This season it has to be said has given Stoke fans one of the best experiences we’ll ever have and many believe it to be something of a stepping stone onto bigger and better things. This 3 part blog post review each player of the club in turn looking at the performances of the Defence, Midfield and Attack. Each player will be analysed briefly with a highlight of the season, low point of the season and overall rating to accompany them. First up is the Defence (which for the basis of this blog will also include Goalkeepers). Here is my analysis of the defence for the season 2010/2011, hope you enjoy:
1. Asmir Begovic
This season saw Stoke’s £3.25m Bosnian stopper take centre stage and make the step up from Backup, to number one in what has to be said, really as a top season for the young keeper. Asmir himself has made himself a bit of a fans favourite and with a string of top performances combined with a series of top little tweets to keep the online audience happy and the journalists poised to quote him. After stepping in to replace an injured Sorensen against Everton, Begovic impressed and was able to dislodge the Danish international from top dog and make the Number 1 Jersey his own. At just 24, it looks like it could be only a matter of time before Begovic moves onto another club with Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs ready to snatch Asmir from Stoke. Here’s hoping Asmir is here to stay and develops himself at the club that also look to be improving with time.
Highlight of his Season: Fantastic Performances against Man City, Arsenal,West Brom and Chelsea which saved Stoke a vital few points.
Low Point of his Season: The ongoing transfer whispers of Asmir to Chelsea which doesn’t help our cause
Season Rating: 8/10
29. Thomas Sorensen
The Great Dane who signed on a Free transfer at the Start of Stoke’s very first Premier League campaign has this year been replaced as a solid number one and instead is now a reliable backup. Thomas has done nothing wrong to lose his place as number one but with a young keeper providing such fierce competition, it was always going to be a case of competition and unfortunately for Tommy, this year his only saving grace has been his fantastic performances in the FA Cup run which saw Stoke narrowly lose out in the Final. Still a player of his stature is a great person to keep at the club, and the way Thomas has stayed professional despite playing in a mere 17 games out of a potential 46 games for the Potters.
Highlight of his Season: A String of Fine performances in the FA Cup with 3 vital saves in the final to keep us in the game
Low Point of his Season: Losing his First team spot through injury after a shaky World Cup
Season Rating: 6/10
27. Carlo Nash
Carlo Nash has had an ultimately quiet season this year. Making the Substitute bench for a handful of games and playing in the Carling Cup game against Shrewsbury seem to be the only highlights of a quiet season for the Journeyman. I use the term Journeyman because Carlo has always struggled to hold down a first team place at wherever he has been. In the 6 clubs he has been at he has amassed just 143 games with his most prolific spell coming at Preston North End. Nash however was not simply a passenger in this years Season. In the FA Cup run, Nash was always there and involved in a pre-match teamtalk and it seems that he was not simply there to make up the numbers but that his presence is felt in the dressing room with experience vital to any team looking for Cup success.
Highlight of his Season: Carlo’s impact on the side in the dressing room and around the club
Low Point of his Season: A less than impressive 90 minutes against Shrewsbury Town
Season Rating: 2.5/10
17. Ryan Shawcross (c)
This season it has to be said was a bit of an acid test from Tony Pulis for young Ryan. Giving the Captains armband to a player with just 4 seasons of playing under his belt was a huge risk. Luckily for both Stoke City and Ryan Shawcross, the risk paid off and Ryan thrived under the title of Captain. In later seasons it was always Ryan that was on the end of every set piece for Stoke however this year Ryan took a bit more of a back seat and instead stayed defensively sound and worked his hardest to keep his side in front at all times. many may argue that this year Ryan has not improved at all and that the title of Captain is too much, but it’s clear that the side respect his presence as captain and all understand that he is captain for a reason. Forming a formidable Centre back pairing with Robert Huth has helped Stoke to concede just 48 goals for the second season running.
Highlight of his Season: Leading out a proud team to adoring, proud and loud fans in an FA Cup Final
Low Point of his Season: Once more the transfer whispers surrounding him which would truly rock the boat.
Season Rating: 8.5/10
4. Robert Huth
The Berlin Wall. The solidity and fierceness that for me sums up the entire attitude of a Tony Pulis team. This season Huth really showed his prowess notching in an impressive 9 goals from defense. Interestingly it’s also nice to note that Huth picked up 8 yellow cards and not a single red which in previous seasons has been a problem for him. For me it’s very difficult to think of a player better than Huth for player of the season. He was solid all year and even did what i’d call ‘An Abdoluaye’ by scooping every single award at the Fans Player of the Year awards handed out on the final game of the season. It truly has been a successful year for him and providing Huth remains a Stoke City player at the end of this transfer window, I think we can look forward to another few months of German Precision defending with a hint of grunt behind him. Vorsprung Durch Technik.
Highlight of his Season: 2 goals against Sunderland which brought Stoke back into a game they looked to be losing.
Low Point of his Season: Injury plaguing a fantastic season just as Stoke hit top form
Season Rating: 9.5/10
3. Danny Higginbotham
In a season where he miraculously became Argentinian with a new haircut, the centre back who often masquerades as a left back played a solid part throughout the season. Despite playing in just 10 premier league games, Danny made a big contribution and provided valuable cover at both left back and centre back. Unfortunately missing the FA Cup final was a blow to a player who helped so much, but a man of his experience deserves to be respected all the same. His thunderous free kicks are now something of a norm.
Highlight of his Season: Scoring a blistering free kick against West Ham to send Stoke into the Semi Finals of the FA Cup.
Low Point of his Season: Missing the final due to injury.
Season Rating: 7/10
30. Ryan Shotton
For all academy graduates the ultimate dream is to play in the first team. For local players the dream is to play for their boyhood club. SO imagine the gleeful look on a young Ryan Shotton’s face as he was told he’d be playing for his club in the FA Cup 3rd Round against Cardiff City. A shaky start was followed by a solid defensive performance from young Ryan aswell as allowing him to show off his own ‘Delap’. Shotton went on to make 2 substitute appearances for the Potters and impressed me personally. He doesn’t seem ready to simply step up next year, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Pulis decides to bring in a new full back or allow him more game time and allow (for the first time in what seems like forever) an academy player to truly make the grade.
Highlight of his Season: Making his first team debut and playing in the Premier League.
Low Point of his Season: Only playing in 50 minutes of League Football.
Season Rating: 6.5/10
12. Marc Wilson
There is a bit of confusion as to what position Marc Wilson actually is. Personally I see him as a holding midfielder, however he came to the club as a centre back and played not a single game at CB. You could say that he’s simply able to play anywhere which would be perfect really. In what was his first season at Stoke, Marc impressed me. He was often slow on the ball, but given that extra yard could find a good pass and was always defensively sound at full back. Personally I think Marc can now push on and fill the space at full back next season with Wilkinson and Shotton providing competition.
Highlight of his Season: Coming on against Blackburn away on 89 minutes and scoring within minutes
Low Point of his Season: Took a while to be a firm choice with a lot of appearances being from the bench
Season Rating: 7.5/10
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Andy Wilkinson is not just a little kid anymore. At 26 years of age it feels like Andy is still a young academy player challenging for a first team place. You’d be forgiven as an opposition fan for believing that he really is just a young lad. As ever, ‘Wilko’ was a committed, tough tackling full back this season making a name for himself as exactly that. Despite making only a handful of appearances from the start, on the whole Andy was solid with only a couple of shaky appearances. It seems that finally, we have someone to call on when in need of a full back too; something we’ve lacked in our prior premier league campaigns.
Highlight of his Season: Making his 100th Stoke City Appearance away to Spurs and extending his contract
Low Point of his Season: A rash challenge on Dembele in the last minute of an already sown up Carling Cup tie.
Season Rating: 7/10
25. Abdoulaye Faye
In 2008/09 you’d be hard pushed to find a player Stoke fans loved more than Abdoulaye Faye. He was solid, pacey, skillful and seemed in total control at the back. However as time has progressed, Abdy has not. He simply began to show signs of laziness and a lack of interest in the game with warm ups conducted in Flip Flops and injuries early in games becoming common place. Since then he has been released and moved to West Ham to team up with Big Sam once more.
Highlight of his Season: Moving to West Ham
Low Point of his Season: Falling from the pecking order into almost nothing
Season Rating: 4.5/10
5. Danny Collins
The less said about Danny the better personally. He’s been relatively poor all season and with the odd glimpse of the man that won Player of the Year at Sunderland, it just hasn’t worked yet for both Danny or Stoke. Positioning is poor, his whole game seems flawed in places. If he was coached on his full back abilities, perhaps he could improve, but as far as I see it, Danny is a lost cause and a new left back must be brought in.
Highlight of his Season: Playing for his Country again after an international absence
Low Point of his Season:
Season Rating: 3.5/10
Footnote: Unfortunately with no league or cup appearances for Andrew Davies, he doesn’t get a rating/review. It’s evident he’s not really in any plans for Stoke and I’d like to personally see him gone as would most.
Hope you enjoyed the first part in my season review. Feel free to comment and either agree or Disagree with my ratings and low/high points. I really enjoy feedback whether it’s good or bad