Under the tutelage of new manager Mark Hughes for the 2013/14 season, “The Potters” finished ninth in the table, which was their highest Premier League finish as well as their best finish since the 1974/75 season. The campaign was highlighted by a series of home wins over Crystal Palace (former manager Tony Pulis’ new club), Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal. With most of the club returning and few new faces coming into the fold, the team will be looking to improve upon their historic season.
Starting between the posts, Asmir Begovic returns as the team’s shot-stopper and overall leading scorer (per fantasypremierleague.com). Begovic enjoyed a very solid 2013/14 season, one in which he notched 9 clean sheets, made 104 saves, and even scored a goal (yes, that’s right, scored a goal). He finished the season as the sixth overall keeper in fantasy terms, and a similar outcome should be expected for the upcoming year as well. He makes for a solid selection if you’re one who chooses to wait on keeper’s in your drafts.
The back line, though not considered to be among the Premier League elite, features three defenders who can be relied upon for fantasy football. Fullbacks Geoff Cameron and new kid on the block Erik Pieters both can provide owners with some added offensive goodness as well, as Cameron bagged two goals and chipped in an assist, while Pieters nicked one goal and dished out three assists. The fantasy leader last year, though, was centre back Ryan Shawcross with 108 points. After the big name defenders are off the board in your draft, all three provide some nice mid to late round value.
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The midfield is highlighted by the arrival of former Fulham man Steve Sidwell, and the club’s leading goal scorer from the previous season, Charlie Adam. Adam, who scored eight goals, also did his fair share of providing as well, adding in four assists. The eight goals came as a nice surprise, because while he’s shown a knack for finding the back of the net (scored 12 in 2010), he’d only managed a total of five over the past two seasons.
With Sidwell now in the mix, the team gains a widely experienced defensive-minded midfielder with the penchant for bagging an odd goal or two. Last season with the now-relegated Fulham, he found the back of the net seven times.
Stoke boast several attacking threats up front, but it all begins with the 6’8″ Peter Crouch. At age 33, Crouch has enjoyed a lengthy career and is heading into his eighth tour of Premier League duty. But despite his age, he’s proven to still be a good source of goals, scoring 14 over the past two seasons. His height always makes him a dangerous threat as balls are being crossed into the box. Much similar to many of his teammates, Crouch can be someone you target later in drafts.
New signee Mame Bram Diouf makes his return to the Premier League after spending the past two seasons with Hannover of the German Bundesliga, and with him he brings renewed vigor that was lacking in his first go-around whilst in England.
Additionally, second year man Marko Arnautović brings some much needed youth and pace to the Potters, but we’ll delve more into that here shortly.
This is awkward.
Stoke City don’t boast any one player you would consider a “stud”. Instead, as I’ve already stated on several occasions, the viable fantasy options found on the team can be had at bargain prices. This allows owners who prefer to delay drafting a position or two, in order to strengthen other areas of their team, to still yet find serviceable players in the mid to late rounds.
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Key New Signing
While the team awaits word on wether or not Barcelona man Bojan Kirkić will bring his talents to Britannia Stadium, they have, in the mean time, remained busy on the transfer front.
And while a case can be made for the likes of Pieters and Sidwell, the key new signing for the Potters, at least in terms of fantasy, has to be the aforementioned Diouf. As stated earlier, Diouf returns to the Premier League after some time in Germany, and this time he’s looking to make good on some talent that was only deemed “promising” during his time at Manchester United and Blackburn.
With 26 goals over that span of two years in the Bundesliga (57 games), Diouf now has the track record of a proven goal scorer. Stoke only managed a measly 34 Premier League goals last season, so a more commanding presence in front of goal could be just what the doctor ordered.
In a team chalked full of underrated footballer’s, perhaps there is yet one more in forward Peter Odemwingie. At age 33, likely gone are the days for double-digit goals for this Nigerian international (scored 15 in 2010/11 and 10 in 2011/12), but with an influx of talent coming in he could potentially match – and possibly improve on – his total of seven from a year ago. He should also see his chances to create for others increase as well, and one would think besting his total of two assists from last season would be well within the realm of possibility.
When searching for a bright young talent on the Stoke side, one needn’t look further than the comments made about Marko Arnautović from manager Mark Hughes:
“People will very quickly see what an outstanding talent he is. In terms of his power and his pace, which is something I think we need in the squad, he ticks all the boxes. Technically he’s excellent and I’m really looking forward to working with him. I think it’s quite a coup to get him here…”
Obviously this could just be proud coach speaking proudly about his player, but when you take into account the words from Austrian national team manager, Andreas Herzog, who called him the best Austrian football player of the past 30 years, then we see that Hughes might be on to something here.
In his first taste of Premier League action last season, Arnautović netted four goals and provided an outstanding 10 assists. The sky appears to be the limit for the 25-year old, and the numbers posted last season may very well end up looking rather tame in just a short time.
That’s Stoke City’s fantasy prospects in a nutshell. They’re built more on substance than style, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them when it comes time to draft.