Mark Hughes Stoke City side achieved their best ever Premier League finish last season capturing a comfortable ninth, earning a respectable fifty points in the process.
The former Manchester City boss had big shoes to fill after Tony Pulis’ departure, but Hughes’ implication of a new style of football to the Potters appealed to many.
Stoke fans will be optimistic of an even better finish this season, but will know all too well that it will not come easily.
Hughes, of course, knows this as well, and has therefore decided to bring in new faces and more quality. This article will be grading his new acquisitions from A-E, A being perfect and E being poor.
Phil Bardsley was brought in on a free from Sunderland and the right back may not be Stoke’s best signing of the summer, but he certainly is not shy of a tackle and he will undoubtedly add plenty of aggression to their back four.
The Scottish full back can offer something going forward as well. His delivery from the right wing is fairly good and he is not afraid of shooting from distance, possessing a menacing strike.
The signing of Bardsley is unlikely to excite fans very much, and he can be a liability with his aggression going into tackles at times, but, given that Stoke paid nothing for his services, Mark Hughes can be relatively pleased with his new right back. Grade – C.
Spanish forward Bojan was signed from Barcelona for a fee of £3 million and several pundits believe the 24 year old is something of a coup for Stoke City.
The former Barcelona star was once dubbed as the next Lionel Messi. Previous Barcelona and now Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said, “There are only a few players who have a magic touch, and Bojan is one of them”.
Bojan failed to live up to the hype surrounding him, though, and a dismal time at Roma followed by poor loan spells at Milan and Ajax left many bemused, given his obvious talent.
Bojan is a tremendous dribbler, his first touch is excellent and he has the poise and balance of a ballerina. On the wing, he will dazzle fans with his flicks and tricks.
The 24 year old can also score goals, scoring 50 in 204 appearances in competitive club games.
Despite the Spaniard failing to live up to expectations, it has been said that, with the support and trust of his manager, he can offer so much to a team.
In Mark Hughes, Bojan will have the trust and arm around his shoulder he needs and I think he will flourish at Stoke. Given how little the Potter’s paid for the Barcelona graduate, and the quality of the player, this has to be graded as an A. A tremendous piece of business.
Former Manchester United striker Mame Diouf was brought in to the Britannia stadium for free from German side Hannover.
The 26 year old is another good addition to Mark Hughes’ side and has earned the reputation of an accomplished goalscorer during spells at Blackburn, Molde and most recently Hannover.
The Senegal international has scored a total of 64 goals in 145 league appearances, his most recent one being a wonderful 70 yard run from his own half, slotting through the legs of Joe Hart in Stoke’s 1-0 win against Manchester City at the Etihad.
Diouf is also a threat in the air, useful for a side like Stoke who like to utilise set pieces. The former Hannover man possesses a massive jump and even the tallest of defenders will have a hard time marking him.
Considering that Stoke’s only other strikers are Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters, Mame Diouf can expect a lot of game time and I think he will score goals for his new club, given the chance.
Diouf can be considered an A in terms of grading the deal. He will add goals to a Stoke team looking to beat their own record of best ever Premier League finish and will be a menace from set pieces. Not bad, considering he did not cost the Potter’s a penny of transfer budget.
Steve Sidwell was brought in as he longed to stay in the Premier League after his former side Fulham were relegated.
The English man is a solid defensive midfielder, with his strongest attributes being tackling, blocking shots and intercepting passes.
Stoke have signed a few attacking players this summer but not conceding goals is just as important as scoring them, Sidwell well offer cover to his central defenders, giving attacking players, such as Charlie Adam, the freedom to venture forward and win games.
Another free agent, Steve Sidwell can be considered a fairly good signing. A good, cheap, Premier League experienced defensive midfielder is not easy to get a hold of, but that is exactly what Hughes has done. Grade – C.
Oussama Assaidi played a key role in Stoke achieving their record finish in the league last season, his biggest contribution most notably his winner in the 3-2 comeback victory against eventual third placed Chelsea.
Like last season, Assaidi was brought in on a season long loan from Liverpool and the Moroccan winger has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
Both skilful and quick, Assaidi can give any full back a tough game. His dribbling and agility combined with an arsenal of tricks performed at speed make him both unpredictable and dangerous.
The 26 year old’s crossing is also a strong point of his game, providing decent service from whichever wing he may find himself on.
Not only can Assaidi create goals, he can score them. Not afraid to shoot from long range, Assaidi possesses a good strike from distance and usually tests opposition goalkeepers.
Stoke City fans will surely have liked to welcome Assaidi back on a permanent basis but another loan season will develop his game while the Potter’s reap the rewards. Grade – B.
Victor Moses was a real hit at Wigan Athletic. Having signed for Chelsea in a £9 million deal at 21 years old, there was a real sense of promise from the Nigerian.
Lack of first team football, however, hampered his career progress considerably and, with the hope of getting regular first team football, he was shipped out to Liverpool on loan for last season.
It was an unsuccessful spell, impressing very little fans. So the now 23 year old will look to kick start his career at Stoke.
Moses has quality, he is a terrific dribbler, but his final ball is often lacking and he is unwilling to help out in defence, rarely, if ever, tracking back.
The former Wigan man may find himself playing a super sub role this year, with his flair, pace and dribbling qualities best utilised when others are tiring. Starts, however, may be fairly scarce.
I would grade this deal as a C. A good technical player with the ball at his feet but his final ball is left wanting and offers very little without it.
Overall, Stoke City fans should and probably will be happy with their clubs business over the summer, bringing in some good, quality acquisitions.
The prospect of a front three that includes Assaidi, Mame Diouf and Bojan is mouthwatering.
This season will no doubt be difficult, trying to match if not better last seasons feats. But Stoke City are a football club going places, and it is a very exciting time at the Britannia stadium.