Stoke City are embracing the saying out with the old and in with the new to full effect at the start of 2019, with Nathan Jones replacing Gary Rowett in the managerial hotseat.
Jones arrives with a hefty reputation after tasting success in his first job at Luton Town. But can the new man mould the Potters into promotion contenders in just four months?
They’re 14/1 for an immediate Premier League return. And we’ve looked at just why it’s possible following Jones’ arrival.
First thing’s first. It’s important to remember Stoke have a pretty ridiculous squad for this level. Jack Butland remains a constant in the England squad, while Joe Allen can still cut it in the top-flight.
Tom Ince, Saido Berahino, James McClean, Benik Afobe and Ryan Woods are all talented forward players. We’d go as far as to say they’d get into most teams in the division. And that’s without the out-of-favour Bojan.
Defensively things are less impressive. But with some organisation and discipline, Ryan Shawcross, Erik Pieters and Bruno Martins Indi should still provide the base of an effective unit.
We’ve named just 11 players at Jones’ disposal. He has a squad double the size to play with, and with renewed enthusiasm around Staffordshire, there should be more to get out of them all.
Style of play
You’ve seen the squad. Now think how well they could be performing with an injection of enthusiasm and organisation from an attack-minded young manager.
Coincidentally, Jones is just that. The 45-year-old enjoys a passing style of football and likes to set his sides up in a diamond formation, with an emphasis on counter-attacking.
Stoke’s current defensive record suggests that might be a risky approach. But take into the account the six attacking players we’ve mentioned above, and there should definitely be some legs in it.
What’s more, it’s already been successful at Kenilworth Road. The Hatters dished out 8-2, 7-1 and 7-0 hammerings on their way to 94 goals and a runner-up berth in League Two last season.
Time to click
Jones has a few things to sort out in Staffordshire. But if the impressive start to his spell at Luton is anything to go by, Potters fans can expect an immediate upturn in form.
Under John Still, the Hatters averaged 1.2 points per game in the first 25 matches of the 2015-16 League Two season. The following 21 games under Jones saw that increase to 1.7 points per match.
Town missed out on the play-offs by nine points that season. The following year produced a fourth place finish, followed by their eventual promotion as runners-up during the 2017-18 campaign.
But if work needs to be done, then both the Potters’ board and supporters should have every faith that Jones is the man to get the job done.
His first task is a home fixture against Leeds United, where City are rated 19/10 for all three points.
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