Is a top six finish for Stoke City realistic after Whelan words?

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | November 24, 2015

Long-serving Stoke City midfielder Glenn Whelan believes the current squad at the Britannia Stadium are “good enough” to finish in the Premier League’s top six.

Coral’s betting market on that does not support this assertion from the Republic of Ireland international, however, with a hefty 28/1 price on the Potters achieving that aim.

That begs the question, then, is this little more than a pipe dream of Whelan’s or is it possible? He certainly believes so.

“Belief is that we’re good enough”

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“The belief in and around the squad is that we’re good enough,” Whelan said. “Hopefully we can get there. We need the results – to go to Southampton and win shows just how far we’ve come.

“Stoke have always been tough to beat and we want to keep that. It’s down to confidence and the way we’ve been playing under the manager [Mark Hughes] – he has a certain style – and everywhere we go, we’ll give anyone a good game.

“The manager’s brought in some top players and you have to keep your standards up if you want to stay in the team. They’re pushing us on to keep doing as well because if we don’t play well, things can easily change. It’s a healthy squad and things are going well so everyone’s happy.”

Revival of fortune

Soccer - Capital One Cup - Fourth Round - Stoke City v Chelsea - Britannia Stadium

Just two months ago, Stoke occupied a spot in the Premier League relegation zone after six matches, but 16 points from the last 21 on offer have propelled them from the bottom three to 11th place.

Away wins at Aston Villa, then Swansea City and Southampton, as Whelan alluded to above, have contributed considerably towards their move up the table.

What all three of these results have in common are they were victories to nil, with Hughes still maintaining the defensive discipline of Potters predecessor Tony Pulis, while the most recent pair have seen Bojan Krkic strike early.

Foreign legion of forwards

Southampton v Stoke City - Barclays Premier League - St Mary's Stadium

Having a player of the Spain cap’s quality fit and firing again after a career-threatening knee injury is held up as one of the triumphs of this Stoke side.

Poaching someone of Krkic’s calibre would’ve been unthinkable under Pulis, and Hughes continues to attract names from abroad with Ibrahim Afellay and Xherdan Shaqiri coup captures in the Potters’ supporting cast.

They both have plenty to prove, however, after being discarded by heavyweights of European football. Afellay, for example, never delivered on the promise he showed with PSV Eindhoven when swiftly snapped up by Barcelona.

Shaqiri switch sensational

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Watford - Britannia Stadium

Loan spells away from the Nou Camp at Schalke and Olympiakos followed, and he’s yet to score in a dozen outings for Stoke. Afellay must rectify that if Whelan’s dream comes true.

Shaqiri, meanwhile, needed convincing to join the Potters, initially turning down an approach from Hughes after disastrous six months at Inter Milan.

Pep Guardiola’s willingness to let the Swiss star move on from Bayern Munich did provoke questions and, like Afellay, Shaqiri is yet to net for Stoke.

End product needed

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Southampton - Britannia Stadium

This must be addressed with only basement club Aston Villa scoring fewer than the Potters’ 11 Premier League goals.

Marko Arnautovic and Mame Biram Diouf join Bojan on three strikes apiece, while Whelan’s Republic of Ireland teammate Jon Walters has four across all competitions.

If Stoke can get everyone playing to their potential in attack to match defensive discipline, then Whelan’s wish of a top six finish might just be granted.


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