Cup: Fifth Round

League Cup: Fourth Round

Top Scorer: Mame Biram Diouf (12)

Summer's work

To borrow a retail analogy, while The Potters may not yet be conducting their shopping on Carnaby Street or Knightsbridge, during seven years in the top flight they have come a long way from the car boot sales which was the venue for their transfer business. No addition is more eye-catching than Netherlands international Ibrahim Afellay from Barcelona, while German Philipp Wollscheid will firm up the back four. Spanish forward Joselu arrives from Hannover, while the domestic signings including released pair Shay Given and Glen Johnson. Wilson Palacios, Robert Huth, Steven N'Zonzi and Asmir Begovic, an £8m signing by Chelsea according to The Guardian, are the headline exits.

Ibrahim Afellay
Ibrahim Afellay is one of the most eye-catching new arrivals in the Premier League Images

Manager – Mark Hughes

That haphazard spell at Queens Park Rangers is now but a distant memory for Hughes, who is quickly rebuilding his reputation as one of the shrewdest operators in the Premier League. Having transformed Stoke from agricultural to swashbuckling, the results have followed. A second successive ninth place finish came with a record points tally of 54. Having signed a new contract until 2019, Stoke should be protected from any luring advances from rival clubs particularly given how the club are matching his ambitions with significant investment.

Key player – Jack Butland

Jack Butland
Butland's reputation hangs in the balance in his first season as a Premier League number one Getty

Perhaps the most important addition to the first team for the 2015-16 season is a player who has already been at the Britannia Stadium for 18 months. After Begovic's inevitable departure to Chelsea, Butland has been given the reins and in his first proper campaign in the top flight must prove why he is the heir to Joe Hart's throne for England. Begovic was authoritarian between the sticks and gave Stoke an air of invincibility, Butland must attempt to capture that demeanour and maintain the club's steely reputation.


Six points separated Stoke from a Europa League place after all was said and done at the end of last term, and given the rapid progress made up Hughes and the impressive array of signings there is no reason why their upward trajectory can't be maintained. What could hinder them, a year prior to the 70% increase in television payments, is the major investment made by other teams hungry for a taste of Europe. Crystal Palace and Newcastle United have spent big while Southampton have reinforced after their annual exits. The perception remains that a top half finish is realistic, but beyond requires more of chairman Peter Coates' media millions.

IBT prediction – 11<sup>th

Despite the raft of new faces rival clubs have caught up. A season for scaling back expectations.