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Despite spending £31 million, Mark Hughes still can't fix Stoke City's defence

Wednesday 25th October 2017
Stoke City suffered a 2-1 home defeat to 19th-placed Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon, their fourth loss in their last five Premier League games, placing manager Mark Hughes firmly in the hot seat and a contender for the sack race.
The Potters are being kept out of the relegation zone on goal difference, having started the season poorly once again, and manager Mark Hughes will have a headache over how to turn things around.
After the Potters conceded 55 league goals in 2015/16 and 56 in 2016/17, Hughes set his stall out to bolster Stoke's backline in the summer. He spent every penny of the £31.6m kitty on defenders while bringing in attackers for free or on loan.

  • Kevin Wimmer (Tottenham Hotspur) £17.46m

  • Kurt Zouma (Chelsea) loan fee: £7m

  • Bruno Martins Indi (FC Porto) £6.9m

  • Darren Fletcher (West Bromwich Albion) free transfer

  • Josh Tymon (Hull City) free transfer

  • Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (FC Schalke 04) free transfer

  • Jese (Paris Saint-Germain) loan

However, Stoke has started the season just as bad as usual and find their defence looking the most porous in recent years. They have conceded more goals (20) than any other Premier League club in 2017/18, keeping only one clean sheet in all competitions this season. Stoke shipped seven goals against Manchester City in their defeat at the Etihad on October 14th and their new-look backline isn't working early on.
Mark Hughes has used five different centre-backs this season – Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer, Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Geoff Cameron – and can't seem to settle on a lineup. The uncertainty hasn't helped Stoke, and questions will be asked of the manager's ability to set up an impenetrable defence. In 2012, Stoke were deemed to have the best backline in Europe, such was their penchant for clean sheets under former manager Tony Pulis, so what's changed?

Defender Marc Wilson once suggested on Twitter that Hughes never does any defensive training.
Since the start of last season, Stoke City have won just 13 of their 47 Premier League games, picking up 52 points from a possible 141. No side in the top-flight in 2016/17 and 2017/18 have won fewer games than the Potters, and if they fall into the relegation zone, Hughes' position may be under threat.

The Midlands outfit is currently 17th in the Premier League table with eight points from nine games. Stoke have won just one of their last eight games in all competitions and doesn't seem to be going in a direction. Club chairman Peter Coates was happy after Stoke's defeat against Bournemouth and felt it was a game the Potters should be winning. He also seemed to question the approach made by the side, as well as the attitude of the players.

“Yes, it was a game we felt we needed to win and should win. But we came out very flat and it was a very disappointing performance. It did surprise me because I thought we would come out on the front foot. We were at home and after a bad result the week before you expect a reaction, but I didn't see it,” he said to the Stoke Sentinel.

Hughes and Coates are believed to have a good relationship, but that will change if results fail to improve. Stoke begrudgingly parted company with Tony Pulis after the side flirted with the relegation zone in 2012/13, and with City's backline being so leaky for years now, the Welsh coach risks being next.
Crippy Cooke

Crippy is a long-suffering Aston Villa supporter and weekly football accumulator enthusiast.

Stealing a living, the balding 27-year-old boasts a wealth of writing experience - Telegraph, Independent, Huffington Post, Zoo Magazine, Daily Mail, ITV Football, MSN Sport, Yahoo Sport, London 24 and Bleacher Report.

Total articles: 320

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