Stoke City manager Mark Hughes has admitted that he has been left frustrated by the club’s lack of transfer activity over the summer but remains hopeful that negotiations for a number of players will be wrapped up before the start of the new season.
The Potters have signed Darren Fletcher (free transfer), Josh Tymon (tribunal) and Kurt Zouma (season long-loan) so far during the close-season and Hughes is reportedly keen to bring in another defender, midfielder and forward to complete his squad.
However, the departure of Marko Arnautovic and an inability to agree a permanent deal for former loan-star Bruno Martins-Indi has left the club with plenty to do over the next two weeks in order to be ready for the opening day contest against big-spending Everton. Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel Hughes explained:
“As always we have a will to get players in but those players are at other clubs and you have to wait for everything to fall into place. At the moment it’s a little bit frustrating for everybody, myself included. … We’re hopeful [of making signings]. We’ve been saying that for a number of weeks.”
Hughes also admitted that he would prefer to secure new signings early in the summer and believes that leaving negotiations until the last minute can ‘compromise’ potential deals.
“We try to get players in as early as we can. We don’t like going to the end of windows. My view is that can compromise you and you’re not likely to get the best deal you possibly could. It’s better to do your work early and get deals done.”
One deal that Stoke have not been able to complete in recent weeks is the signing of Porto defender Bruno Martins-Indi. The centre-back spent last season on loan at the Bet365 Stadium and was hugely impressive throughout his debut campaign in English football, but The Potters have been unable to agree a permanent deal to purchase the Dutch international.
However, Hughes remains hopeful that the 25-year-old could still start the season as a Stoke player. He told the Stoke Sentinel :
“We just have to be patient on that one. We are doing what we feel we need to do but it’s not easy. I’m hopeful of getting good players in before the window shuts. We’ve still got plenty of time.”
Meanwhile, former Stoke defender Mike Pejic has proclaimed that Marko Arnautovic was right to criticise the club for a lack of ambition and expects West Ham United to finish higher in the Premier League than The Potters this season.
Arnautovic departed the Bet365 Stadium earlier in the summer after forcing through a transfer to The Hammers, despite signing a long-term deal with Stoke just twelve months earlier that made him the highest paid player at the club.
However, the Austrian insisted that the decision to move was not based on financial gain, but was instead due to Stoke lacking ambition. In his column for the Stoke Sentinel, Pejic agreed with the winger’s comments:
“Everybody is thinking it, so I will go ahead and say it. Marko Arnautovic had a point when he said West Ham were bigger and more ambitious than Stoke. That’s at least the impression both clubs are giving right now. While West Ham are entitled to think they can break into the top seven, Stoke’s first priority next season is simply holding on to the solid mid-table status they have enjoyed for a good few years now.”
Pejic, who was a favourite among the Stoke supporters during an eight-year spell with the club in the late 1860s and early 1870s, explained that the club are facing a tough season ahead unless they invest heavily in the current playing squad.
“When you look at those other clubs usually rubbing shoulders in the middle of the table with Stoke, it’s obvious life is going to be tough for our club next season. We’ve got Everton and West Ham spending heavily, then there are new managers and a fresh impetus as Crystal Palace and Southampton … while Swansea have come on no end under Paul Clement.
“Even the smallest club of the lot, Bournemouth down on the south coast, are already setting sail with confidence towards their third Premier League campaign after adding old and reliable heads like Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe.
“So Stoke are facing a long, long season ahead.”