Now an established side in the Premier League, it’s been quite an impressive rise by little old Stoke City. Their only respectable claim to fame before the 21st Century was giving the world Sir Stanley Matthews, the first winner of both the European Footballer of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year. The club were established in the First Division back in the 70s, even making some appearances in the UEFA Cup. Over the next two decades, The Potters slipped down to the third tier of English football, but they slowly began to rebuild. Promotion was won to The Championship in 2002, which was soon followed by the appointment of Tony Pulis. The Welshman tourned the midlands club into a force in The Championship, and after one year away from the club, returned in 2006 to begin the ascent to the Premier League. Two years later, and the top-flight dream was realised, with Stoke not even coming close to relegation, finishing 12th in the division.
After five years in the division, a trip to the FA Cup Final and a commendable European appearance, there was a sense that Tony Pulis couldn’t take the club any further. Mark Hughes was brought in and he continued this impressive rise, and took the club to their highest ever position, ninth, in the Premier League, a position they have achieve three times in a row. But is now the best Stoke fans can hope for, ninth? It doesn’t exactly sound exciting, and maybe another change is needed at the Bet365 Stadium. If you take on the Potters in FIFA 17 you will inherit a very balanced squad with some many and the bank with the potential to reach Europe once again. Yes it won’t be easy with the Manchester clubs, Merseyside clubs and Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham having the clear edge, but whilst those sides battle over league titles and European places, there is an opportunity for The Potters to target the cup competitions.
How you should line up
The Stoke line up is relatively straightforward, and it’s that well-oiled machine identity instilled by Tony Pulis that makes them so tough to beat. 4-2-3-1 should be your formation of choice, but you could opt for a 4-3-3 attacking or 4-4-1-1.
Jack Butland is the obvious choice in goal, and with his potential of 89, be sure to tie him down to a long-term contract as soon as you can. In font of him, you have the experienced Glen Johnson, Ryan Shawcross, the on-loan Bruno Martins Indi and Erik Pieters.
In holding midfield, you should go for Joe Allen and Gianelli Imbula, who offer the protection for the deadly front four. Xherdan Shaqiri is out on the right, Marko Arnautovic takes his space on the left wing, with Bojan in the number 10 position and on-loan Manchester City man Wilfried Bony up front.
On the bench, you should have 40-year-old Shay Given, Geoff Cameron, Phil Bardsley or Marc Muniesa, Glen Whelan, Ibrahim Affellay, Mame Biram Diouf and Charlie Adam or Peter Crouch.
The Transfer Market
Starting transfer budget: £42 million
Starting wage budget: £158,000
Who should go
With Stoke now eying up European football, it is time to get rid of the lower quality players. Anyone who has a potential less than 74 needs to go, which is a long list. The one major name is former Sunderland full-back Phil Bardsley who is rated at 73, so he can be sold for around £800,000.
Jakob Haugaard is the other recognisable name with the young goalkeeper making five Premier League appearances last season. The 24-year-old failed to impress, and with his potential just 70, he needs to be leaving the Potters. You should be looking for a fee of around £380,000 for him.
The rest of the names are just fringe players. Sergio Molina, Daniel Bachmann, Eddy Lecygne, Dom Telford, Dionatan Teixeira and Ryan Sweeney do not have the potential to be Premier League players, so should be sold. Aim for around £1.2 million for all six of them.
What the team needs
Stoke are just three or four signings away from having a side that can compete for European football. You won’t get very far with a budget of £42 million, but if you make those recommended sales and win a pre-season tournament, you will have £50 million at your disposal.
The full-backs will be the area you need to target first, with a replacement for left-back Erik Pieters first on the agenda. A few high-quality defenders have contracts winding down, so you have an excellent opportunity to get an 80-rated or more player on the cheap. Sevilla’s Benoit Tremoulinas is a prime example, with the 81-rated left back available for around £15 million. The Frenchman has 87 stamina, 86 crossing and 82 sprint speed, with affordable wages of £43,000.
– Gael Clichy – Manchester City, Age 30, OVR 80, POT 80, Cost: £10 million, Wage: £43,000
– Faouzi Ghoulam – Napoli, Age 25, OVR 79, POT 82, Cost: £14 million, Wage: £43,000
– Kieran Gibbs – Arsenal, Age 26, OVR 79, POT 80, Cost: £15 million, Wage: £58,000
– Daley Blind – Manchester United, Age 26, OVR 81, POT 83, Cost: £20 million, Wage: £58,000
After the left-back problem is resolved, the starting 11 is in much better shape. Right-back Glen Johnson then becomes the weakest member of the side, giving you the opportunity to completely tighten up the defence. Juventus’s Stephan Lichtsteiner is another player in the final year of his contract, and the 83-right rated right-back or midfielder can be picked up for around £17 million. The Swiss international has 88 stamina, 84 aggression and 84 sprint speed, with wages of £65,000.
– Pablo Zabaleta – Manchester City, Age 31, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £13 million, Wage: £65,000
– Bacary Sagna – Manchester City, Age 33, OVR 82, POT 82, Cost: £9 million, Wage: £43,000
– Antonio Valencia – Manchester United, Age 30, OVR 81, POT 81, Cost: £15 million, Wage: £43,000
– Branislav Ivanovic – Chelsea, Age 31, OVR 80, POT 80, Cost: £8 million, Wage: £43,000
– Dusan Basta – Lazio, Age 31, OVR 80, POT 80, Cost: £10 million, Wage: £43,000
With some young players now starting to show some promise, there are some candidates that you can send out on loan. Oliver Shenton has a potential of 74, which just about keeps him at the club, but his starting overall of 62 needs to improve. Two seasons away for the 18-year-old should bring him into first team contention.
The same can be said for 19-year-old Liam Edwards who is rated at 59 but with a 75 potential. The centre-half still has Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi, Marc Muniesa and Geoff Cameron in front of him in the pecking order, and clearly has a long way to fo before being a Premier League player.
A lot of players at Stoke have contracts running out at the end of the season, with seven of them deserving new deals. Glen Whelan, Charlie Adam, Glen Johnson and Ibrahim Afellay can still do more than just a job for your side, as can veterans Peter Crouch and Shay Given.
Out of the fringe players, Liam Edwards’s contract should be renewed to stop him slipping through the net.
First team regulars Phil Bardsley can be sold in the summer or be released at the end of the season, with reserve men Daniel Bachmann, Eddy Lecygne, Dom Telford and Dionatan Teixeira having no future at the club.
Domestic and continental success will be the first things you look for on career mode, but like most of Stoke’s objectives, they only have a medium priority. Domestically, you will need to finish in a Euro League spot (fifth), and reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. For your continental objective you will be asked to quality for the Euro League, so it goes hand in hand with your domestic target.
Off the pitch, the targets remain as a medium priority. For brand exposure, you will need to sell out 85% of the stadium for 70% of the home league matches, and this can be achieved by winning regularly and scoring plenty of goals. Financially, you will need to increase the club worth, which can be raised by bringing in big names, as well as recording a profit at the end of the season.
The least important task is youth development, and all you will need to do is sig a midfielder to your youth academy.
The next step…
Although the Stoke objectives are tough, they are not impossible. With the traditional big clubs fighting over title spots and European football, Stoke will be one of the few to top half clubs who won’t have European football to deal with, and can therefore concentrate on league action. The way the Euro League target has been presented, a cup win will not cut it, so you will need to focus on league action. With the Manchester clubs, Merseyside clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham all expected to take the top seven places in the division, it’s never been more difficult to qualify for Europe. But the Stoke side has the attacking talents to hurt any team, and if the right signings are made, their defence will be stronger than most in the division.
A strong start to the season is imperative, and you should eye to finish the first five games unbeaten. When the big clubs starting prepping for European action you can strike, and you can ignore the EFL Cup altogether. Use the competition to give other plays a game, and keep your first teamers fresh for the weekend. With no eyes on any trophies, a fifth placed finish can definitely be achieved. Stoke are renowned for punching above their weight, and this undoubtedly can be achieved with this squad on FIFA 17’s Career Mode.
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