CaughtOffside 2012/13 Report: Stoke City – Season Review, Best Player, Worst Player & Grade

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A look back at Stoke’s season in 2012/13.

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Stoke have done well to firmly establish themselves as a mid-table Premier League side since their promotion to the top flight in 2008, earning a well-deserved reputation for being strong defensively and hard to beat, particularly at home.

Despite some decent summer signings by Tony Pulis, which included Michael Owen on a free transfer, Charlie Adam from Liverpool, and Michael Kightly from relegated Wolves, it proved to be a harder campaign for the Potters this time round, as they were certainly slow to get going at the start of the season.

They drew with newly-promoted Reading on the opening day, and then held Arsenal to a 0-0 draw at the Britannia. However, they were then victims of a shock in the first round of the Capital One Cup, losing 4-3 at home to League One side Swindon Town. They followed that up with two more draws, a 2-2 against Wigan and a 1-1 at home to Manchester City, though their winless start to the season continued as they were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea after a late Ashley Cole goal at Stamford Bridge.

They finally won as Swansea were beaten 2-0 at the Britannia, with a brace from Peter Crouch, and they followed that up with a hard-earned 0-0 against Liverpool at Anfield, though they were then beaten 4-2 by Manchester United at Old Trafford. They then drew 0-0 with Sunderland and after losing 1-0 to Norwich, they went on a ten-game unbeaten run in the league, winning five games and conceding just seven goals, with a 3-1 win over Liverpool at the Britannia and a 0-0 draw with Tottenham at White Hart Lane the stand-out performances. In a rare poor defensive display, they drew 3-3 at home to Southampton, staging an impressive comeback from 3-1 down with a wonder-goal by Cameron Jerome in the dying minutes to spare their blushes.

Their form then took a drastic and surprising turn for the worse. Their unbeaten run was ended with a trip to the Etihad Stadium, where they were comfortably beaten 3-0 by Manchester City. They could then only draw 0-0 with Championship side Crystal Palace in the FA Cup, and then let a proud eleven-month unbeaten home record slip as they were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea, by far their worst defensive performance since joining the Premier League in 2008. It was a bad day for Jonathan Walters as well, as he scored two own goals for the visitors and then blazed a late penalty over the bar to complete his humiliation. A horrible afternoon for a player who has been such a fine servant for the club.

They recovered to beat Crystal Palace 4-1 in their FA Cup replay, though they were knocked out in the next round by Manchester City, who won 1-0 at the Britannia with a late Pablo Zabaleta goal. The side who beat Stoke in the FA Cup final in 2011 later went on to reach Wembley again this season.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis

They continued to struggle in the league as well, drawing with Wigan and cursing their luck once again as they lost to late goal by Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski at the Emirates Stadium. They managed a 2-1 win over struggling Reading, but then hit an awful patch as they lost six out of their next seven games to find themselves as serious candidates for relegation, something no one would have seen coming at the start of the season. A 0-0 draw with West Brom was the best they could manage in that run, as they were comfortably beaten by the likes of Fulham, West Ham, Newcastle and Aston Villa. Less surprisingly, Manchester United also beat them 2-0 at the Britannia, but they would need to start picking up wins quickly.

Thankfully for them, two wins came just at the right time, as they beat fellow relegation strugglers Queens Park Rangers and Norwich, winning 2-0 at Loftus Road and 1-0 at home against the Canaries. They were still not entirely safe, but results went their way with Wigan being confirmed as the third team to join Queens Park Rangers and Reading in the bottom three. They played out the season with draws against Sunderland and Southampton, and a defeat at home to Spurs.

A decent-looking final position of 13th perhaps masked what had been a poorer season than expected, but Stoke fans will just be happy to be safe and look to rebuild next season under new manager Mark Hughes, who replaced the long-serving Tony Pulis at the end of the season.

Crouch  Swansea City

Best player: Peter Crouch

Not his best season by any stretch, but in a poor year for the team overall, the gangly striker remained a reliable performer. His contribution of 7 goals and 4 assists was useful for the side, and he remained instrumental to how they played, causing team’s problems with his aerial threat. Goalkeeper Asmir Begovic deserves credit as well, for helping the side through some difficult games with many impressive and important saves.

Worst player: Matthew Etherington

A considerable step down in form from Etherington, providing no goals or assists all season long despite being a regular on Stoke’s left flank. Despite his good service down the years, he has definitely made himself a candidate to be sold in the summer transfer window. Michael Owen also turned out to be a poor signing, though that’s more because he barely featured rather than because of poor performances.

Final grade: E

After a good few years as a safe mid-table side, Stoke will have been looking to make a little more progress up the table this season. Instead, their terrible form in the second half of the season saw them as genuine relegation candidates and they were perhaps somewhat fortunate to survive in the end as they were helped more by results of the teams below them than their own. Their final position of 13th looks better than it really was and Hughes will be expected to do better with the team next season, and perhaps finally introduce an alternative to their defensive and physical style of football, which leaves them without a ‘Plan B’ all too often.

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