Stoke City’s 10-year stay in the Premier League ended in dismal fashion. The first side relegated this term, their drop to the Championship was confirmed by a 13-game winless run.
After a campaign most Potters fans would prefer to forget, we take a look at what the Staffordshire club could – and should – do next…
Stick or switch with experienced Lambert?
The Potters’ mid-season gamble in the dugout didn’t work out – at least in the short term. Paul Lambert won just two of his 15 games at the helm, and one of those came in the final-day dead rubber at Swansea City.
However, despite an underwhelming four months at the helm so far, there’s reason to think he could be the right man to revive their fortunes. For the next 12 months, at least.
The Scot’s record as a top-flight manager isn’t brilliant, but he did win successive promotions from League One to the top-flight as Norwich City boss.
With the time to revitalise an underperforming and disillusioned squad at Carrow Road, the 48-year-old worked wonders. The question is, has he done enough at Stoke to suggest he could repeat the feat?
Clearing out the deadwood…and potential targets
Stoke stalwart Charlie Adam didn’t mince his words following relegation. The veteran midfielder told media, “I think some players have been getting away with murder for a long time”, and that “A lack of discipline from certain players has been embarrassing.”
When that’s the indictment from inside the squad, it’s fair to say there are more than a few players that Lambert – or whoever has the reigns this summer- should turf out.
Following a grand total of zero goals and one assist in 30 games, ‘striker’ Saido Berahino should be moved on. So too the disruptive Ibrahim Afellay and now perennial loanee Bojan Krkic – who’s hardly the lowest earner in the Potteries.
They’ll also need to find long-term replacements for the likes of Darren Fletcher and Peter Crouch, both of whom are some years past their 30th birthdays. The latter looks likely to stay for the time being, but is very much in the twilight of his career.
While potential targets depend largely on who spends the summer as Stoke boss, reinforcements are needed across the park – but especially in midfield. And a few players with promotion experience who still have some pace and physicality in their locker certainly wouldn’t go amiss.
They can’t afford to chop and change as much
While Stoke’s players did underperform in 2017-18, it wasn’t entirely their fault. For much of the campaign, Mark Hughes markedly changed the side’s formation from each game to the next – and nobody seemed to understand their role.
Between October’s trip to Manchester City and December’s loss at Burnley, they played 10 different systems in as many games – never getting used to a single one.
It happened to a lesser extent under Lambert, but the Potters still looked uncertain at best and disorganised at worst. Whoever is at the helm in the coming campaign needs a firmer idea of both their starting XI and preferred system.
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