Have Stoke City had a Good Season?

Have Stoke City had a Good Season?

The 2015-2016 Premier League season has come to an end.  Leicester City won the league (yeah, that’s still weird to type), Aston Villa finished bottom and were relegated for the first time in the Premier League, then there was a whole lot of stuff in between.  It’s time for teams, fans, and the media to evaluate and analyze how teams have done.

Some teams are pretty easy to evaluate; Leicester: good, Villa and Newcastle: bad.  Some other teams are much tougher to evaluate, one of those teams being Stoke City.  They finished ninth for the third year in a row.  Considering the size of the club, that’s pretty good, but when you take a closer look at the season whether they had a good season or not becomes a tougher question.


Based on their results, Stoke had a good season.  Stoke City have finished ninth in each of Mark Hughes’ three seasons at the Britannia, a very impressive achievement.  On top of where they finished, they recorded wins against Chelsea, West Ham United, Manchester United, and a very impressive performance as well as result against Manchester City.

The achievement is especially impressive considering the size of Stoke’s wage bill.  Wage bill is a very good way of predicting where a team will finish, as Michael Caley detailed here.  According to CIES Football Observatory, Stoke had the 16th highest wage bill in the league.  Obviously Leicester were the big wage bill movers going from the 17th highest wage bill to top of the table, but the Potters’ going from 16th to 9th is still extremely impressive.  Only Leicester outperformed their wage bill more than Stoke.

The results suggest that Stoke had a good to very good season, but the underlying numbers and performances make the picture kind of blurry.  They only scored 41 goals, fifth worst in the league, and had a -14 goal difference, the worst goal difference of a top nine team since Wimbledon in 1994-1995.

Looking at their shots numbers, they have been a pretty awful offensive team.  According to Objective Football, Stoke averaged 11 shots per 90 minutes, tied for fourth worst in the league.  They averaged 3.4 shots on target per 90 minutes, fourth worst in the league and 0.9 worse than the league average.

Their defensive shot numbers tell a slightly better, but still pretty bad story.  According to Objective Football, they conceded 14.2 shots per 90, sixth worst in the league, and 4.7 shots on target per game, tied for fourth worst in the league.  As you can guess, their shots and shots on target differentials aren’t good either.  Their shots differential of -3.2 left them fourth worst in the league as did their shots on target differential of -1.3.

Stoke’s expected goals numbers don’t paint a pretty picture for the Potters either.  Expected goals is a statistic that measures the chance of a shot becoming a goal (For a more in depth explanation read here).  According to Paul Riley’s expected goals model, their expected goal difference of -13.29 was the fourth worst in the league.

Stoke’s season is one that depends on how you want to judge a team.  Judging on results, they’ve had a good season.  If you choose to judge on performances and the process that got them those results, they don’t look quite as good.  It’s all about how you want to judge them.