Stoke City's transformation under Mark Hughes

After their highest league finish and with potential transfers looming, it is looking bright at the Britannia Stadium.

Stoke City enjoyed something of a transformation last season. Long regarded as the Premier League’s brute force, they have characterised the hard tackling, resolute sides of a bygone age.

However, their replacement of Tony Pulis - the tactician successful in guiding the Potters to top-flight football - with former Manchester United midfielder Mark Hughes beckoned the dawn of a new age, and it has started better than anyone could have expected.

In a time when clubs' owners can demand simply “better football” from their management, a Mark Hughes led Stoke altered from a dull bottom-half side into a more exciting, higher-scoring ninth-placed side, perhaps indicating a bright future at the Britannia.

Brendan Rodgers and Pulis deserved plaudits for their guiding influence at Liverpool and Crystal Palace respectively this season; however, Hughes' revolution at Stoke is equally deserving of praise.

SeasonGoals forGoals againstGoal differencePointPosition
2008–09 38 55 -20 45 12th
2009–10 34 48 -14 47 11th
2010–11 46 48 -2 46 13th
2011–12 36 53 -17 45 14th
2012–13 34 45 -9 42 13th
2013–14 45 52 -7 50 9th

In their sixth Premier League season, they finished in the top-half for the first time. They also finished on their highest points total and just two goals away from their best top-flight scoring haul.

Their defence may have suffered slightly, but these stats suggest they are taking a few more risks in their pursuit of points - a position indicated by Hughes’ transfer dealings.

Last summer saw Stoke City spend just £2million - a fraction of their spend under Pulis in previous years, but acquire exciting, technical talent as opposed to their usual rough-and-ready types.

Oussama Assaidi and Marko Arnautović, the former loaned from Liverpool and the latter a £2million signing from Werder Bremen, offered flair and skill. Speedy Peter Odemwingie, technically proficient Stephen Ireland and Spanish prospect Marc Muniesa also joined, all representing a different style to the Stoke City of just a year before.

A link with ex-Manchester United forward Mame Biram Diouf, a Senegalese international with almost one goal every two games for German side Hannover, indicates Hughes’ vision for the future at Stoke.

Mark Hughes said in a recent interview, "We'll try and add a little bit of quality if we can and if it's available and it's realistic in terms of the finance that we can put towards it, but it's not a case of wholesale changes, certainly not."

This suggests he is looking to keep the core of Stoke together but bring in exciting additions capable of adding quality, and perhaps further flair, to the side.

The free options of Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, John Guidetti and Anthony Pilkington – all out of contract this summer – will no doubt interest Hughes, and would add further attacking flair to his armoury. Goal-scoring full-back Phil Bardsley has just signed on a free, again signalling Stoke’s progression from a flat-back-eight to a modern, expansive, high-pressing outfit.

It is a refreshing approach from Hughes that is likely to reward with more points and more excitement next season.

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