But WILL Mark Hughes leave though?

Not ‘should he leave?’, not ‘who do you get in?’, but arguably the most unanswerable question of the Hughes In/Out debate. Do we think, after Arsenal routed us at the bet365, that Hughes will be on his way?

Before the Gunners took us apart, we posed the question on Twitter…

And now, we’ve asked the question again, and we anticipate a slightly different result

During the week, three members of the extended Wizards of Drivel family gave their verdicts on whether he will actually stay or go.

HUGHES WILL LEAVE – Tom Thrower

There is no situation that could come from our next two games that would convince Peter Coates to not dispose Hughes as our manager next season. We’re two, very likely, losses away from our worst Premier League Points total, and facts like that wont have escaped Coatesy. Hughes has amassed a team costing near enough 100 million pounds, so why on earth would Coates sanction another Hughes to spend another 20? 30? 40? Million to fix a team that Hughes built himself.

To get a bit conspiracy theory esque for a second, the now infamous Arnautovic for Pieters sub shows me one of these two things. It’s either Hughes being aware of the likelihood of him being sacked and realising a point against Bournemouth is better than none, or he knows he’s sacked and he’s desperately clawing for enough points to mean ‘Stoke City’s lowest points ever’ isn’t attached to his CV. Coates knows that not sacking Hughes in the summer is the low risk option, as having to remove Hughes mid-season is a huge risk and keeping him for another whole one is an even larger one. For all these reasons I cant see Hughes staying past June 1st.

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HUGHES MAY LEAVE – Jamie Chatfield

Is Mark Hughes going to leave Stoke this summer? The first, but most important, thing to say is that it’s impossible to tell, which is an entirely good thing. In an age when many journalists seem to know that sackings are imminent before they happen, it is immensely reassuring to think that the Coates family act sensibly and keep their cards close to their chest.

Nobody knew that we had let go of Tony Pulis until the day that it actually happened, and the same will be the case if Mark Hughes is sacked. I firmly believe that, either way, a decision will have already made about Hughes: our board won’t be drawn into making massive decisions based on our last two games when we’re already mathematically safe with little to play for. And while I’m not going boldly proclaim that I am certain that Sparky is a goner, I do think there is a good chance. Twice this season, Peter Coates has publicly spoken about his disappointment in results, and his understand of fan frustration. Once after the humiliating 4-1 away defeat to Crystal Palace, and once more following our four-game losing streak in March. This is relatively unusual from an owner like Coates, who is usually more reserved in his criticism, and could be an indication that the frustration we feel as fans aren’t merely understood by the owner, but very much shared.

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And why wouldn’t those frustrations be shared? Over the last few years, Coates has openly spoken of his belief that our current squad might be better than the one that won the League Cup (and followed it up with a 5th place finish) in the early 1970s. An awful lot of money has been spent on this squad now, and we are already in a position where we mathematically cannot break 50 points; failure to pick up any points in our last two games would see us record our worst ever Premier League finish with our best ever Premier League squad. And it is upon this point that I feel able to say, with a degree of confidence, that there is a real possibility that our chairman might be tempted to pull the trigger. For better or worse, football is more money-centric than ever these days, and Peter Coates cannot be happy with the way that it is currently being used by Sparky.

If Mark Hughes stays this summer, our £18.3m record signing will not stay. Instead, Imbula will leave for a heavy loss a mere 18 months after his arrival. Bojan might not have cost the club much to bring in, but he was given a brand new four-and-a-half-year contract in February 2016, a mere 11 months before he was deemed surplus to requirements; the length and size of that contract means that we will probably struggle to sell him to a foreign club without being forced to pay off some of those wages. Joselu cost £5.5 million and was given 12 months to prove himself before being sent off to Spain. We are currently being told not to judge Berahino until next season, that is probably reasonable given his fitness. But, put bluntly, he cost £12m this season and has been unable to perform, when he was out of contract this summer and would have been available for a lot less. Joe Allen cost £14m, and, while few people would suggest he has been a bad buy, we still don’t appear to know this best position. This means that we might need to spend more money again this season on an out-and-out holding midfielder when we’ve only just spent £32m on the two most expensive midfielders in the history of the football club.

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Wasted money was a big factor in the decision to sack Pulis, that’s no secret. If you were Peter Coates, it would surely be on your mind again. Especially when the current situation has a whiff of QPR and Manchester City about it. Would you be prepared to allow the current manager to sell off Bojan and Imbula, and then trust him with the funds that he will need to replace them in this over-inflated market, when he might repeat the cycle all over again 12 months later? Would you consider bringing in another manager who would be prepared to work with such the core of our current squad and merely complement it with his own signings, instead of outright replacing them at exorbitant fees? You’d at least half consider it, you’d be mad not to. And Peter Coates is not a madman.

HUGHES WON’T LEAVE – David Cowlishaw

I think Peter Coates is a big fan of stability, and whilst I trust him to make a decision in the best interests of the club – which for me means sacking him – I can see him being a bit more reluctant this time.

Pulis was only dispensed with when it became so clear that Season Ticket sales were going to take a hit that action needed to be taken after a dross end of season. Despite a dross season this time, I can still see him sticking by Mark Hughes. He may consider some of the potential candidates for the manager’s job too inexperienced or too much of a risk – Silva, Wagner, Monk et al. If Hughes was sacked, and we didn’t get the man we wanted in, the club would be all over the place.

There have been no major stories in the press suggesting Hughes could be for the chop, and whether the Arsenal game will determine things, I’m not so sure. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll have another summer.

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