With the transfer window in full swing, ESPNFC's Stoke City blogger James Whittaker discusses how Mark Hughes' side are shaping up ahead of the new season.
IN -- Phil Bardsley (Sunderland, free), Steve Sidwell (Fulham, free), Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover, free), Dionatan Teixeira (Banska Bystricam, undisclosed)
OUT -- Matthew Etherington (Released), Juan Agudelo (Released), Michael Kightly (Burnley, undisclosed).
SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW ASSESSMENTS
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Around 20 million pounds -- the funds are there for Mark Hughes to improve and strengthen the side but the emphasis will be on achieving value for money and ensuring resale value where possible. A number of deals fell through in January so those funds have been carried over to this summer and will be supplemented by any player sales.
However, as chairman Peter Coates points out, there is no pressure to sell any of the club's star players.
Rate your business so far
9/10 -- Stoke fans had known nothing other than a deadline day trolley dash was an option in transfer windows so for Hughes and his team to act so swiftly to plug some of the gaps in the squad was a pleasant and welcome surprise as they prepare to build on the record breaking season of last term. The main areas needing improvement were right back, a winger and a leading striker better suited to the mobility of Hughes' system. Two of those have duly arrived in the shape of Phil Bardsley and Mame Diouf and talks are ongoing with Liverpool regarding Oussama Assaidi to fill the remaining position of winger.
Add to those players the additions of Steve Sidwell to provide competition and potential upgrade to the midfield engine room as well as Dionatan Teixeira doing the same in the middle of defence and it's difficult to see the deals done to date as anything other than an excellent return.
Who should be sold?
Had the club made better progress on shifting some of the fringe players out, the score above would have been a unquestionable 10 but given there are still so many players remaining who have little hope of featuring, outgoings must now become a priority for a club with self-sufficiency high on their agenda.
The players who are least likely to feature should be first out of the door -- the likes of Brek Shea, Wilson Palacios, Jamie Ness, Cameron Jerome and even local lads Ryan Shotton and Andy Wilkinson would appear to be surplus to requirements and therefore in contention to leave. The focus then moves to some of the previous season's first team players who could well be moved on given the influx of better suited offensive options.
Peter Crouch, 33 next month, will see his time on the field limited and as one of the highest earners would be a prime candidate to be sold. Jonathan Walters is another who is on the wrong side of 30 and having publically stated he would not be happy being a bit part player I'm afraid the writing would appear to be very much on the wall for the previous manager's ever-present, if he is to stay true to his word.
Who should be signed?
Despite the early influx of players, the club continue to target other deals that would improve the squad including the aforementioned Assaidi. The Moroccan impressed on loan and despite having his season cut short through injury, he proved to be an important part of Hughes' side.
Another high profile name publically linked is Bojan of Barcelona, a man once tipped as the next Lionel Messi. He now finds himself surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou and mulling over a move to the Potteries to join fellow La Masia graduate Marc Muniesa. Other names featuring prominently in the local and national media are Nathan Redmond of Norwich and a Spanish winger by the name of Keko which perhaps suggests that business is far from done as Hughes continues to seek improvements for the attacking roles in the squad.
Problem solving: What do you need?
The main problem that needed addressing was the leading striker position and in finally signing Mame Diouf, the manager will hope that particular conundrum has been solved. Acceleration and movement are something the Stoke front line has been without for too long and the previous manager's insistence of signing slower players ultimately saw the end of his reign and left Hughes with few options to make his more attacking system tick.
Diouf was the main target when the manager arrived last year and having initially agreed an eight million pound fee for his services -- only for the goalposts to be moved and the deal fall through -- the club will no doubt be happy to have finally secured the their man with no transfer fee. Diouf's attributes lend themselves nicely to a front line built around agility, pace and work rate and his return for Hannover suggests that Stoke fans will see a player at the top of his game willing and able to put away the chances that present themselves; the likes of which were spurned on far too many occasions last season.