Window Shopping: Though Mark Hughes was tasked with transforming Stoke’s limited but reliable team, January came with little meaningful change. Perhaps Stoke wasn’t so reliant on their old, direct approaches, and maybe they were slightly more willing to actually build play instead of force it. Come the winter window, though, the limitations of the squad “Sparky” inherited from Tony Pulis were obvious.
They lack scoring threats, particularly up top. Peter Crouch has four goals and as many assists, but he’s also played 21 games, leaving a the former England international with a disappointing strike rate for a first choice forward.
Though Charlie Adam has added seven goals from midfield, the Potters still lacked quality in the middle. With players like Marko Arnautovic, Stephen Ireland, and Oussama Assaidi, Hughes had a collection of interesting options, but he had nobody who could make a significant impact game-in, game-out. Put simply: Stoke just needed better players.
Without them, relegation becomes a real threat. Even after a weekend win over Manchester United, the Potters are only three points above the drop. Whether they see a sixth season in the Premier League could come down to how Hughes addressed Stoke’s problems.
Players In: Juan Agudelo (New England, free, immediately loaned), Ryan Shotton (Wigan, return from loan), Peter Odemwingie (Cardiff City, swap for Kenwyne Jones), Stephen Ireland (Manchester City, undisclosed, loan make permanent), John Guidetti (Manchester City, loan),
Players Out: Juan Agudelo (Utrecht, loan), Kenwyne Jones (Cardiff City, swap for Peter Odemwingie), Brek Shea (Barnsley, loan through March), Maurice Edu (Philadelphia, loan)
How you feel about Stoke’s window comes down to Odemwingie and Guidetti. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say either represents a significant improvement. While each have the talent to have a major impact, recent history and early returns say Stoke’s treading water.
Odemwingie is a skilled player who tantalized at West Brom, but in his last 72 Premier League games, he’s scored a Crouch-esque 16 goals. How much of an improvement that represents on Assaidi, Jon Walters, or Arnautovic is debatable, but it’s unlikely to be much.
Guidetti is already making noise about being unhappy with his playing time (he was briefly ill). Perhaps that gets worked out and he can have a major impact over the next four months. More likely: If he’s not getting significant time early, he has one or two other steps before being a relegation-saver.
Stoke failed to meaningfully address any of their issues, but they brought in two guys who could turn probability on its head. Given the cost (just wages, presumably), they’re worth a shot.