Stoke City’s revolutionary change under Mark Hughes has had everyone utterly bewildered at the aesthetically pleasing football we are now being graced with.
Since the signings of Marc Muniesa and Marko Arnautovic, Stoke are no longer the hoof-ball side that they were under Tony Pulis, so infamously.
These days, the Potters are about direct diagonals and intricate interchange in the final third where we see Xherdan Shaqiri (no, I still can’t believe it either) and Bojan (who was once better than Messi) dribbling in a fashion that was probably not the in repertoire of Rory Delap.
This could be a significant January for Hughes’ Potters. The ex-Man City boss has ambitions of bringing European football to the Potteries and this season may well be the best chance they will ever get.
With shortages in central midfield and for someone to lead the line, Stoke could become a regular top 8 force with a strong January window.
Here is there complete dream XI for the end of this window…
Jack Butland has, by most people’s recognition, been the best goalkeeper in the PL this season.
Butland, according to Stoke fans, should be England’s number one and he has definitely done all he can to push Joe Hart for the number one jersey.
When the loss of Asmir Begovic might have been a worry for the Potters, Butland has put in a string of magnificent performances through the first half of the season and the Bosnian now seems a distant memory.
He might have become a figure of fun during the last season or two at Liverpool, but Glen Johnson has resurrected his career at Stoke and been one of the best signings of the year.
The former Chelsea and West Ham man has never lost his power and pace, but there have been far fewer defensive errors during this season and he is more than a capable overlapping force down the right flank.
Since his return from injury, Stoke’s talisman has been back to his solid best and the Potters’ captain is still dreaming of the call for Euro 2016.
Centre-back is one of the weaker areas in the current Stoke squad, but there is always a calm atmosphere around the back line when this man is available.
Much like the effect John Terry has upon Chelsea, Shawcross is crucial to the way that the Potters defend and its hard to see how they would survive too long without him.
Recruiting a player from AC Milan as Stoke City boss would’ve been laughable just 5 years ago, but there’s an argument to say that Stoke are actually in a better position than the Italian giants right now.
Although Wollscheid and Muniesa have done decent jobs in central defence, the European experience and class of this Brazilian veteran would be a vital addition to the Stoke defence and another hard-as-nails influence alongside Shawcross.
Some fans might see this move as short-term planning, but Alex is comfortable playing from the back and would fit nicely into Stokealona.
Pieters has been a marked improvement on any previous Stoke left-back since his signing and he continues to provide solidity defensively and an extra attacking threat as he overlaps.
The Dutchman is secure in his position as the starting full-back and has adequate cover from Marc Muniesa if he is ever unavailable.
Imbula impressed people across the whole of Europe during his time at Porto and the defensive midfielder would be the perfect upgrade on Glenn Whelan.
Whilst the rest of the Stoke squad is built for a new style of free flowing football, Imbula can hold the fort defensively and provide strong cover for Shawcross and Alex.
Due to Swansea’s under performance, Shelvey is a player this may well be looking for a move this January and he would be the perfect blend of physicality and passing range to fit into Stoke’s midfield.
Marco van Ginkel has given varied performances in central midfield, and is due to return to Chelsea at the end of the season, whilst Charlie Adam is best left unspoken of.
Shelvey has the grit to provide cover in front of the defence but his eye for goal and all round good engine would make him an excellent support man.
One of the shock signing’s of last summer was seeing this former Bayern man move to the Potteries, but the Swiss star has begun to find his feet over the last few weeks and has become a truly dominating threat down the right wing.
Nicely assisted by Glen Johnson, Shaqiri is beginning to humiliate full-backs and produced one of the individual displays of the season as the Potters beat Manchester City.
Once dubbed to be even better than Lionel Messi, Bojan has begun to resurrect his career with Stoke.
The talented Spaniard has played a few games as a false nine of late, but he is at his best when operating off of a main striker.
Hughes needs to be careful not to overwork his main creator, so rotation will be key as Stoke push for European football.
He might be renowned as a difficult man to manage, but Arnautovic has shown himself in a new light during this campaign.
The Austrian winger has contributed several key goals and has shown a level of work-rate that many did not believe he had in him. Seeing the ex-Inter man chasing back to his own third to win the ball back and start a counter-attack has shocked many, but it is a testament to the excellent managerial work by Mark Hughes.
Loic Remy’s disappointing time at Chelsea might be coming to an end this January and Stoke would be well advised to go after the ex-QPR striker.
With one of the best goal-per-minute ratios you are likely to find, the flying Frenchman would stretch defences and create space for Bojan to play in.
As well as Diouf has done for the Potters, Remy would be a significant upgrade.