Stoke City – Worth A Punt?

Stoke City seem intent on heading for the greater glories of the Premier League, especially given the club’s transfer activities of the past two years. The club were able to celebrate their highest-ever position in the Premier League era and their ninth-placed finish at the end of the most recent league campaign meant the club’s most successful season since 1975. A team that was known for its fighting spirit and an accumulation of long balls during Tony Pulis’ time in charge, has now been equipped with flair and technical versatility. Mark Hughes, who found his career in an ailing state after a few bad spells in charge of arguably dubious clubs, has managed to find a place that seems to be his perfect platform for success. The former Manchester United and Barcelona star was keen on turning Stoke into a destination for classy football and his revolution continues.

In this respect, not only the club’s record-finish or the tangible success are commendable, but also the way in which the Potters earned their success. Last season was testament to a team in transition that has been incredibly keen to not let go of the important traits of its recent pass. In other words, there was some great football on display at the Britannia, but fans were able to witness a good portion of that fighting spirit that had defined the club’s approach in previous years. Hughes’ tweaks worked a treat and the likes of former Barcelona star Bojan Krkic added a new dimension to Stoke’s play.

Looking at the recruitment process of the current transfer window, Stoke City seem intent on expanding their new philosophy. In this context, a number of interesting prospects have been added to the squad and they all seem like good footballers with a distinct focus on a game of passing. Add to that the existing crop of interesting players and there is enough reason for optimism when it comes to points to be gained from Stoke City’s personnel.

In goal, a change is imminent due to the recent departure of Asmir Begovic to Chelsea. Under normal circumstances, a goalkeeper of Begovic’s standard might be missed, but with English youngster Jack Butland waiting to seize his opportunity, the Potters have reason to be cheerful. In only three Premier League appearances, the 22-year old conceded two goals, giving him a ratio of one goal conceded per 135 minutes. Now, this is only a very small sample and incredibly deceiving, but Butland has long enough been regarded as England’s goalkeeping future and at will be worth a punt at £4.5m.

In defence, Germany international Philipp Wollscheid was added halfway through last season and managed to gain 26 points in 12 Premier League appearances. Again, that sounds much less than impressive, but the defender has now settled in Staffordshire and having his loan turned into a permanent transfer will give him a significant boost. At £4.5m, he too seems like a decent investment. A look at the 26-year old’s performance data from the 2012/13 season in particular, shows some great promise; follow this link to view Wollscheid’s performance from that season.

In midfield, Marco van Ginkel is an incredible prospect. Once regarded as one of The Netherlands’ brightest prospects, the 22-year old has seen his career development stall after his move to Chelsea and his subsequent loan spell at Italian giants Milan. Again, the Dutch midfielder has been sent out on loan and this time, Stoke might actually benefit from the class of this midfielder. What initially looks like a disappointing loan spell at Milan, arguably deserves a second look. Especially towards the end of last season, van Ginkel had a good run of form at AC Milan and played the full 90 minutes in the last 12 games of the campaign. There is no doubt that the Dutchman gained some important experience during that time. Available at £5.5m, van Ginkel looks like one of the league’s dark horses. Here is his performance data from last season.

Finally, Spanish forward Joselu, who we had reported about previously, seems a decent and arguably cheap option up front. Whilst playing for Bundesliga side Hannover 96 last season, the 25-year old had a particularly prolific phase towards the end of the campaign’s first half, when he scored a goal in five games in a row, with Germany’s winter-break literally breaking his rhythm. Joselu is an unknown quantity to some extent and he is not known for his goal scoring, but at £6m he seems worth a punt, at least as a back-up striker. Here is his performance data for the 2014/15 Bundesliga season.

As Stoke City are headed for more glory, their squad becomes increasingly intriguing for Fantasy Premier League connoisseurs. In this sense, we would be keen to get hold of your opinion on the current squad and your thoughts on players that might be an interesting proposition for fantasy footballers.