Mark Hughes’ Stoke City crashed out of the FA Cup following an embarrassing 0-2 home defeat to Paul Lambert's Wolves, who currently sit 16th in the EFL Championship.
Hughes did not take the competition lightly, fielding the strongest team possible, with the likes of Bojan, Giannelli Imbula and Xherdan Shaqiri all returning to the side after missing out in the win over Watford.
However, it was the weakened Wolves side who were up for the tie the most, getting into the Potters’ faces from the off, causing all manner of problems for the established Premier League side. Wolves took the lead through a low shot from Helder Costa which beat Lee Grant at his near post. Stoke’s fate was then sealed when an exceptional free-kick from Matt Doherty late in the second half sent the travelling supports into euphoria.
This was the first time since the 2008-09 season that the Potters have exited the competition and this has done nothing but create all manners of disarray between the Stoke fans of whether they want Hughes in, or out.
This is also the second time this season that Stoke have exited a domestic cup in the first round, losing to Hull City 2-1 at home. With the top six looking evermore set in stone, this season should all of being about going on a cup run or two, but with early exits in both, and sitting eleventh in the table, the Potters season is looking increasingly more over.
Having only to managing to beat a total of six sides this season, none of which currently sit above them in the league, with their league positions being: 12th, 14th, 18th, 19th and 20th. It’ll come as great relief to Stoke fans that even with how poor their side has been over the past year, there are still sides in the division that are worse.
However, this might not always be the case. This has lead fans to call for Hughes’ head before it gets any worse. From the outside looking in people may be confused by this, sitting 11th in the table at the midway point of the season, consecutive 9th place finishes, so why should they be wanting him out?
Well in truth, the football has been some of the worst served up at the bet365 Stadium, even passing that of what they saw under Tony Pulis. There’s no creativity, no spark, no energy and no defensive nous.
The team has been in landslide for the past year, conceding four goals, eight times over the course of the past year. The regression in the Potteries has being staggering, with a total of 43 points being picked up over the calendar year, scoring 43, but conceding 68. Compared to that of 2015 where Stoke picked up 58 points, scored 47, but conceded only 41.
The form at best has being relegation standard, reverting back to my previous point that they should be grateful that there are teams much worse in the division.
With the increasing worry that Bojan may depart the club, Mark Hughes may have to have a few tricks up his sleeve to pull Stoke kicking and screaming out of this form, should they want to finish in the top half of the table.
The one positive of the afternoon was Mark Hughes giving under-23 starlet Julien Ngoy his home debut, replacing Shaqiri in the second half. This was his second appearance for Stoke after getting his first opportunity in the 3-1 away defeat at Arsenal back in December. The 19-year-old did not look out of place as he came as Stoke were chasing the game, and had the beating of his man, firing in a wicked ball across the box, the future is bright for the young Belgian.