Stoke City’s decade-long stay in the Premier League was brought to an abrupt end in May as The Potters were relegated to the Championship following what had been, in all honesty, a desperately disappointing and chaotic campaign.
Relegation occurred due to a culmination of different reasons including poor managerial decisions, a string of high-profile failures in the transfer market and a general feeling of stagnation and complacency throughout the club.
On the pitch, Stoke’s issues were underpinned by a lack of creativity in the final third and a critical inability to hit the back of the net.
They mustered only 35 goals throughout the Premier League campaign, averaging at less than a goal per game, whilst Xherdan Shaqiri ended the season as the club’s top goal scorer with his eight strikes.
The Potters simply did not possess a striker capable of plundering the goals required to help them to claw their way to safety.
Peter Crouch, now 37 years of age, was largely ineffective whilst Mame Biram Diouf, despite possessing an admirable work ethic, was inconsistent in front of goal and was inefficient when it came to finishing chances.
The less said about Saido Berahino, who last scored in a competitive game over two years ago, the better whilst too much was expected too soon of academy youngster Tyrese Cambell.
However, it appears that Gary Rowett has no intention of making the same mistakes that his predecessors did when it comes to building an effective strike force.
The former Derby County manager was appointed at the start of the summer and has wasted little time in looking to resolve some of Stoke’s long-standing issues.
Last season The Rams were among the highest scorers in the Championship and it can safely be assumed that Rowett intends to replicate that feat at the Bet365 Stadium for the forthcoming campaign.
The arrival of Benik Afobe is a significant statement of intent.
The 25-year-old striker was signed on loan in mid-June from Wolverhampton Wanders, just eleven days after he had made a permanent switch to Molineux from Bournemouth.
Whilst the logistics of the move, undoubtedly relating to Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, may be somewhat unorthodox, the message that Afobe’s arrival sends certainly is not.
The striker is a proven goal scorer in The Championship and he is being earmarked by Rowett as the antidote to Stoke’s woes front of goal.
Afobe scored six goals in seven starts for Wolves during the second half of last season as he helped the club to secure promotion to the Premier League whilst his first spell at Molineux saw him score 22 goals in 46 games.
Prior to that, he was equally as prolific with MK Dons.
However, doubters will point towards his somewhat disappointing spell at Bournemouth where he found the net just 11 times in two years.
In truth, the striker never really cemented his place in the team whilst the arrival of Jermain Defoe last summer effectively all but ended his career on the south coast.
What cannot be doubted is the fact that Afobe is a proven goal scorer in the Championship and that, at the age of 25, he is at his peak.
Regular game time for Stoke in the second tier of English football is likely to see the forward find the goal trail once more and that can only be a good thing for The Potters.
Afobe is very much the complete all-round modern striker.
He possesses pace, power and strength combined with good technical ability and intelligent movement that makes him a constant threat for defenders.
The 25-year-old plays off the last shoulder and he has a knack for being ruthlessly prolific in and around the eighteen-yard box – even half-chances are likely to find the back of the net if they drop in his direction.
If Rowett can mould a Stoke team that is creative in the final third and generates chances on a regular basis, then Afobe is the perfect focal point to apply the finishing touches.
In short, the 25-year-old is the key to solving the team’s inefficiency in front of goal.
If Stoke are to challenge for promotion in the forthcoming season, then Afobe’s contribution in the final third will be key to the club’s success.