For a number of years, Stoke have been forced to evolve to ensure their Premier League status remains in-tact.
Now their transfer dealings have seemingly hit their maximum capability it doesn’t look likely they can improve on additions made in previous transfer windows.
The thought of Stoke being relegated should not be entertained due to the quality they have, but Mark Hughes’ side look totally incapable and shot of confidence. An embarrassing 4-1 defeat away at Crystal Palace has raised the question whether Stoke have indeed reached the heights required by the owners, with the only way now being down.
Stoke’s latest Premier League loss this weekend at Crystal Palace saw manager Mark Hughes facing some intense pressure and serious speculation about his future. The club have kicked-off their campaign in the worst style since their return to the Premier League in 2008.
The Potters remain rock bottom of the division and even more worrying for the Stoke supporters, is the average of less than one point per game since the turn of the year, conceding more than four goals on six occasions since April.
Mark Hughes’ appointment in 2013 saw a change in style occur for the Potters, and they transformed themselves from playing a long ball, throw-in rifling, no nonsense style of football into a club that scoured many of Europe’s top leagues for the best young players capable of adapting to Hughes’ style of play.
Kenwyne Jones, Jermain Pennant and Jon Walters were the calibre of players required by Tony Pulis to obtain Premier League survival. Fast-paced wingers who had the potential to cause havoc on the counter-attack before delivering crucial crosses into their physical forward-line. Tony Pulis at his best!
Peter Coates, the Stoke Chairman, has dug deep into his pockets in recent years to ensure the Midlands side challenge at the higher end of the table. Xherdan Shaqiri became the most notable and impressive arrival when Inter Milan received £12million for the Swiss winger.
When you compare that to the previous record of £10million paid to Tottenham for Peter Crouch in 2011, it identifies the club’s ambition for the type of player they wish to chase.
Where next do Stoke look to improve their squad, though? The appeal to Stoke isn’t superior to that of Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool, who are all steeped in a history of success and major honours. Amazingly, they have convinced Shaqiri and Bojan (once dubbed Europe’s hottest prospects) to remain at the Bet 365 Arena, but both players had come with a point to prove after being deemed failures at some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Neither of whom were in red-hot form before they arrived and looked upon Stoke as a chance to re-build their careers.
Stoke will struggle to convince similar players to join the club as they simply do not have the appeal – even more so with the struggling form they are showing at the beginning of this season. Will Stoke convince major players at club’s such as Inter Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and Villarreal to swap it all for Stoke City? It’s not likely.
Wilfried Bony was signed on-loan from Manchester City after a turbulent 18 months under Manuel Pellegrini. Bony, with a point to prove, swapped Manchester for the Potters, but it’s only after a troubled spell came to an end. Stoke would not have been able to convince Bony to join the club unless his spell at City had not been so disastrous. Swansea would have laughed at Stoke had they came calling in January 2015 when the Ivorian left for Manchester City.
The Welshman had intended to improve his squad with a strong core of home-grown players, like Saido Berahino, but instead, after failing to negotiate deals for Nathan Redmond, Coates convinced Joe Allen to swap Liverpool’s bench for Stoke’s starting XI.
The evidence is clear that Stoke City have indeed come as far as possible in the transfer market. Will it be a matter of time before their luck runs out and a sense of failure begins to creep in?
They seem unable to convince the league’s best performers to sign for them and it’s seemingly likely that the club have reached their maximum potential.