The 2017-18 season marks Stoke City’s 10th consecutive year in England’s top flight. Despite dismal predictions from the pundits upon their arrival in 2008, the club has become part of the furniture in the Premier League.
Part of staying clear of the relegation quagmire each season involves dishing out some harsh lessons to those clubs who have followed Stoke through the promotion doors, and Stoke’s record shows that they rarely shirk the task.
Ahead of this weekend’s trip to face the Championship’s reigning champions, Newcastle United, we can leaf through Stoke’s previous encounters with the Premier League’s new arrivals and spot some intriguing trends.
Improved recent form
Stoke have won eight, drawn two and lost two in 12 games against newly promoted sides in the last two seasons, averaging 1.75 goals per game and taking 26 points.
In the three seasons prior, 18 games against the new boys yielded just 24 points and just 1.1 Stoke goals per game.
Indeed, though Stoke’s win percentage against top-flight debutants is 66.7 per cent for the past two seasons, the figure is only 42.3 per cent across all nine of Stoke’s Premier League campaigns.
Tough to beat away
In nine seasons Stoke have lost just four of 26 Premier League away games to newly promoted teams, winning eight and drawing 14.
That’s a rate of just one loss every six-and-a-half games. Although Stoke lost their last such game (0-1 to Burnley in April), they had previously gone nine unbeaten – a run stretching back to January 2014.
September (just) favours Stoke
Stoke have lost just one of four matches against league newcomers in September, undefeated in, er, all two such fixtures away from home (won one, drawn one).
It’s a pity the Newcastle clash didn’t come sooner. Despite Mark Hughes developing a reputation for tardy starts in his four seasons at Stoke, he has at least been able to fall back on the club’s seven-game unbeaten record against Premier League new boys in August. Five of those unbeaten matches were away, all draws, four of which were 1-1. Good to play these sides early doors, then, and bank some points.
The last time Newcastle were a newly promoted Premier League team (2010-11), Stoke completed the double over them.
A 2-1 win at St James’ Park in September 2010 was secured with the Potters registering just one shot on target – Stoke’s winner coming via an own goal from James Perch. Six months later, Stoke stampeded to a 4-0 victory at home.
These games matter more and more
The win rates don’t just tell you Stoke have been improving against newly promoted sides, they tell you Stoke have become more reliant on beating newly promoted sides too.
In the eight seasons that Stoke themselves haven’t been a newly promoted side, the Potters have taken an average of 9.4 points per term off such sides. That’s a quarter of the way towards safety already.
Under previous manager Tony Pulis, the highest share of the team’s total points gained in six games against league newcomers was 23.9 per cent in 2010-11 (11 points of 46 total).
That rate has been topped under Mark Hughes in the past two seasons, growing to 25.5 per cent in 2015-16 (13 points of 51 total) and 29.6 per cent in 2016-17 (13 points of 44 total).
While Stoke fans will be glad that their top-flight experience is telling against the new boys, they may also have expected to build better points totals on these foundations in recent seasons.
If Stoke lose…
The only season in which Stoke lost their first meeting with a newly promoted team was 2014-15 (0-1 home defeat to Leicester City), when the side went on to finish ninth with a team-record points total of 54.
In his four seasons as Stoke manager, Mark Hughes has lost five matches to newly promoted teams – none of whom have ever gone on to finish above the Potters in the final league standings.