Voices calling for Mark Hughes’ head at the Britannia Stadium are deafeningly increasing, following a seventh defeat from their previous ten league matches.
Stoke City are swimming in dangerous waters and sit just two points adrift of the relegation zone. They’ve also conceded more goals than any other team in the Premier League this season (47) and inevitably have the worst goal difference (-24).
Their defensive dilemma has been expanded into the attacking department, due to the sheer lack of goals. Stoke have accumulated only 23 goals this season, with joint-top goal scorers for the club Eric Maxim Choupa-Moting and Mame-Biram Diouf scoring just four league goals.
Mark Hughes has been unable to sustain his early success with the potters and is experiencing an unrecoverable level of decline. The ‘Hughes Out’ banners were impossible to ignore and the Welshman will require a miraculous change in form to rescue him from the sack.
He’s the bookies’ favourite to become the next Premier League manager to face the sack, with Betfair offering odds of 1/9. Stoke City travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United next in the Premier League but it’s yet to be seen whether Hughes will be boarding the team bus down to the M6…
How have Stoke City declined so rapidly under Hughes?
The potters recorded three successive top half finishes between 2013 and 2016 in Hughes’ first three seasons at the Britannia Stadium. He rebranded their style of play, after supporters grew frustrated with the tactics implicated by Tony Pulis, but relied heavily upon the players that earned them promotion to retain their identity.
However, Ryan Shawcross is the only survivor of the squad that gained automatic promotion to the Premier League in the 2007/08 season. They have adopted the trending back-three to modernise their style but have lost the aggression that they once prided themselves on with the departures of Robert Huth, Glenn Whelan and Steven N’Zonzi.
The decline began at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign, after they failed to win any of their first seven matches in the Premier League. Stoke City improved significantly by responding from their dismal start with three successive wins but they were unable to secure another top-half finish and slumped into 13th place and only ten points above the relegation zone at the end of the 2016/17 season.
Stoke allowed numerous departures in the summer transfer window, including Marko Arnautovic, who left the club for West Ham United for a fee of £20 million. Veterans Phil Bardsley, Glenn Whelan and Jonathan Walters also departed in the summer transfer window, as Stoke lost valuable experience.
Darren Fletcher arrived to provide Premier League experience to the heart of midfield and Eric Maxim Choupa-Moting joined from German Bundesliga outfit FC Schalke 04 on a free transfer. Hughes’ also welcomed the arrivals of three central defenders Bruno Martins Indi and Kevin Wimmer on a permanent basis and Kurt Zouma from Chelsea on a season-long loan deal.
Former Real Madrid forward Jese Rodriguez also joined the club on a season-long loan from French giants Paris Saint-Germain. His arrival was highly anticipated but Hughes’ recent fall-out with the Spaniard and personal issues has reduced his playing time in England.
The potters lost only one of their opening four league fixtures and picked up a victory against Arsenal and a draw at home to Manchester United. Unfortunately, their form has declined drastically ever since and they’ve went onto lose 11 of their next 18 Premier League games.
Hughes is clearly feeling the scrutinising pressure hanging on his shoulders, which he demonstrated when storming out of his post-match press conference after their New Years’ Day defeat against Newcastle United. A shock 3rd Round exit in the FA Cup will surely hammer the final nail in the coffin, but it’s clear time is running out for the 54-year-old.