Stoke’s Christmas Wishlist – The Men Up Front

With less than a month left to one of the most exciting days of the year, yes the opening of the transfer window, I thought I would look at Stoke City’s current squad and give my opinions where we need to strengthen. Finally, the men up top:

First Choice:       Jon Walters

Reserves:            Wilfried Bony, Peter Crouch, Mame Diouf, Bojan

Any Others in or around the first team squad?

Not really but then again there’s always Muniesa.

What about ones for the future?

Julian Ngoy is the obvious candidate but there is also Hakim Abdallah and Dominic Telford.

Do we need to bring anyone in?

Certainly, at the time of writing Wilfried has yet to prove he can reproduce his Swansea form whilst Super Jon and Two Meter Peter have both seen better days. Mame makes a good back up player but Hughes must surely be considering letting Bojan leave.

Do we need to let anyone go?

It all depends on whether we bring anyone in. If Wilfried was to rediscover his scoring touch and we managed to grab a fifteen twenty goal a season man then at least one of Crouch, Walters or Diouf could be let go, whilst I think Bojan’s days at the club have to be numbered.

Have we been linked with anyone?

It wouldn’t be a transfer window without Stoke being linked to Saido Berahino but waiting until he becomes a free agent in the summer would make the most sense. Elsewhere Daniel Sturridge has been mentioned but Sam Lammers from PSV has been mentioned and both Leon Bailey and Eric Choupo-Moting can play through the middle.

Any other business?

Making a decision on Wilfried has to be one of Hughes’ top priorities before the transfer window opens. Also the fact Mame, Wilfried and Ramadan are all participating in the African Nations cup makes signing a top class striker a priority. But then again this has been top of every transfer window wish list ever since I started supporting Stoke back in the days before the Premiership.

Stoke’s Christmas Wishlist – Attacking Midfielders and Wide Men

With less than a month left to one of the most exciting days of the year, yes the opening of the transfer window, I thought I would look at Stoke City’s current squad and give my opinions where we need to strengthen. This time attacking midfielders and the wide men:

First Choice:       Arnie, Shaqiri and Joe Allen

Reserves:            Ramadan Sobhi, Bojan, Mame Diouf

Any Others in or around the first team squad?

There is a rumour that Stephen Ireland is still at the club and as I have mentioned him in relation to every position apart from goalkeeper I wonder if Muniesa could play here?

What about ones for the future?

Oliver Shenton, Thibauld Verlinden and Mohamed Choulay are all exciting talents in the youth ranks.

Do we need to bring anyone in?

Unless one of the big two are sold this is an area where Stoke are well stocked with both first team players and exciting players pushing for first team selections and is an area I wouldn’t expect Hughes and his team to be too concerned about.

Do we need to let anyone go?

Bojan is probably the most at risk, especially as Imbula and Adam can both be pushed further forward. I would also expect a few loan deals for some of the players in the under-23s to be arranged.

Have we been linked with anyone?

Along with Alex Witsel, Stoke have been linked with Leon Bailey and Eric Choupo-Moting whilst Stoke City and the transfer window wouldn’t be complete without Saido Berahino being mentioned.

Any other business?

To hold onto Arnie and Shaqiri whilst also giving Ramadan more game time once he has returned from the African Nations Cup.

Stoke’s Christmas Wishlist – The Engine Room

With less than a month left to one of the most exciting days of the year, yes the opening of the transfer window, I thought I would look at Stoke City’s current squad and give my opinions where we need to strengthen. This time the shield in front of the defence:

First Choice:       Glenn Whelan and Geoff Cameron

Reserves:            Charlie Adam

Any Others in or around the first team squad?

Ibrahim Affelay is close to returning to first team contention whilst both Joe Allen and Giannelli Imbula can play as a holding midfielder. Personally I believe Marc Muniesa should be added to this list as I think this would be his best position.

What about ones for the future?

There a number of young midfielders who could play this role such as Eddy Lecygne but Sergio Molina is probably the most suited and ready to progress to the first team squad.

Do we need to bring anyone in?

In the short term no, as can be seen we have plenty of numbers but if Hughes isn’t willing to gamble on Muniesa and Adam showing he is not suitable for this position then in the long term a younger version of Glenda would be a good buy if we could find the right player for the right price.

Do we need to let anyone go?

We are overstocked with players in this position and Affelay returns soon I would be tempted to try and off load Charlie Adam. Also Muniesa could be at risk but he does provide cover for other positions.

Have we been linked with anyone?

From the intriguing in Soualiho Meite to the improbable in Alex Witsel and back to the downright ridiculous in Xeka, this seems to be a position where there is a lot of choice in the market.

Any other business?

Stoke’s engine room for the latter half of the season will have a lot to do with if / when Affelay returns from injury. If he returns at anywhere near his best this shouldn’t be an area where Stoke gave to invest.

Stoke’s Christmas Wishlist – Centre Halves

With less than a month left to one of the most exciting days of the year, yes the opening of the transfer window, I thought I would look at Stoke City’s current squad and give my opinions where we need to strengthen. This time I look at the heart of the defence:

First Choice:       Ryan Shawcross and Bruno Martins Indi

Reserves:            Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa both have centre half on their passports but I suspect they both entered the country under false pretences

Any Others in or around the first team squad?

Dionatan Teixeira is in the first team squad whilst Harry Souttar has been rumoured to be sniffing around the first team squad.

What about ones for the future?

Along with Harry Souttar there is also Ryan Sweeney and Kosavar Sadiki.

Do we need to bring anyone in?

Once the captain got injured, and Clumsy also unavailable due to injury, Mystic Mark looked into his crystal ball and came up with a system playing three at the back. This has demonstrated that both that Stoke are short of cover at the back and that Muniesa is not a central defender. Even if Hughes trusts Teizeira and / or Souttar to join the bench there is still a need for a third choice defender to provide cover for Bruno and the Captain and to allow the younger players to pick up experience on loan.

Do we need to let anyone go?

The lack of a defender on the subs bench for the last two matches has highlighted how light Stoke are in this position. The priority has to be hanging onto everyone, at least until a suitable third choice defender is captured. Only then would it make sense to either let Muniesa go or loan out Teixeira and Souttar

Have we been linked with anyone?

The centre halves we have been linked, Nathan Smith and Joe Worrall, are both ones for the future and if purchased I would expect them to be loaned straight back to their respective clubs.

Any other business?

The elephant in the room, signing Bruno permanently has to be the Stoke board’s first order of business.

Love Him Or Hate Him But Please Don’t Play Him Instead of Shawcross

Reading The Sentinel’s website this week I had to take a second look when I noticed an article entitled “Fans insist Muniesa must stay . . . even at the expense of the captain”.

Now whilst I have been pretty vocal in my opinion of Muniesa’s defensive attributes, he has none, I do feel he overs the squad something in his ability to cover a multitude of positions and I still insist he has the potential to become a highly effective holding midfielder. Therefore, I agree with the first part of the article’s title as I feel it would be wrong to let the Spaniard go in this transfer window.

What amazes however is the second statement, “even at the expense of the captain” and it was these seven words which made me read and then reread the article. In this blog I often express opinions I know not everyone will agree with and in this context I cannot criticise fans for holding views contrary to my own. But what these comments got me thinking about is how the central defender’s role is currently perceived.

With foreign coaches bringing their philosophies to the Premiership we are seeing an evolution in the type of player that is required to play in the upper echelons of the modern game and no more so than in the central defence. Here we are seeing defenders being required to be the instigators of their team’s attacks and as such central defenders need to be a lot more comfortable on the ball, the obvious examples are John Stones at Manchester City and David Luiz at Chelsea and now you can add our own Muniesa to the mix. However, whilst I welcome this evolution I believe it has yet fully run its course!

The players I have mentioned whilst all being good on the ball have another thing in common, they are all prone to making costly mistakes due to overplaying the ball or neglecting their defensive duties as they attack and in Stones case in particular it is costing his team because they look nervous when teams press them. At Manchester City, Pep has the luxury of trying to fix this problem by bringing in an old fashioned defender, one who can defend, to play alongside Stones whilst at Chelsea, David Luiz has been a revelation recently because he has the added protection of playing in a back three but at Stoke, Muniesa’s case is different.

We already have a good old fashioned centre half in Shawcross and if we manage to secure his services long term in January a ball playing defender who can defend in Bruno and these two between them can be the starting point of Stoke’s attacks whilst also being the rock on which Stoke’s defence is built. Would replacing Shawcross with Muniesa really make that much of a difference going forward because I fear if the swap was made we would be considerably more fragile at the back?

But we’ve being playing a back three recently!

Again the two other players in a back three would be Bruno, who as I have stated is comfortable both with the ball and defending, and Glen Johnson, who nobody can argue is one of our better attacking defenders. So would Muniesa add more than Shawcross if he were to play as the third defender? Going forward perhaps but the benefit would be negligible compared to extra security Shawcross would provide as a defender.

Personally I like Muniesa and I was thrilled to see him score a goal but whatever happens in the January transfer window and no matter whether you love him or hate him I hope we don’t ever play him at the expense of the captain.

Stoke’s Christmas Wishlist – Full Backs

With less than a month left to one of the most exciting days of the year, yes the opening of the transfer window, I thought I would look at Stoke City’s current squad and give my opinions where we need to strengthen. This time the fullbacks:

First Choice:       Glen Johnson and Erik Pieters

Reserves:            Phil Bardsley

Any Others in or around the first team squad?

Whilst not their natural positions both Marc Muniesa and Geoff Cameron can fill in when required.

What about ones for the future?

Lewis Banks, Joel Taylor

Do we need to bring anyone in?

With the recent flirtation with a back three the traditional full back position is not one where Stoke have to be immediately invest in, we could always return to playing three at the back which players like Mame become potential wing backs. Having said that we are short of cover at left back and if a suitable player becomes available Stoke may try to bring in as back up to Pieters.

Do we need to let anyone go?

When Johnson got injured earlier in the season it showed how this we are at full back, with full back not the best positions of the two players most likely to deputise for Bardsley or Pieters if they were unavailable.

Have we been linked with anyone?

Sead Kolasinac (although I feat this one is more about the player’s agent renegotiating his client’s contract) and Linus Wahlqvist (who could be a long term solution at right back)

Any other business?

Before, and even after, his injury Johnson has been linked with Barcelona, yep Barcelona, but with Bardsley now injured I suspect Hughes would do his best to ensure the player stayed at the Bet365. If Hughes continues to persist with playing three at the back then someone like Bardlsey may find himself surplus to requirements once he returns from injury.

What If Glenda, Clumsy And Joe Are Not Available On Sunday?

With Joe Allen banned and our two main defensive midfielders, Glenda and Clumsy, both doubts for the trip to Watford, Mystic Mark is going to have to look long and hard into his crystal ball to come up with a solution. As always, like any good football fan, I have my opinion on who, and who should be given the three midfield berths on Sunday:

In an Ideal World                                           Glenda / Clumsy / Imbula

I know this may come as a shock as the Frenchman has been doing his best impression of Where’s Wally of late but with Joe Allen definitely out due to suspension this may be the perfect opportunity to discover if a sojourn on the side lines has given Imbula the kick up the backside he needed.

If Glenda or Clumsy is Missing                   Glenda (or Clumsy) / Muniesa / Imbula

Muniesa has the defensive nous and technical ability to shine as a central defensive midfielder and he has to realise he is nothing more than a “just in case” player in his manager’s eyes when it comes to his preferred position of centre half. If Clumsy and / or Glenda are missing on Sunday this is the perfect opportunity for the Spaniard to audition for a role I believe he is best suited and if he succeeds he could become a long term solution to Glenda’s aging legs.

If Both are missing                                        Be Bold, Play 4-4-2 with Muniesa and Imbula in the middle

Watford are going to play with three at the back which will mean Wilfried will have a torrid afternoon if he doesn’t get any support. Playing two up front may be a gamble, especially at home, but if the Ivorian had another to pressure the defenders Stoke could defend from the front. My choice would be Mame because of his extra pace which would complement Wilfried’s physical presence.

Shouldn’t Get a Look In                               Bojan / Charlie Boy

Surely Bojan’s career at the Bet365 is almost over. He was once easily our best player but ever since he got injured he has been a pale imitation of that player and if he was a beloved pet you would be considering putting him down by now. Stoke must put all sentiment to one side and let Bojan return to the continent where the slower pace will hopefully allow him to influence games like he used to do for us.

In Charlie Boy’s case I also fear his days at the Bet365 are numbered simply because Joe Allen has been such a revelation since he joined in the summer. It was plainly evident on Saturday the Scot is not even a stop gap solution as a central defensive midfielder and he deserves to be playing football regularly instead of making first team cameos and the occasional appearance in the Checkatrade trophy.