Club Focus – Stoke – Will Stoke speculate to accumulate?

Chairman Peter Coates has indicated that January will see a quiet transfer window at the Britannia Stadium. Yet Stoke’s transfer windows are rarely devoid of activity, and Coates has always backed Pulis to the hilt thus far when it comes to strengthening his squad. With just a handful of points separating the club from a European spot however, it would not be a surprise if Pulis once again managed to twist his chairman’s arm and loosen the purse strings.

Unlike previous windows, when the Potters have traditionally left their business until the last moment, the club have this time acted quickly to secure the services of Jermaine Pennant on a permanent basis. The on-loan Real Zaragoza winger has been a revelation this season, adding an extra dimension to the Potters’ play in mirroring Matthew Etherington’s influence on the opposite flank. His consistency of crossing, combined with a perhaps surprising willingness to track back, have been instrumental in Stoke’s success this season. Despite his Spanish employers initially appearing to play hardball over the transfer fee, both parties have been able to thrash out a deal that could ultimately be worth £2.8m, and the 27-year-old will officially become a Stoke City player – subject to international clearance – on January 1st.

Defensively, cover at centre back for first choice pair Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth could be another priority, given rumours of Abdoulaye Faye’s impending departure and Danny Higginbotham’s indifferent form. Middlesbrough’s David Wheater is one name that has been mentioned, while Aston Villa misfit Curtis Davies might provide a more ‘footballing’ alternative to a back four whose major collective shortcoming lies in its distribution. It is at full back, however, where Stoke are particularly weak. The arrival of at least one full back who is comfortable on the ball and offer more going forward would assist considerably with developing the team’s ball retention and evolving its attacking play.

In midfield, although Dean Whitehead and Rory Delap have been key to the high tempo, pressing style that Stoke at their best maintain, and newcomer Marc Wilson’s guile and vision have been glimpsed in small doses, Stoke are still desperate for a figure in the engine room who can put it all together. A midfield general who is strong in the tackle, but capable of using the ball well and taking the game by the scruff of the neck, is widely seen as the missing piece of the jigsaw. Any interest in Lucas is likely to have been extinguished now that the Brazilian has started to prove his worth at Liverpool, but the likes of Nigel Reo Coker or Jermaine Jenas would appear to fit the bill.

Any incoming additions to the forward line will depend on outgoings; Tuncay’s frustrating stay in the Potteries has been widely tipped to end in January, while Eidur Gudjohnsen has thus far proved a non starter in every sense of the term. Yet a viable alternative to the ageing Ricardo Fuller will be required sooner or later, given the Potters continuing dependence on the Jamaican as their primary creative threat from open play.

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