After a summer full of World Cup delight – although not for England – it is back to home comforts with the start of the Premier League. Stoke City and Aston Villa have both spent their summer transforming their squad and face off on the opening day of the new season at the Britannia Stadium
Stoke have continued to progress from the Tony Pulis era and Mark Hughes has added a number of eye-catching names to his squad – most notably former Barcelona prodigy Bojan. A good pre-season for the Potters has created optimism around Stoke and everyone will be itching to improve on the 9th place the team managed last season.
Aston Villa’s summer has been a continuation of the miserable few years the supporters have suffered with Randy Lerner making his desire to sell the club public. This has affected the transfer budget and left Paul Lambert looking for free transfers and players on the cheap. Arrivals include Senderos and Joe Cole who have question marks over whether they can cut it at this level any more.
While not the goal scorer Stoke have required for a number of years now, he chipped in with just 4 goals, Arnautovic was the creative spark in the final third last season and with new arrivals in the striking department his ability to create chances will be important to ease the new faces in.
Creator of 49 chances last season, Arnautovic topped the charts for Stoke and made 7 assists. His quick feet allows the Austrian international to drift past his opposition full-back or trick them into committing which opened up space for his teammates – Arnautovic made 40 successful dribbles last season.
Now with a season in the Premier League behind him, the Stoke number 10 can flourish this season and cause a number of headaches for defenders.
Last season was a struggle for Aston Villa, but one of their shinning lights was Fabian Delph finally overcoming his injury problems and beginning to fulfil the potential he possesses. In his breakout season, Delph was something that England lack currently – a midfielder who can tackle strongly and be calm in possession.
Delph made the most ground duels for Villa (216) and won a challenge, on average, every 9.21 minutes. In possession, the former Leeds midfielder made 1586 passes at an accuracy of 84% (1326 were completed) with 31% going forwards showing that he wasn’t always keeping hold of the ball just for the sake of it.
His inexperience did, however, show at stages; but, maybe that would have been expected with Delph reaching 30 games played in a league season for the first time since 2009 – he started 33 matches last season compared to 19 the year before and was on the pitch for an extra 1300 minutes. This season should see an even more accomplished player and a major asset for Villa.
- Since they were promoted into the Premier League 6 years ago, Stoke have only managed to have goal scorer reach double figures on 2 occasions.
- Stoke have won 5 out of their last 6 matches at home, keeping 3 clean sheets on the way.
- Aston Villa have lost their last 6 away matches (failing to win 9), scoring 2 and conceding 17 in the process.
- Departed full-back Antonio Luna made 3 foul throws last season.
- Despite suffering injury problems throughout the campaign, Benteke was still Villa’s highest goal scorer (10) and had the most shots on target (28). Second placed in the scoring chart for the Midlands club were Bacuna and Weimann, both whom played 466 and 532 more minutes respectively.
Stoke have no injury concerns heading into the season and boast a fully fit squad.
Joe Cole is likely to return from injury to make his Aston Villa debut on Saturday, while Benteke and Kozak are still long term absentees.
With nearly an entirely different backline to last season, with the exception of Ron Vlaar, and those who have come in – Senderos and Cissoko can be rather clumsy when forced into a difficult situation rather than keeping calm – a good bet to go for is Aston Villa to commit more fouls than Stoke. This can be found on the following link – http://goo.gl/RE34v6 – with odds of 2.18.
Stoke have been picked by many as the surprise in this season’s Premier League and facing off against an Aston Villa that have struggled for a few years now, as well as Paul Lambert having to change his transfer philosophy, the Potters have a great chance to begin their campaign with a win.