It's been a tough couple of campaigns for Stoke City. After three successive ninth-place finishes in the Premier League, The Potters look set to challenge the top six for European places and silverware. It was stick or twist time at The bet365 Stadium, with more talent coming in last season, and it backfired. Mark Hughes struggled to know what to do with the Stoke side, and when they struggled with form, the Welshman never looked like getting them back on track.
The Premier League veteran lost his job, with Paul Lambert taking his place after more than 1,000 days away from the English top flight. Can you sort things out and find the formula for Stoke to keep them in the top half of the division on Football Manager 2018 and stay well clear of a relegation battle?
With Stoke still uncertain as where they stand as a club, there are no philosophies you need to follow when taking over as their manager. You can present your own to the board, but for the first season we suggest you give yourself free reign.
Stoke chairman Peter Coates will issue you with the expectations for the season. These are customisable, but the default is to finish mid-table in the English Premier Division, reach the fifth round of the FA Cup and fourth round of the Carabao Cup. If you target higher achievements, you will be given a healthier transfer budget, with an extra £6 million on offer if you target the top half in the league and quarterfinals of the cup competitions.
Transfer £27 million
Wage: £1.26m per week (Current spend: £1.16m)
Stoke have experimented with a number of systems this season, but you should go with the conventional 4-2-3-1 wide. If you want to be more defensive, go for a 5-2-3.
Jack Butland takes his place in goal, with Geoff Cameron, Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi making up the back four.
Joe Allen partners Darren Fletcher in central midfield as Ramadan Sobhi takes up the creative number 10 position. Xherdan Shaqiri and Maxim Choupo-Moting are the dangerous threats on the flanks, but striker Saido Berahino, who is yet to score for the club, leads the line.
On the bench you should go for Lee Grant, Ryan Shawcross, Glen Johnson, Charlie Adam, Mame Diouf, Jese and Peter Crouch.
Stoke have added so much quality over the past few seasons, but you do sense these top players have to prop up their teammates at times.
Jack Butland – CA 3.5 star (151), PA 4 star (161)
Jack Butland arrived at Stoke in 2013, and he was tipped to be fast-tracked through to becoming an international goalkeeper. A few loan spells seemed to stunt his development, having to wait until 2015 for his breakthrough into the Stoke side. An injury came at just the wrong time, and you now wonder if the 24-year-old will achieve his potential.
On FM 18, the stopper can still become a top goalie, with his 151 current ability score able to rise to 161. His top attributes include 18 reflexes, 18 aerial ability and 17 professionalism.
Xherdan Shaqiri – CA 3.5 star (149), PA 3.5 star (163)
Stoke looked like they were seriously going places when they picked up the talented Xherdan Shaqiri in 2015. The winger is a fantastic player, but his starring performances have just been too few and far between, scoring just 11 goals in 78 games so far for the club.
Swiss international Shaqiri is the club’s biggest attacking threat on the game with a 149 CA rating, which can improve to a potential of 163. The 25-year-old can hurt defences with his 18 flair, 17 agility and 17 first touch.
Kurt Zouma – CA 4 star (149), PA 4 star (162)
On loan from Chelsea, but if Stoke survive the drop, you wouldn’t be surprised if Kurt Zouma joins The Potters on a permanent basis next season. The Frenchman looked be a fantastic find by Chelsea, but a horrendous knee injury meant he needed to start again. The 22-year-old has shown some promise at Stoke but lacks reliable partners in defence.
Centre back Zouma has skills of 19 acceleration, 18 strength and 18 jumping, providing him with a CA of 149 and PA of 162.
Names such as Robbie Earle and Richard Keogh are the only notable players to come through the Stoke City academy, well since the days of Ballon d’Or winner Sir Stanley Matthews. The Potters must do more to promote youngsters from within as they cannot continue to spend money on new talent.
Thibaud Verlinden – CA 2 star (105), PA 4-5 star (130-160)
A Belgian U19 international, which is no mean feat, winger Thibaud Verlinden made his first team debut for Stoke earlier this season. The 18-year-old will need to be more patient with opportunities, but with many first teamers under performing in the current campaign, he could be given a chance. His 105 current ability score will increase to a more than useful potential between 130 and 160 on FM.
Harry Souttar – CA 1.5 star (97), PA 2.5-3.5 star (120-150)
He’s just gone out on loan to Scottish Premiership side Ross County, but Harry Souttar is one of the brightest talents at Stoke. Standing at 6 foot seven inches tall, he is a mountain of a centre back, and just 18 years’ old. On the game his 97 CA, which could tempt you to play the Scot in cup competitions, can improve to between 120 and 150.
Tyrese Campbell – CA 1.5 star (82), PA 2-3 star (120-150)
A bit more of an unknown prospect is striker Tyrese Campbell. The 17-year-old is yet to make his senior debut for the club, but has been in a rich vein of form for the U23s, scoring seven goals in 12 games this season. His 82 current ability score makes him a candidate to send him out on loan, with his potential between 120 and 150.
|Goalkeeper depth||Centre back depth|
|Right wing depth||Strength|
|Left wing depth||Teamwork|
|Star goalkeeper (Jack Butland)||Passing|
|Star defender (Kurt Zouma)||Leadership|
|Star midfielder (Xherdan Shaqiri)||Aggression|
|Wage budget||Work Rate|
|Youth prospects||Scouting staff|
Team Leaders - Ryan Shawcross (c), Peter Crouch, Darren Fletcher
Highly influential - Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam, Erik Pieters, Xherdan Shaqiri, Glen Johnson, Joe Allen, Mame Diouf
Dynamics is the big new feature for Football Manager 2018, and it indicates the atmosphere inside the dressing room at your club. Through the Dynamics tab, you can view the different social groups in the squad, and which players hold the greatest influence over their teammates. Bear that in mind when addressing certain players in your squad, as the impact you have on them can have a knock-on effect on others.
£27 million is a nice little pot of money in your transfer budget, and you could buy two first team players with that cash. We suggest however that you bring in one player at the start of the season, and then reassess the situation in January.
Right back – Mariano (CA 151, PA 152)
One of the best right backs in the game, Galatasaray’s Mariano would solve the issue in that area for Stoke. He may be 31, but that should still be enough time to have him in your side for a couple of seasons, with neither Geoff Cameron nor Glen Johnson reliable options in that position.
The Brazilian will set you back around £14 million, with wages close to £50,000 a week. His 151 current ability rating is just one off his 152 potential, with attributes of 17 stamina, 16 consistency and 16 acceleration.
- Nelson Semedo – Age 23, Barcelona, Portugal, CA 150, PA 164, Value: £13.7m, Wage: £63k
- Mario Fernandes – Age 26, CSKA Moscow, Russia, CA 149, PA 156, Value: £18m, Wage: £31k
- Antonio Valencia – Age 31, Man Utd, Ecuador, CA 149, PA 158, Value: £17.3m, Wage: £85k
- Aleix Vidal – Age 27, Barcelona, Spain, CA 149, PA 153, Value: £13.7m, Wage: £79k
The financial picture at Stoke look ok, but not fantastic. Balance and turnover are to remain fairly constant, but the worry is that the club’s profits are to shift to loss at the turn of the year, with no sign of improvement. The good news is that you'll have a large transfer budget to play with every summer.
Look up not down
You can’t stand still in the Premier League, and after finishing inside the top half three years on the bounce, you sensed Stoke needed to do some serious transfer business to ensure they could continue to improve. The men they brought in, Maxim Choupo-Moting and Jese are talented players, but lack consistency. If you are to improve Stoke’s fortunes, maintaining the performances of your players will be the challenge, with the squad able to beat any Premier League side on their day.
Stoke first team squad, player roles and ratings
|Player||Age||Pos||Role||Duty||Role Ability||CA/ PA|
|Jack Butland||24||GK||Goalkeeper||Defend||3.5 star||151/ 161|
|Geoff Cameron||32||DR||Wing-back||Defend||2.5 star||130/ 137|
|Kurt Zouma||22||DCR||Defensive centre back||Any||4 star||149/ 162|
|Kevin Wimmer||24||DCL||Ball playing defender||Defend||3.5 star||145/ 155|
|Bruno Martins Indi||25||DL||Defensive full-back||Defend||3 star||141/ 142|
|Joe Allen||27||MCR||Deep lying playmaker||Defend||3.5 star||142/ 152|
|Darren Fletcher||33||MCL||Ball winning midfielder||Support||3.5 star||143/ 160|
|Xherdan Shaqiri||25||AMR||Inside forward||Support||3.5 star||149/ 163|
|Ramadan Sobhi||20||AMC||Shadow striker||Attack||3 star||134/ <170|
|Maxim Choupo-Moting||28||AML||Winger||Attack||3.5 star||142/ 143|
|Saido Berahino||23||STC||Advanced forward||Attack||3.5 star||145/ 165|
|Lee Grant||34||GK||Goalkeeper||Defend||2.5 star||130/ 130|
|Ryan Shawcross||29||D (C)||Defensive centre back||Any||3.5 star||142/ 150|
|Glen Johnson||32||D (R) WB (R)||Full-back||Automatic||2.5 star||123/ 156|
|Charlie Adam||31||DM M (C) AM (C)||Advanced playmaker||Support||2.5 star||126/ 140|
|Mame Diouf||29||D (R) WB (R) M (R) AM (RLC)||Raumdeuter||Attack||3 star||139/ 151|
|Jese||24||M (RL) AM (RLC) ST (C)||Inside forward||Attack/ support||3 star||139/ 147|
|Peter Crouch||36||ST (C)||Advanced forward||Attack||2.5 star||121/ 155|
|Josh Tymon||18||D (L) WB (L) M (L)||Full-back||Support||2 star||107/ 154|
|Ibrahim Afellay||31||M (RLC) AM (RLC)||Inside forward||Support||3 star||137/ 150|
|Julien Ngoy||19||AM (RLC) ST (C)||Winger||Support||2 star||116/ <160|
|Erik Pieters||28||D (LC) WB (L) M (L)||Wing-back||Defend||3 star||134/ 134|
|Stephen Ireland||30||M (C) AM (C)||Attacking midfielder||Attack||3 star||132/ 155|
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