Do Stoke City have the Championship's best full-back in Moritz Bauer?
The Bet365 Stadium has been a hive of activity over the summer so far as Stoke City prepare for life outside the top-flight for the first time in a decade.
The Potters were relegated from the Premier League in May but the club have been quick to begin to address some of the issues, mistakes and frailties that underpinned their failures last season and, arguably, can be traced back throughout the previous twenty-four months.
Gary Rowett was appointed as manager at the start of the summer and his arrival was seen as something of a coup after Stoke were able to persuade the 44-year-old to leave Championship rivals Derby County.
He moved quickly to secure the impressive signings of Benik Afobe and Nigeria’s World Cup star Oghenekaro Etebo whilst Joe Allen was also convinced to sign a new contract that saw him pledge his long-term future to the club.
All of these events have been widely discussed but something that many media outlets failed to highlight was that Stoke have also been able to sign the best fullback in the Championship.
It was announced at the start of July that Moritz Bauer had signed a new long-term deal that will see him remain at the Bet365 Stadium until 2023.
The Austrian defender may not be the most instantly recognisable name in English football yet Stoke supporters will be quick to highlight the considerable impact that he has made at the club since arriving in January.
The 26-year-old was signed from Ruben Kazan for an undisclosed fee six months ago and he produced a string of hugely impressive performances as he cemented his place in the starting eleven.
In what was a disappointing season that ultimately ended in relegation, Bauer was one of the few bright sparks that supporters could take some heart from.
He made 15 appearances in total with his energy, enthusiasm and pace enabling him to easily make the transition into a prominent performer in the Premier League.
Bauer is naturally a full-back and he proved to be equally adept at undertaking his defensive responsibilities as he was driving forward with the ball or making overlapping runs into the opposition half.
He ended the campaign being used as a winger as Paul Lambert struggled to find a solution to the team’s woes on the pitch but he undoubtedly applied himself to the best of his ability.
Immediately following relegation the Austrian publicly announced that he would be happy to remain at the Bet365 Stadium and it is refreshing to see a player showing a degree of loyalty to a club that he had only recently joined.
The fact that he signed a new contract at the start of the month confirmed that he was a man of his word and leaves Stoke having signed what will be the best attacking fullback that you are likely to see in the Championship this year.
Bauer’s natural athleticism combined with his technical ability will make him a force to be reckoned with in the second tier and, if used as a fullback, his overlapping runs will add another string to Stoke’s attacking repertoire.
If supporters thought that he had adapted well to life in the Premier League then they will be licking their lips at the prospect of him being unleashed in the Championship.
The 26-year-old’s new contract has continued to add to the feel-good factor surrounding the Bet365 Stadium during the summer and there is a real sense of positivity around the club.
Rowett’s side are among the favourites for promotion and his activities so far as manager, both in terms of new arrivals and persuading key squad members to stay, clearly demonstrates his intentions.
Bauer possesses all of the attributes to be a star for Stoke in the Championship and he will be a key feature in the team are to immediately bounce back into the Premier League.
The best attacking fullback in the Championship? We will have to wait and see.