Stoke signing Joe Allen would emphasise how much Mark Hughes has changed the Potters

Stoke manager Mark Hughes

The Potters signing a central midfielder like Liverpool's Joe Allen would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Liverpool's Joe Allen in actionLiverpool's Joe Allen in action

As Stoke City reportedly inch closer to a deal for Liverpool and Wales star Joe Allen, as stated by BBC Sport, it is clear that this summer could signify the final transition to a footballing philosophy few would have predicted before Mark Hughes took over in 2013.

Since the former Wales and Manchester City manager took the reins at the Britannia, there has been a gradual switch to a more possession based and skilful style of football, and if a midfielder like "Welsh Xavi" Allen arrives, it would underline just how far Hughes has altered the direction of the club.

West Brom manager Tony PulisWest Brom manager Tony Pulis

There was a time when the Potters were notorious for a tough-tackling, direct style of play, with Tony Pulis sides synonymous with such tactics, even though at times the reputation was a little unfair.

Sure, Stoke have at times over the last ten years employed powerful lineups utilising combative approaches to the opposition, while being more than capable when it comes to offering a goal threat from set-pieces. A certain Rory Delap and his monster throw-ins certainly helped fuel this perception.

But aside from the fact that there is little shame in a side playing to its strengths, Pulis sides still had their moments of good football, and it was often the complaints from the likes of Arsene Wenger that played a part in the Potters being seen in a negative light in the media.

Stoke manager Mark HughesStoke manager Mark Hughes

However, under Hughes, Stoke have made a conscious effort to change the style of the side, and the subsequent perception of the club, bringing in players of technique and patience, many schooled at some of the top academies and outfits in world football. There are former Barcelona and Real Madrid players such as Marc Muniesa, Bojan, Ibrahim Afelaay and Joselu, and classy maverick talents like Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri.

Adding Allen to that list, as well as skilful striker Saido Berahino, another player linked to the club (BBC), makes for an exciting technical side, and few would have predicted the Potters would line up with such players just a few years after Pulis departed.

Wales' Joe Allen in action with Northern Ireland's Oliver NorwoodWales' Joe Allen in action with Northern Ireland's Oliver Norwood

Towards the end of Pulis's time at the club, both the board and supporters were beginning to ask questions of whether the style of play employed would see Stoke continue to improve. A switch to Hughes proved that switching tactics could have its rewards, as the new boss ensured successive 9th place finishes in each of his three seasons at the club - their highest finishes since the 1970s.

Allen, who was voted into the European Championships' team of the tournament this summer, will help push Stoke on that little bit more.

And with him on board, who would bet against Hughes taking the club at least one position higher than he has managed so far. 

Stoke manager Mark Hughes gestures towards Geoff CameronStoke manager Mark Hughes gestures towards Geoff Cameron

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