Mark Hughes made the most extraordinary signing of the entire January window, but some Stoke fans will feel that they should have had so much more from this winter.
Imbula was a stunning addition, considering the poor form of Glenn Whelan, yet the club could’ve splashed a few more of the Coates’ millions and made their squad a whole lot more dangerous. A striker was clearly a requirement and centre-back cover is going to be needed if Ryan Shawcross is planning on getting injured every other week.
Marco van Ginkel’s loan was cancelled and it was very much a ‘one in, one out’ window in midfield, in that sense. Stoke could have looked to strengthen their depth, or at least avoided the requirement to change Charlie Adam.
European football looks like a pipe dream after the Potters’ poor run of form, although in this season of all seasons its probably still possible that Hughes’ men make it into the top four.
Here is the XI they should have…
Butland is, unquestionably, in contention for goalkeeper of the season and the youngsters has seemlessly filled the rather large boots of Asmir Begovic.
Key saves throughout the season have been a huge benefit to Stoke’s season and Butland has cemented his place as England’s second choice ‘keeper.
After a turbulent final couple of seasons at Liverpool, Johnson has regained his form in the Potteries and made the right-back berth his own.
Defensively, Johnson looks more secure than he has done for several years.
As with John Terry or Vincent Kompany, Stoke are a greatly better team when Shawcross is in the side.
The defence is all over the place without their talismanic captain and each injury this season has set the whole club back several points.
Wollscheid has been one of the more under rated players in Stoke’s impressive form for much of this season. Marc Muniesa and Marc Wilson are likely to be replaced in the summer, but Wollscheid has deservedly made the position alongside Shawcross his own.
Since his arrival in the PL, Pieters has been a largely consistent perform in both attack and defence.
The Dutchman provides width when Arnautovic moves centrally to run the channels and is a secure defender when called upon.
The biggest signing in the whole of the European January window, Imbula has arrived in the Midlands with a vast amount of pressure on his relatively young shoulders.
The Frenchman is likely to play in a box-to-box role alongside a more defensive minded central midfielder.
Glenn Whelan is the weak link in the current Stoke side and it is a surprise that a player of De Jong’s calibre was allowed to move to the MLS at this stage of his career.
The former City man would’ve been a bargain transfer and the ideal anchor man in a side with as much attacking flair as Stoke.
Hughes is usually a risk taker, and De Jong was definitely a risk worth taking.
Possibly the most surprising signing of the summer, Shaqiri begun to find some form around November and December before showing signs of fatigue during the heavy Christmas schedule.
Bojan has, in the last few days, signed a new long-term contract and will, at the very least, increase the amount of money Stoke recoup if they are to sell the creative jewel in Hughes’ crown.
The ex-La Masia man has operated as a false 9 or a number 10 this season and continues to show his quality in the toughest of games.
One of the great PL enigmas, Arnautovic has provided us with some stunning individual performances this season along with some pretty inept efforts.
Hughes seems to be the man to really motivate the flying Austrian and his goals have given Stoke some significant victories already this campaign.
The real challenge will be keeping hold of the powerful winger if he performs as well in the remainder of the season.
Remy has been an outcast for much of his time at Chelsea and clubs were sniffing around for his signature during the January window.
Mame Diouf has slipped out of favour and a new reliable goal scoring striker would’ve done the Potters the world of good.