Stoke have not splashed the cash this summer but is there any money to spend?
There is an unmistakeable air of optimism surrounding Stoke City fans. Heading into the new season, Potters are looking forward to seeing how Mark Hughes will succeed from Tony Pulis. The latter did remarkably well during a seven year period that became defined by his shrewd transfer coups while the club were still Championship level, navigating a path to the Premier League and maintaining a mid-table position.
Potters fans, though, became polarised by Pulis' tenure at the club last season and the manager's vocal detractors implored ineffective substitutions and believed he had taken the club as far as he could. Hughes, following a week or two where his arrival was seen to be underwhelming, is now regarded to be the man to provide a spark (ahem) to the side's ambitions, playing style and overall culture.
In his first press conference, 'Evolution, not revolution', is to be Hughes' motif for the next few seasons. At Blackburn Rovers, Hughes' team was seen to be an imposing and competitive team, something Stoke have built a reputation for in the top division. It stands to reason, therefore, that while Hughes will begin the foundations of a more passing and expansive style of play, he will still play up to what has served well for Stoke so far.
|Erik Pieters||Defender||PSV Eindhoven||June 28||£3 million|
|Marc Muniesa||Defender||Barcelona||July 2||Free|
The team needs an outlet for goals so a striker and even a winger is essential summer business. Manchester City's forward Scott Sinclair could be a good punt for Mark Hughes. As could Jermain Defoe.
Players missed out on:
Kenwyne Jones, most probably to West Bromwich Albion. The future of Asmir Begovic is also unclear.
There may not be much of one. Reports suggest that for Mark Hughes to enter the transfer market, funds will need to be raised through player sales (see possible outgoings, above).
Any time a player from Barcelona is signed, whether it is from the senior squad or the youth team, it is met with a nod of fan approval and an instant seat at the desk to load up clips on YouTube. In Muniesa, Stoke have a player who will have a reputation to live up to.
There are, though, glaring holes in Stoke City's first-team that need filling in the next month.
Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones were offered multiple chances heading the front-line last term but neither made a defining statement and the latter may even be shipped off in order to raise funds. Jermain Defoe has been linked, but a move for the England international would be audacious and perhaps out of the Potters' price range. However, with the uncertain future of Gareth Bale, an £85 million fee potentially added to the transfer kitty and even the arrival of Roberto Soldado, Defoe may not be guaranteed a first team role at White Hart Lane.
If Begovic is to have his head turned by one of the clubs interested in him - Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been linked this year - then, perhaps the shrewdest piece of business may not be finding a replacement, but promoting Jack Butland…
Grade so far:
image: © Ronnie Macdonald