Stoke's Premier status hanging by a thread
Stoke have been mainstays of the Premier League for the past nine seasons and during that time City have been a model of consistency but these look to be troubling times at the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have neither finished higher than ninth nor lower than 14th since joining England's top table in 2008 so they are used to mid-table life, but last season's 13th-place finish left little to cheer.
Stoke won one game - on the final day at Southampton - against a team who finished above them and it was only their perfect home record against the bottom seven which kept them safe.
Peter Crouch, 36, was Stoke's top goalscorer with seven league goals in a campaign in which City managed only 41 in total.
Stoke were in the bottom half in many key performance indicators such as goal difference, shots, shots on target, shot ratio, shots-on- target ratio, possession and pass success rate so, while it was a congested mid-table zone, Mark Hughes would be unwise to suggest his team lacked luck.
They simply need to improve in most areas, apart from the goalkeeping position where Jack Butland is a class act and Lee Grant proved to be an able deputy.
Kurt Zouma looks a decent loan acquisition from Chelsea, although he played only 247 Premier League minutes for the champions and needs to prove his fitness, while Darren Fletcher's arrival from West Brom won't have produced a rush in season-ticket sales.
It could easily be argued that Stoke are a weaker team following the sale of Marko Arnautovic to West Ham. Arnie scored six league goals and was also Stoke's top assist merchant with five.
But he won't be back and the frustrating and inconsistent Xherdan Shaqiri will now be the chief creator while the goalscoring burden falls on Saido Berahino with supersub Crouch the plan B option if that fails.
Berahino had a free hit last season as he returned from his off-field troubles but failed to score in 722 minutes which is concerning, while Bojan is back from a quiet loan spell at Mainz with plenty to prove if he wants to get back to his 2015-16 form.
On a straight one to 20 Premier League prediction Stoke would not be 18th, but given the legitimate concerns they may represent a fair value relegation wager.
All seven of Stoke's home wins last season came against teams who finished 14th or worse.