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Mark Hughes, Stoke City Part Ways Following FA Cup Loss to Coventry City

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2018

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 18:  Mark Hughes, Manager of Stoke City looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Stoke City at Selhurst Park on September 18, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Warren Little/Getty Images

Mark Hughes was relieved of his duties as manager of Stoke City on Saturday, hours after his side fell out of the FA Cup third round following a 2-1 defeat at League Two Coventry City.

The Potters confirmed Hughes' departure via the club's official Twitter account.

Monday's 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United was their 12th loss of the season, two days after shipping five against Chelsea having rested players ahead of the clash with the Magpies.

Stoke recently slipped into the Premier League's relegation zone and sat 18th at the time of Hughes' dismissal.

Football365's Daniel Storey was critical of Hughes following the defeat:

Daniel Storey @danielstorey85

Ten days ago, Mark Hughes said that his critics didn't watch Stoke matches and so didn't know what they were talking about. They knew what they were talking about.

Hughes took over at Stoke in 2013, replacing the long-serving Tony Pulis after seven straight years in charge.

The 54-year-old enjoyed a strong first campaign in the job, guiding the Potters to a ninth-placed finish—by finishing in the top half, the club enjoyed their best season since 1975.

Stoke matched that finish in each of the next two seasons, but the latter part of the 2015-16 season left much to be desired. They picked up just one win in their last seven games and suffered several heavy defeats, which could perhaps be looked upon with hindsight as a turning point in his Stoke career.

Despite the additions of players such as Joe Allen, Wilfried Bony and Saido Berahino the following year—seemingly strong acquisitions to give the team more depth in midfield and clinical options up front—they were unable to improve and came 13th.

In cup competitions, the best they fared under Hughes was to reach the League Cup semi-final in 2016, which they lost to Liverpool on penalties.

During his time with the Potters, Hughes has set about attempting to change the club's play from the physical, long-ball approach favoured under Pulis to a more progressive, passing style.

To do so, he brought in a number of more technically gifted players, including the likes of Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri, Giannelli Imbula and Allen.

Players like Bojan and Shaqiri were brought in to give Stoke another dimension.
Players like Bojan and Shaqiri were brought in to give Stoke another dimension.OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

However, they've struggled to produce positive results on a consistent basis, and the team have perhaps also lost the edge they once enjoyed.

They've struggled for goals in recent years, too, mustering just 41 league strikes in each of the last two seasons. This season, they have produced 23 goals in 22 games and conceded 47 times—the worst differential in the division.

Football journalist Kristan Heneage painted a disappointing picture of the Potters' last 12 months:

Kristan Heneage @KHeneage

Mark Hughes 2017 for those interested. 11 PL wins from 40 games. Worst defensive record in Europe's top 5 leagues this season (46 conceded). Worst away record in the Premier League this season with one win. He also currently has a worse win ratio than his 3 predecessors.

As they look to recruit a new manager, Stoke could attempt to target someone who can restore their lost identity and return to the style that brought stability under Pulis.

After bringing in more technical players, though, that won't be easy—they're somewhat committed to making the current squad work. Either way, survival will be their immediate priority.

Hughes' record of three consecutive ninth-placed finishes will no doubt appeal to clubs hoping to establish themselves as regular top-half finishers in the Premier League.

However, his failure to successfully reinvent the team and their relative struggles in recent years leave him with questions to answer.

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