Stoke City have never finished outside the top half of the Premier League in three seasons under Mark Hughes.
Yet, despite this commendable consistency, they can still be backed at the unfathomably generous 2/1 to make it four seasons north of the top-tier equator in 2016/17.
Even last term, when they suffered from more than one elongated streak of bad results, they were able to bag a place amongst the country’s ten strongest sides, finishing above more prestigious outfits such as Chelsea and Everton in doing so.
They didn’t record their first league win of 2015/16 until the final game of September, while they signed off the season with just one win from seven outings.
These disappointments were successfully combated with sustained reliability in the middle of the campaign, a characteristic they’ve demonstrated throughout Hughes’ tenure, which was enough to bag a top-ten berth.
Last term saw the Potters avoid defeat in eight of their 14 fixtures against teams to finish in the top seven, keeping a divisional best five clean sheets when taking on such foes.
Posting these kind of figures against the nation’s best is testament to how strong a side the Potters are and it simultaneously reinforces just how good their top-ten price is.
While they’ve been largely inactive in the transfer market thus far – £13m midfielder Joe Allen is their most high-profile acquisition to date – there’s still enough reasons to expect improvement amongst the current squad.
Better performances can be expected from blockbuster buys Giannelli Imbula and Xherdan Shaqiri this time around, having acclimatised to Premier League life last time around.
The arrival of Allen will help Imbula, in particular, affording the Frenchman more freedom to maraud, while also ensuring he’s provided with first-class service at a faster rate.
Keeping Marko Arnautovic was massive and the defence will be bolstered through Ryan Shawcross and Jack Butland, who missed the start and end of the previous season, being fit to kick off the campaign.
Another source of goals is needed, but they continue to be linked with unsettled West Bromwich Albion hitman Saido Berahino, who is expected to leave the Hawthorns this summer.
If they can successfully address this area of the team, it’s tough to see how Stoke can’t finish in the top ten next term.