Now that deadline day is over, and we’ve recovered from the draining shift we put in over the two days, (spending over 20+ hours on the live articles) we look to see how Mark Hughes will deploy his side for most of the season, when fully fit of course!
Last Wednesday, Stoke brought in three players on deadline day, having spent the majority of the window chasing West Bromich Albion striker, Saido Berahino, it was then strange to see Hughes veer away from the young forward, as he signed Wilfried Bony on a season-long loan deal from Manchester City.
Stoke fans were also surprised on the day before deadline day, as The Sentinel reported that we were interested in a defender from Holland, after failing to land Phil Jones, and Michael Keane from Manchester United and Burnley retrospectively.
Following on from those reports, it eventually broke that the Dutch defender turned out to be none other than Giannelli Imbula‘s former team-mate, and Dutch international, Bruno Martins Indi who signed again on a season-long loan, with an option to buy at a reported £10.5m.
The final one of the day was again another strange pruchase, as Derby goalkeeper, Lee Grant joined the Potters on a short-term loan deal, as Jack Butland‘s injury is longer than expected.
With the additions of these three, we now look at how Stoke City could line up for this season.
System – 4-2-3-1
Labelled football’s new 4-4-2, Hughes is no stranger to this system, as it’s the one he’s predominantly used in his time at Stoke, and the one that’s arguably brought him the most success since he’s been in charge.
GK: Jack Butland:
This will come to no surprise for any Stoke fan, and would 100% be the first name on any fan’s team sheet. Since he’s been at Stoke, Butland has cemented himself as a regular in the England setup, and is widely rumoured to beat his rival for the shirt, Joe Hart, who’s recently signed for Torino.
Although currently injured, Butland was absolutely outstanding in his debut Premier League campaign, replacing Asmir Begovic as the number one at Stoke, and once he’s returned from injury, there’s little doubt he will pick up where he left off as he chases that England shirt.
RB – Glen Johnson
Also likewise Butland, the former England international is currently out injured for Stoke. Brought in last summer, Glen Johnson was one of the shrewdest buys of Hughes’ era for me.
Johnson’s move to Stoke was heavily criticised, with many people basing it on a few poor performances for Liverpool, however, since joining Stoke, he was one of the main reasons Stoke finished where they did last season.
Johnson will have a big part to play again this season, as he will look to form a strong relationship with Xherdan Shaqiri when they are both back on the pitch for the Potters.
RCB – Ryan Shawcross
As club captain, Shawcross is again an absolute shoe-in for Stoke, despite a few dodgy performances, Shawcross looked back to his solid best in front of onlooking England manager, Sam Allardyce.
Shawcross is entering his tenth season with Stoke, and Hughes will hope he gels instantly with summer signing, Bruno Martins Indi, something he really didn’t hold down with the recently departed, Philipp Wollscheid.
Since Robert Huth was sold to Leicester, Shawcross hasn’t really had the chance to form a solid partnership with anyone due to injuries and regular rotation, a decent partnership is now something now that now has to happen to ensure Stoke make their way up the table.
LCB – Bruno Martins Indi
Recently joined from FC Porto, Martins Indi has the added bonus of playing on the left for Hughes. Naturally left-footed, it is expected that he will slot into the heart of the Stoke alongside the formerly mentioned, Shawcross.
Having shone in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Martins Indi earned himself a move to Portugal.
A regular for Porto in the UEFA Champions League, Martins Indi is a very astute signing for Stoke, and should his move to the bet365 be successful, Stoke have the option to purchase for £10.5m.
LB – Erik Pieters
Erik Pieters takes up the last place in defence for Mark Hughes. Having suffered a recent dip in form, Pieters will be desperate to impress and rediscover the form that led him to earn a call up to the Netherlands team alongside Ibrahim Afellay last spring.
Pieters was solid in last weeks 1-0 loss at Everton and now that Philipp Wollscheid has departed, it may help that Martins Indi is also a fellow compatriot, something which Hughes will hope will solidify that left side of defence which has been so regularly exposed of late.
RCM/DM – Joe Allen
If there’s anything positive about Stoke’s dismal start to the season, it’s Joe Allen.
The Welsh Xavi, as he’s famously known has picked up right where he left off this summer, earning himself MOTM in his home debut against Manchester City and also was spectacular in City’s drubbing of Stevenage.
Sitting at the heart of midfield, Allen’s energy will provide the back four with some much needed energy in front of them, and his tempo will be key for how Stoke will now look to play as they get the ball up to Wilfried Bony.
LCM/DM – Giannelli Imbula
Sat alongside Allen for me has to be Giannelli Imbula. Standing at 6”1, Imbula’s Yaya Toure-like presence in midfield will compliment Allen’s energy, especially away from home in games such as Middlesbrough already this season, where Imbula looked on a different level altogether than the rest of the players on the field.
Having impressed in the Potteries since he’s arrived, Giannelli’s role in this team will be key, as he will have to protect the back four, something which Glenn Whelan will be more than happy to do, should he fail to do so.
RM – Xherdan Shaqiri
Having scored arguably the best goal in this summer’s European Championship’s in France, many people tipped Xherdan Shaqiri to find his feet in his second season in the Premier League.
Stepping up in the 79th minute in the game against Middlesbrough, Shaqiri’s stunning free-kick rescued a point for Stoke on the opening day of the season, confirming the theories that Shaqiri was bang in form for the upcoming season.
So it will be frustrating for Shaqiri, and Stoke fans that he has missed the last two Premier League games for Stoke, strangely through an injury picked up in the pre-season friendly against Hamburg.
CAM – Bojan Krkic
Having been deployed in three or four different positions for Hughes over the last year, Bojan Krkic will be delighted to see the arrival of striker Wilfried Bony.
Bony’s presence, and ability to bring his forward players into games will be music to the ears of Bojan, who’s game will dramatically improve now as he’ll look to produce for Stoke City.
If he stays injury free, Bojan should easily improve his tally of 7 Premier League goals from last campaign, as he will aim to reach double figures.
LM – Marko Arnautovic
Speaking of double figures for the Premier League campaign, Arnautovic’s blistering form helped Stoke City reach 9th in the league, as he headed off for the European Championship’s with fellow winger, Xherdan Shaqiri in the summer.
Having been heavily relied on for goals this season, Arnautovic will also be delighted to see the addition of Bony, who’s expected to help out with City’s goal-scoring problem.
If the front four can hit top form for Stoke this season, there is absolutely no limits as to where they can go, and should City finish high in the table again, Arnautovic will have to have another stellar campaign for The Potters.
ST – Wilfried Bony
Arriving at Stoke on deadline day, Stoke fans far and wide were delighted that they could finally say they have a 15-20 goal a season striker in their team.
Having chased such a striker for years now, Bony’s record is absolutely second to none out of the strikers Stoke chased this summer.
Bony’s ability to hold up the ball and allow wingers the chance to get in behind the full backs should be an exciting prospect for Stoke fans, as his introduction will take Stoke to the next level in my opinion.
Like Bojan, Glen Johnson, Erik Pieters, Bruno Martins Indi, Joe Allen, Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Giannelli Imbula, Bony also comes with UEFA Champions League pedigree, and has also revealed he turned down a number of Champions League sides to sign for The Potters.
Should Stoke be able to constantly field a full fit starting XI, there is absolutely no limits for this side, and the balance that Bony, and Bruno Martins Indi now give Stoke, there’s expectation that Stoke should be pushing for European football as well.
League Prediction – 7th.