Championship Preview: Does Stoke City have a revival in store?
Following last season's disappointment, Stoke City is aiming to make amends. A few fresh faces have arrived this summer. On paper, the Potters look to have improved after suffering Premier League relegation three months ago. One or two new signings are still needed, though.
The strongest area in Stoke's squad is midfield. Ideally, another defender and striker should be brought in. Improving those two positions would help the Potters push for Championship promotion, as well as ease fans' worries.
Gary Rowett was appointed as manager in May. His arrival came after Mark Hughes and Paul Lambert both failed to guide Stoke away from the Premier League relegation zone.
With the Potters having enjoyed top-flight football for ten consecutive seasons since 2008, Rowett is under pressure to ensure the club return at the first time of asking. The Englishman has something to prove. Most neutrals expect his side to compete atop the Championship.
Joining from Derby County, Rowett has settled in well at the bet365 Stadium. Most Stoke supporters were pleased with his arrival due to past performance. The 44-year-old guided second-tier side Birmingham City from 21st to 10th two years ago. His work at Derby was also admired. Finishing ninth last campaign attracted attention from the Potters.
Rowett now has a great opportunity to enhance his reputation at Stoke over the coming season.
It's been a busy window so far for the Potters. With a clean out required, 16 players left. Nine youngsters have been released while experience such as Glen Johnson and Stephen Ireland were also let go.
Dom Telford was sold to Bury. Goalkeeper Lee Grant joined Manchester United. Marc Muniesa made his loan to Girona permanent. Xherdan Shaqiri linked up with Liverpool after his release clause was activated. Ramadan Sobhi departed too, signed by Huddersfield Town for a little under £6 million.
Stoke signed Benik Afobe on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers. The deal will most likely become permanent in January for around £12 million. Other new arrivals include Peter Oghenekaro Etebo from Portuguese side Feirense, as well as West Bromwich Albion's James McClean and Huddersfield's Tom Ince for a combined £15 million.
Gabriel Kyeremateng is the latest addition. Signed from Borussia Dortmund, the 19-year-old striker has plenty of potential. He is perhaps the hidden gem needed to help fire a promotion challenge. Should he fail to adapt quickly, however, either a move out on loan or place in the reserves awaits.
The Potters have several important players. Ryan Shawcross will wear the captain's armband in his 12th season at the club. Jack Butland also has a big part to play. That's if Chelsea don't snatch him up. Peter Crouch could be a key figure, too. The 37-year-old proved his importance at times last campaign.
Rowett stated six players will leave Stoke in the coming weeks. Charlie Adam and Darren Fletcher are both at risk. The two midfielders have lacked quality in recent times, leading fans to lower their opinion of the pair. Injury-hit Ibrahim Afellay also faces the exit.
No youngsters have been loaned out this summer. It could mean a few will feature in Rowett's plans.
Defenders such as Tom Edwards, Harry Souttar, Ryan Sweeney and Josh Tymon are pushing for first-team recognition. Midfielders Lasse Sorensen and Ollie Shenton both have potential. Tyrese Campbell, Julien Ngoy and Thibaud Verlinden are other youths hoping for an opportunity to impress.
The Potters aren't known for producing young talent in recent times, but things could change next campaign.
Many pundits consider Stoke as promotion contenders, if not title favourites. That's mainly due to squad depth. Demonstrating superiority on the pitch will prove more difficult. The Potters' first test is away to Leeds United on Sunday.
Can Stoke regain Premier League status come next May, or will they struggle to make a big impression in the Championship?