Connect with us

Other Crunch News

Outlook Bright for Stoke City as Signings Flood In


Ibrahim Afellay

Ibrahim Afellay became Stoke City’s eighth signing of an eventful summer for the club, as Mark Hughes sets about disproving any stereotypes football fans may have had about his side.

The club has reacted quickly and to the significant losses of Stephen N’Zonzi and Asmir Begovic, key players in the spine of the team, by signing players in all areas. Shay Given, Jakob Haugaard, Philipp Wollscheid, Glen Johnson, Marco van Ginkel, Moha El Ouriachi and Joselu will all be joining Afellay at his new club, as Mark Hughes continues his reformation of Stoke as an attacking force in the Premier League. But just how effective will these signings be in turning Stoke into a team capable of competing for the Europa League places?

Goalkeepers Shay Given and Jakob Haugaard, from Aston Villa and FC Midtjylland respectively, have been added to the squad to replace Begovic, whom Chelsea have poached for a tidy £8 million sum, but neither can expect to go straight into Hughes’ first team. Begovic’s departure leaves open an opportunity for England international Jack Butland, 22, to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s top young goalkeepers. The summer’s two signings are not, however, in vain as both will provide solid replacements for Butland in the case of an injury or slump in form for the club’s No. 1. Given, 39, in particular, will push hard for a starting place as he reaches the end of an illustrious and successful career.

Centre-back Philipp Wollscheid completed a £2.75 million move from Bayer Leverkusen after a successful loan spell last season and provides a perfect like-for-like change for the loss of Robert Huth, who has joined Premier League rivals Leicester City. Former Liverpool full-back Glen Johnson joined the club on a free transfer after his contract with the Reds expired in July and will provide experience in a back four with an already renowned defensive record.

More surprising, however, given Stoke’s previous record of physically imposing signings and using more brawn than brain during Tony Pulis’ reign as manager, are the attacking players Hughes has brought in. Chelsea’s Marco van Ginkel has been loaned in from Chelsea and Hannover’s skilful striker Joselu signed for £5.75 million, whilst Moha El Ouriachi and, most recently, Afellay joined their former Barcelona team-mates Bojan Krkic and Marc Muniesa at the club on free transfers.

Moha, just 19, is possibly the most exciting long-term signing, but it is Afellay who should provide most excitement for the coming season. The loss of Stephen N’Zonzi has been keenly felt around the Britannia Stadium, but the skillset that Afellay brings to the squad should more than make up for the loss of N’Zonzi. Despite his lack of action for Barcelona in the past few seasons, the attacking midfielder, 29, has been a creative force on loan for Olympiakos and Schalke. The Dutch midfielder has scored 4 goals in 19 games for the Greek side and should settle in in front of a composed defensive midfield pairing of van Ginkel and the ever-present Charlie Adam.


Although it seems like Stoke have signed a perfect mix of defensive and attacking players this summer, however, the sheer number of potential first-team signings could bring a number of risks for a team who have finished in a very creditable 9th, their best finishes in the Premier League in their history. The possible starting XI in the picture leaves out a number of players who have been integral in Stoke’s strong performances in the past two seasons. Jonathon Walters, Marko Arnautovic, Eric Pieters and Glenn Whelan can also make cases for their inclusion given their consistency throughout last season and leaving them out could isolate them and leave them looking for other clubs. The same conundrum could also force out those Hughes has brought in if he refuses to adapt a currently successful formula. Hughes has given himself a difficult task for the coming season of retaining the current, successful structure of the team, whilst integrating Afellay and the other talents he has brought in to revolutionise a squad that, in its current state, will consistently finish 9th or 10th, but never higher.

Despite this issue, I believe Hughes will succeed next year. A poor start could be imminent if Hughes is unable to find his best XI immediately, but having too many players of first-team quality can only be a good thing as the season progresses. Expect another strong showing from Stoke this season.


author avatar
Ian Horne
Ian goes back to the very early days of CrunchSports, having been tirelessly covering soccer for us for over 10 years.

Ian goes back to the very early days of CrunchSports, having been tirelessly covering soccer for us for over 10 years.

More in Other Crunch News