Key Player: Peter Crouch
In: Jamie Ness, Geoff Cameron, Michael Kightly
Out: Ricardo Fuller, Jonathan Woodgate, Danny Collins
Stoke City is hard to love, but they are also hard to beat. Crouch may fit the same description, hardly a feast for the eyes with his ungainly gait, but pretty effective in front of goal and hard for defenders to handle. The goal Crouch scored against Manchester City last season was both highlight reel and pure luck, but it proves the point: the striker is capable of special things, still reason enough for the Potters to hang their hat on his 6-foot, 8-inch frame.
Under Tony Pulis Stoke has arguably over-achieved in recent seasons. The team plays a physical, aerial style which makes it look like a bunch which dropped in from the 1970s when Route One football was all the rage. Rory Delap’s long throws, Robert Huth’s ability to get his head on the end of all types of set pieces and Crouch’s penchant for the unusual add up to an attack which may look like carnival stuff, but still manages to worry even the good teams. The addition of the American Geoff Cameron to the central defense could be a major plus. He was a cheap summer purchase and should help to solidify the backline.