Sublime loan swoops give Stoke strength to shrug off early struggles
Simon Sinclair | September 3, 2016
Stoke signings boost season prospects
Stoke City continued to enhance their reputation as shrewd operators in the transfer market by securing the signings of Wilfried Bony and Bruno Martins Indi on deadline day.
The Ivorian was surplus to requirements at Manchester City under new manager Pep Guardiola, while Martins Indi was not part of Nuno Espirito Santo’s plans at the back for Porto.
Mark Hughes moved to bring in the duo to bolster his squad, who have struggled at the start of the new campaign.
The Potters were indebted to a fine strike from Xherdan Shaqiri to salvage a point on the opening day at the Riverside in their 1-1 draw against newly-promoted Middlesbrough.
Stoke then felt the full force of Guardiola’s new-look City, suffering a 4-1 hammering at the hands of the Citizens as Sergio Aguero and Nolito bagged braces, despite a second-half strike from Bojan.
Hughes’ men continued to be on the wrong end of the stringent rules regarding contact in the penalty area when Phil Bardsley was penalised for dragging down Ashley Williams, during their clash with Everton.
Leighton Baines struck the post, but fortune was not on the side of Shay Given as the ball struck the back of his head before rolling over the line.
Captures boost Potters odds for campaign
For the second season on the spin Stoke have failed to win a Premier League match in the opening month of the campaign, although it should not bring about a panic considering the club rallied last term to finish ninth.
Few people would be surprised if they were to record another top-half placing this season, with Potters odds of 3/1 with Coral for them to achieve the feat. Meanwhile, there is far too much talent in their squad to contemplate relegation at odds of 9/2 to drop to the Championship.
The signing of Bony on loan until the end of the season should provide the spark for an improvement in the club’s form.
Stoke have a lot of creative players at their disposal, but neither Marko Arnautovic, Bojan or Shaqiri are prolific in front of goal, while the same can be said of their strikers Mame Biram Diouf and Jonathan Walters.
Bony set to revive career at Stoke
Bony will provide a new dimension in the final third, being a predator inside the penalty area, with the ability to use his pace to get in behind opposing defences, while possessing the physical skills to bring the attacking trio into play in and around the box.
The 27-year-old proved his quality in front of goal during his time with Swansea City, notching 17 goals in his first season in the Premier League and added nine more in the next term for the Welsh club before his big-money move to City.
Bony never seemed to find his feet at the Etihad, as he could not oust Aguero from the central striker’s spot, meaning that he struggled to build a rhythm. Regular football in the same position for Stoke should surely see him return to his best though.
Defensively Stoke have not displayed the resilience shown under Tony Pulis in the past three seasons under Hughes, conceding over 50 goals in each of the campaigns, despite the improvement in the league position.
The Potters were always a team that no-one relished playing, hence the phrase ‘could he do it on a cold Wednesday night in Stoke?’
Promising additions boost Hughes’ set-up
Players such as Abdoulaye Faye, Robert Huth and Shawcross ensured that any side travelling to the Britannia Stadium endured a battle from the first whistle to the last in recent campaigns.
Although the change in style has brought them success, they could further improve their position in the Premier League to threaten the European places by reverting back to their stringent play at the back.
The signing of uncompromising midfielder Giannelli Imbula for £18m from Porto suggested that Hughes was attempting to address making his side a physical force through the middle.
Now the addition of his team-mate Martins Indi will add steel to the back four with his height and power helping return Stoke to a strong defensive outfit.
Indi a shrewd Stoke signing
The Dutchman is only 24 but seems to be have around for a long time. Louis van Gaal thought enough of the defender to hand him his international debut at the age of 20, and he was a fixture of the Netherlands outfit that finished third in the 2014 World Cup.
Martins Indi has great potential although he has not lived up to the early comparisons made between him and the legendary Jaap Stam. However, with regular first-team action with the Potters, he can rebuild his reputation lost in his time in Portugal.
He has all the attributes to be a success in the Premier League and appears to have picked the perfect side to utilise his skill set as Hughes has done with his international team-mates Ibrahim Afellay and Erik Pieters.
Stoke were not extravagant in the transfer market over the summer, but should the duo added as late business deliver on their potential, then the Potters may well have notched two of the best scoops of the window.
What are your thoughts on this season’s Stoke betting? Where do you see the Potters finishing this campaign? Have your say below in our comments section!