Need to know: Stoke

Five things to know about Stoke going into the 2013-14 Premier

League season:

NEW MANAGER

Tony Pulis departed as manager after seven years and the club

brought in Mark Hughes to lead the side in the new Premier League

season. Hughes enjoyed successful spells with Fulham, Manchester

City and Blackburn in the Premier League but his previous job, at

Queens Park Rangers, holds less fond memories. The club was winless

after 12 games in the league when Hughes was fired, which will

provide him with extra motivation to succeed at Stoke.

EVOLUTION OF TACTICS?

Pulis was renowned for playing an aggressive, long-ball style

relying on tall, strong players to tackle hard in defense and be

strong aerially in attack. Such tactics aren’t considered as easy

on the eye as the passing styles of other teams in the league, but

they have been effective for Stoke, which never finished lower than

14th under Pulis. However, Hughes has spoken of a desire to alter

Stoke’s directness in attack in the hope that a new style could

help them push further up the table than least season’s 13th-place

finish.

NEW SIGNINGS

Hughes has signed two new defenders who could start in Stoke’s

first game of the season, away to Liverpool. Left-sided Netherlands

defender Erik Pieters has joined the club from PSV Eindhoven on a

four-year contract, as has central defender Marc Muniesa from

Barcelona. The 21-year-old Muniesa is an exciting signing for

Stoke; he played a key role in the Spain under-21 squad that won

the European Championship this summer.

GOALKEEPER BATTLE

Arguably Stoke’s strongest position is in goal, where Hughes has

a choice between Bosnia international Amir Begovic and Jack

Butland, a member of England’s Euro 2012 squad. The 20-year-old

Butland hasn’t played in the Premier League yet but is highly

regarded. If he doesn’t immediately usurp Begovic as the No. 1

choice for Hughes, he remains well-placed to take over the

goalkeeping jersey in the future. Still, Begovic is an imposing

figure: the 24-year-old is 1.96 meters (6-foot-5) tall and turned

in impressive displays for Stoke last season, when he was linked

with Arsenal and Manchester United by English media.

ENGLAND PLAYERS EYEING WORLD CUP

While Butland will hope to be selected as an understudy to Joe

Hart if England qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Peter

Crouch and Ryan Shawcross will also be aiming to become surprise

inclusions in the squad. Striker Crouch has scored 22 goals for

England but inconsistent form for his club last season meant he was

rarely considered. Stoke captain Shawcross has been on the cusp of

the England squad under Roy Hodgson for a long time, but has yet to

add to his single cap earned under previous manager Fabio

Capello.