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Stoke winter window manifesto for top half consolidation

Matt Haynes | December 18, 2015

There is always one club in the January transfer window who tend to recruit ambitiously and Stoke City, who made impressive statements in the summer, could well do so again.

Planning permission

Chief executive Tony Scholes has revealed that the club are ready for the transfer window indicating that it will be a hectic period.

“It’s going to be a busy month, transfer windows are always busy. Whether it will be productive in terms of signing players and keeping players I don’t know at this stage,” Scholes said.

Manager Mark Hughes has reportedly drawn up a list of targets which Stoke will endeavour to sign, though currently, he only has one spot in his 25-man squad for a new player over the age of 21 so may have to first offload fringe players such as Peter Crouch, Steve Sidwell, Phil Bardsley, Peter Odemwingie, Marc Wilson and Stephen Ireland whose game time has been limited this term.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Watford - Britannia Stadium

However, it is Scholes’ belief that key players such as Bojan and recent signing Xherdan Shaqiri are magnets for other star names, with the latter recently admitting that “top players” were calling him to offer their services to the club, while Bojan suggested a top four finish is within reach, currently available at 125/1 with Coral.

“I was delighted to read those interviews because it shows both players are happy here,” continued Scholes. “We believe that they are but it’s good to read it too – and it’s good that they’re telling players that they’ve played with and other top players around Europe what a good club it is. That can only be good.

“It’s nothing surprising to be honest because we think we’re a good club. When we get good players we do explain to them why we think we are a great proposition for them. Clearly with Bojan and Shaqiri, who’s only been here for a few months, they are in agreement.”

Leverage key players

While the likes of Jack Butland and Bojan are being linked to other clubs, Stoke need to flip this on its head and use their star names and top quality players to attract others in order to ensure they stay.

Shaqiri, fellow new signing Ibrahim Afellay and loanee Marco van Ginkel can also be classed in this bracket, as well as emerging star Marko Arnautovic who has been one of the Potters’ best players this season.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Chelsea - Britannia Stadium

Although these players are undoubtedly draws, the industry of workmanlike players such as Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan should not be undervalued, while striker Mame Biram Diouf has the potential to be the full package.

These qualities are what the football club have been built on, engendering an infectious team spirit, which still is one of the club’s unique selling points.

Upgrade key areas

While Stoke may be aiming for a top half Premier League finish in the second half of what will be a gruelling season, they will be hopeful of challenging higher.

There is no doubt that this is possible, and although there were teething problems to begin with, as new players took time to gel, they have clicked in recent weeks, demonstrated in their superb 2-0 win over Manchester City.

However, there are still a number of areas which could do with strengthening. Defensive ill-discipline is one thing that costs them and although Ryan Shawcross is a fantastic defender, he is prone to needless, over-aggressive challenges which result in dismissals.

Encouragingly, last January’s signing Philip Wollscheid seems to be bedding in well, though he still has an error of judgement in him.

Having seen Dutch centre back Virgil van Dijk take to the English top flight, Hughes could cast his net to the Netherlands and take his pick from a raft of talented homegrown centre backs looking to make the step and join compatriots Afellay, Van Ginkel and Erik Pieters.

Ajax man Joel Veltman who appeared for Netherlands at the World Cup has previously been linked to Tottenham and Arsenal, for good reason, and at just 23 can flourish into a top player at Stoke.

Soccer - Dutch Eredivisie - Ajax Amsterdam v Willem II Tilburg - Amsterdam Arena

With Arnautovic thriving, Hughes could well snap up his compatriot, Martin Hinteregger, who is earning rave reviews plying his trade for Red Bull Salzburg. Also 23, he has a bright future and would fit in well at the Staffordshire outfit.

Defensive midfield is another particular area that has come under scrutiny recently, with suggestions that the Potters could do with a Whelan-like character to help close games out.

One who could more than capably answer that call, is a player who has throughout his career progressed under the radar, though, nevertheless has star quality.

Schalke’s Roman Neustadter is probably one of the most underrated players in the Bundesliga and has all the attributes to succeed in the Premier League and take Stoke to the next level. At 27 he is at the right age for a move and matches the club’s ambition.

A sparing sprinkling of quality in attack may be all that is needed, unless the club move Odemwingie and Crouch on, with the Potters linked to Juventus striker Simone Zaza recently, with reports that Stoke were readying an £18m for the 24-year-old, though his coach Massimiliano Allegri has apparently quashed this.

Bayer Leverkusen’s 31-year-old Stefan Kiessling is another one who the tabloids have linked to the Staffordshire outfit, though, he is too similar to what they already have in Crouch.

Hertha BSC vs TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

However, his compatriot at Hoffenheim, Kevin Volland is a serious prospect and with his club struggling, could be tempted to jump ship in the winter window. At 23, he is at a great age to embark on a Premier League education and his ability to play on the wing or as a striker would be an attractive prospect to Hughes.

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