This season has been a difficult one for everybody associated with Stoke City. The Potters are currently 19th in the Premier League table after dispensing with the services of Mark Hughes and hiring Paul Lambert.
A 1-1 draw at West Ham on Monday night leaves the team from Staffordshire six points from safety, having played a game more than the two teams directly above them. The picture is a grim one for Stoke.
Poor recruitment at the club
In recent transfer windows, the club has failed to bring in the required quality to improve their squad. Too many transfers just have not worked out for the north west club, with the likes of Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma and former Real Madrid star Jese both failing to live up to expectations.
Dutch centre Bruno Martins Indi has struggled to find the same level of consistency since joining the club on a permanent basis in the summer. The former Porto star was outstanding on loan last season.
Then there is former Spurs flop Kevin Wimmer, who has failed to feature for the Potters in their last 11 top-flight games. January arrivals Moritz Bauer and Papa Alioune Ndiaye have shown flashes of quality, but it may be too little too late.
The only recent signing who seems to have shined this season is versatile German star Eric Choupo-Moting, who has contributed five goals and five assists this season. That is not a fantastic tally, but by Stoke’s standards, it has been a good return.
A lack of goals
The Potters have struggled for goals this season, with only Huddersfield, Swansea and West Brom scoring fewer Premier League goals. They have badly needed a prolific striker for a number of seasons, but one has never arrived.
The fact that the Potters are still having to rely on 37-year-old Peter Crouch to get them goals tells its own story really. Saido Berahino has not scored since switching from West Brom, while Mame Biram Diouf has scored just six times this season.
Stoke have recently given a first-team debut to young Tyrese Campbell, the son of former Everton striker Kevin Campbell. The youngster has been prolific at younger levels, but it is unfair to ask him to come in and score the goals required to save his team from relegation.
Heading for the Championship
Stoke are now one of the hot favourites to suffer relegation this season. The appointment of Paul Lambert as boss was always a gamble, as the Scot has enjoyed little success in the English Premier League.
Lambert has achieved just one victory in his 11 Premier League games in charge of the Potters. His side were slightly unfortunate against West Ham and it was difficult to fault their effort.
However, those two things count for very little when the team is fighting for their lives at the bottom. The Potters need victories and their remaining fixtures are a mixed bag.
Home games against Burnley and Crystal Palace give Lambert’s side hope of picking up points, as does a trip to relegation rivals Swansea. However, a trip to Anfield to face Liverpool is never an easy one, even if the Reds will have their minds on the Champions League at that point.
In short, it is difficult to see the Potters escaping the drop. Poor player recruitment, a bad managerial appointment and a simple lack of quality have combined to consign the Potters to life in the Championship next season.
Can Stoke City still avoid relegation from the Premier League?