All the noises coming out of the Britannia imply that that Tony Pulis will not be using the January transfer window to strengthen his Stoke City squad with new arrivals.
Rather, it will be about trimming his squad rather than adding to it, with Matthew Upson, Wilson Palacios, Maurice Edu and Kenwyne Jones, despite the latter’s recent upturn in form and goals, all being linked with moves away from the club.
Additionally, Pulis is keen to secure the services of some of his most valuable players. After Ryan Shawcross committed his long-term future to the club last week, the Welshman is now aiming to fend off suitors for goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, centre-back Robert Huth, midfielder Steven N’Zonzi and striker Jonathan Walters.
However, could the popular Potters’ manager be taking his eye off the ball a little with regards to player recruitment? Yes, he may not want to rock the boat and shake up a squad that has been performing so powerfully well this season to and currently sit tenth in the league table, just a handful of points off the European positions.
However, the 54-year-old should remember that Stoke’s gradual ascendency up the standings since their arrival into the Premier League in 2008 has not been based on standing still. Rather, player recruitment and strengthening of the squad has very much been at the heart of it, with Stoke actually being one of the highest net spenders in the league over the past few seasons.
January 2009 saw the likes of James Beattie and Matthew Etherington brought in, while that summer saw Dean Whitehead, Huth, Begovic and Sanli Tuncay brought to the Britannia. Similarly, the summer of 2010 saw Marc Wilson, Kenwyne Jones, Walters and Jermaine Pennant bought while in preparation for European football last season, the experience of Jonathan Woodgate, Upson, Palacios, Crouch and Cameron Jerome was drafted in.
Even this summer saw a major recruitment drive with Geoff Cameron, Charlie Adam, N’Zonzi, Michael Kightly, not to mention Michael Owen, all making moves to the Britannia.
While of course not all of those signings mentioned have set the world alight at the club, they have all in some way contributed to the evolution and progression of Stoke City in the Premier League.
Thus, for Pulis to even consider sitting on his laurels at this point in time with the club going so well would be a huge risk indeed. Teams and managers are often told to strengthen when they are at the top and for Stoke, with the very real opportunity for European football once again at its fingertips, it would surely be a chance that needs to be taken.
Certainly, if Pulis manages to hold on to Begovic and Huth, then defensively Stoke should retain the resilience they have shown so far this season while up front, the foursome of Jones, Crouch, Walters and Jerome, not to mention Michael Owen should be more than enough to cause teams problems.
Arguably, it is midfield, where an inspirational creative, though far from the midfield-type Pulis usually pursues for his team, would perhaps just be enough to take this Stoke City team to the next level.
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