The two teams that survived a campaign of Premier League football after promotion the season before – Stoke City and Hull City – have shown a completely different attitude in the transfer market over the close season. Surely this gives us some clue as to who is most likely to avoid the drop this time around. Stoke has been extremely frugal in buying players, only bringing in Dean Whitehead where as Hull has brought in Stephen Hunt, Kamel Ghilas, Jozy Altidore, Steven Mouyokolo and Seyi Olofinjana.
This tells us a lot about Hull as they are still looking to shape their side into one that can succeed in the Premier League. They only just survived last season and want to do far better this time round having managed only one win from the final 22 games of last season and finished 2008/09 by the skin of their teeth, shorn of confidence. Last Christmas both teams needed to bring more goals into their team in order to compete. Hull brought in Jimmy Bullard and Manucho on loan – unfortunately, Bullard was soon injured and Manucho failed to find his feet. Stoke went for James Beattie and Matthew Etherington. These two seemed to fit perfectly into the Stoke side. Beattie scored seven goals in 16 games as Stoke marched to 12th whilst Hull slid to 17th.
Stoke’s acquisitions that January seemed to solidify the team, giving the team the potential to get goals from other areas than the set-pieces that had become their trademark. Plus, they seem to have attackers who can get goals in the Premier League. As well as Beattie’s goals last season, Ricardo Fuller was their top scorer with 11 and although Dave Kitson failed to get off the mark, his record for Reading should mean this won’t be too far away. Hence, Stoke’s pursuit of additional attacking threat has been conservative at best over the summer. There is no need for them to pay over the odds for a player and can instead wait for a last-minute bargain. The situation is different for Hull. They are still reeling from the poor form that has blighted them so far in 2009, and still do not have a striker who can guarantee them goals. They have so far bought Altidore and Ghilas in attack, and seem to be looking at other prospects. Both are untested at the highest level and whether they can adjust to the English game, and especially the Premier League, is a gamble.
There are rumours Hull are in hot pursuit of Alvaro Negredo from Real Madrid and Aruna Dindane from Lens, but again, untried and untested at this level. Stoke has proven that by bringing in solid players with Premier League experience and having a strong tactical foundation, they are able to compete at this level. Hull currently have a strong defence and combative midfield but need a stronger attack if they want to succeed. They are bringing in players from home, but also from abroad, and this is a huge risk if they want to ensure their stay in the top-flight. Stephen Hunt will prove to be a good acquisition, as will a fit-again Jimmy Bullard, but the lack of a striker who has previously scored at least 10 goals a season in the Premier League could be their problem, and could see them continue the form that saw them plummet down the league last year.