Stoke’s season can be pretty much split into 2 parts: the first 20 matches, where they showed consistently good form and only lost 3 games to Manchester United, Chelsea and Norwich. And then the last 18 matches, which included an alarming run of only 5 points from 13 games inviting the very real possibility of relegation.
Drafting in a new look midfield including Adam, N’Zonzi and Kightly – plus the attacking experience of Michael Owen, a diminutive poacher – suggested that last season could bring about a change in tactics from the usual focus on set pieces and well-renowned physicality of Pulis’ team. Scoring-wise, there was little to suggest that the goals would flow, as Stoke consistently scored around 1 goal per game – a little under the kind of rates expected of a top half team. Defensively, however, Stoke were their dominant selves for the majority of the season apart from losing the plot on the 20 game mark for that period of sloppy results.
Stoke fans had little to shout about last season in terms of victories against the best 5 teams who scored 18 against Stoke with only 4 in reply. Otherwise the picture isn’t too dreary – Stoke would have been hoping for a bit better in each department.
Perhaps these charts suggest why the Stoke board parted company with Pulis in the close season. Stoke were able to field the core of their team much more than average and should have been able to benefit from that. But then again Stoke so often defy the ‘average’ stats that I would be cautious to draw too many conclusions from them having fewer injuries than other teams.
Begovic, Walters, Huth, Shawcross and N’Zonzi all played over 3000mins (33+ games). This consistency probably helped them to concede 8 fewer goals than in the previous season – the problem was a stagnating attack in which Crouch only found the net 7 times. Jones and Jerome had an average of 1072mins each and Owen didn’t ever realistically fit in to the team.
- Worst ground duel win ratio of 47%
- Best aerial duel win ratio of 59%
- Involved in more aerial duels than any other team: 1852
- Lowest total number of shots attempted (389)
- More fouls and yellow cards than any other team (485, 78)
Begovic won the official club player of the season but N’Zonzi wins my award with honourable mentions for Whelan, Huth and Cameron.