On Tuesday evening Stoke City announced that Gary Rowett had been appointed as their new manager.
The 44-year-old replaces Paul Lambert, who departed the club following relegation from the Premier League, and now faces the task of building a team capable of making an immediate return to the top-flight.
Rowett led Derby County to the Championship play-offs this season, ultimately losing out to Fulham, and is regarded as one of the brightest, young British managers in the country. Stoke were previously linked with the former Burton Albion and Birmingham City manager in January and have reportedly paid around £2 million in compensation to secure his services.
However, whilst the Potters may possess a superior budget to many of their counterparts in the Championship an immediate return to the Premier League is certainly not guaranteed. The playing squad requires a dramatic overhaul during the summer and the second tier of English football is notoriously unpredictable and competitive.
Here, The Boot Room highlights three key areas that Rowett must address in order to revive Stoke’s fortunes.
Convince big-name players to stay
When a club is relegated from the Premier League they normally undergo a rapid fire sale of their best players in order to reduce the wage bill and balance the books.
However, that is not necessarily the case with Stoke. The Potters are in a solid financial position and are funded by Peter Coates, owner of online betting company Bet365, who is a local entrepreneur and has the club’s best intentions at heart.
The first task for Rowett will be to try and convince some of Stoke’s star assets to remain at the Bet365 Stadium and lead a promotion challenge.
Whilst figures such as Xherdan Shaqiri and Jack Butland are almost certainly likely to depart the club during the summer, there are others that might be tempted to stay put.
Joe Allen and Moritz Bauer have already tentatively suggested that they might be willing to remain whilst Rowett should also focus on keeping hold of other key figures such as Ryan Shawcross, Bruno Martins Indi and Badou Ndiaye.
Stoke will be more capable of building a squad capable of challenging for promotion if Rowett can convince some of the key figures in the squad to stay.
Get things right in the transfer market
One key factor in Stoke’s downfall over the previous two years has been the club’s horrendous transfer policy.
It is amazing to think that the Potters have spent £12 million on Saido Berahino, who has yet to score a goal for the club, £18 million on Kevin Wimmer, who was demoted to the under-23 squad for much of the season, and a further £18.3 million on Giannelli Imbula, who spent the year on loan in France.
Quite simply, Rowett cannot afford to make similar, costly mistakes as he overhauls the team during the summer.
The club need to move away from so-called ‘big name’ players who have little affection for the club, such as Jese Rodriguez, and ageing stalwarts that are entering the twilight of their careers, such as Darren Fletcher. Stoke need to build a young, hungry and dynamic team that are motivated, driven and still have everything to prove.
However, that is certainly easier said than done.
Rowett will be handed a significant transfer budget, which will be further increased by players sales, to build a team capable of securing promotion and he needs to ensure that the money is spent much more wisely than it has been in the recent past.
Re-discover Stoke’s identity
Over the previous two years Stoke have gradually lost their idiosyncratic identity – much to the detriment of the club. The Potters have always been at their best when they have a clear identity, philosophy and direction.
Under Tony Pulis, Stoke were characterised as a hard working, well organised team that employed a direct style of football that relied on transferring the ball into the opponents eighteen yard box as often as possible. It was not to everyone’s taste, but it was effective and supporters knew exactly what they were going to get.
Mark Hughes altered that identity and built a team that was characterised by foreign flair, technical brilliance and a possession-based style of play. Three consecutive top half finishes followed and the media referred to the club as ‘Stoke-a-lona’ in reference to the team’s new style of play.
It was when Hughes began to move away from that definitive identity that the Potters lost all sense of direction.
It is vital that Rowett implements his own footballing philosophy and creates a clear, definitive identity that the Stoke supporters can unite behind. The philosophies of Pulis and Hughes probably sit at extreme, contrasting ends of the spectrum and the 44-year-old may be aiming to find the middle ground that balances hard work, discipline and creativity.
One winner, one loser as Cuco Martina completes Stoke loan move
The 28-year-old completed a loan switch to the Championship.
The Curacao international had seen his opportunities at Goodison Park limited and will be eager to help the Potters achieve promotion.
Here is one winner and one loser from the loan deal, as Martina will be pleased by the prospect of consistent football but Stoke’s underperforming defenders may be at risk of losing their place.
Winner: Cuco Martina
During his debut year at Goodison Park, Martina always played with impressive desire but never looked like a player of top quality.
The defender, who is more comfortable as a right back, performed with admirable effort when asked to play left back last season, but was largely off the pace.
After Everton purchased ex-Barcelona defender Lucas Digne this summer, Martina must have realised he was not in Marco Silva’s future plans.
A move away from Merseyside will do the Curacao international a world of good, granting him consistent first team football and a chance to shine at an ambitious club looking to return to the top flight.
Loser: Stoke City’s underperforming defenders
The Potters largely kept last season’s Premier League squad intact, including their full-backs Erik Pieters and Moritz Bauer.
However, these same players that were relegated with Stoke are failing to light the Championship on fire. The club is still searching for its first win of the season and is mired in 22nd in the league after the first two matches.
With the addition of Martina, Pieters and Bauer will undoubtedly be looking over their shoulders nervously and wondering if their first team berth is at risk.
The two underperforming full-backs could be axed from Gary Rowett’s lineup in favour of the Everton loanee, as Martina will be eager to prove his worth at his new club.
One winner and loser as Stoke City close in on signing Sam Clucas
Stoke look set to sign the Swansea midfielder on deadline day
Stoke City are closing in on a deal to sign Swansea midfielder Sam Clucas in a fee thought to be around £6 million, a shrewd bit of business from The Potters, who will be looking to improve on their Championship opening day defeat.
Manager Gary Rowett will be hoping the midfielder can hit the ground running and bring with him some much-needed versatility that his current midfield options lack.
Stoke haven’t been able to find a permanent central midfielder capable of running the show since Steven N’Zonzi’s departure in 2015. However, Clucas may just be the man to fill the void.
Winner – Stoke’s midfield
Clucas will bring with him a versatility to play anywhere in the midfield, a trait which their current options all lack and a quality vital to succeeding in the Championship.
During his time at Hull City, Clucas played left wing, left back, defensive midfield and a number 10 role; a testament to the 28-year-old’s ability and something Stoke can use to their advantage this season.
Clucas is comfortable on the ball and has a passing range which is second to none. If the Potters are going to gain promotion back to the Premier League they’ll need a midfielder with these kinds of attributes in their side.
Loser – Burnley
It seemed as though Burnley would be the destination for Clucas this season. However, in a sudden change of events Sean Dyche’s side lost out on their target.
This will be a blow for Dyche’s side, who have struggled terribly during this transfer window, despite securing European football for the first time in the clubs history last season.
It remains to be seen whether or not they’ll make a move for anyone else today before the deadline strikes, but a few deadline day signings wouldn’t go amiss for Dyche’s men.
Three things learnt from Leeds’ opening win over Stoke: Bielsa hype justified
Leeds United have kicked off the season in style with a 3-1 victory over recently relegated Stoke City. Marcelo Bielsa and Gary Rowett were both taking charge of their teams for the first time in a competitive fixture but it was the Argentinian who came out on top.
Mateusz Klich opened the scoring before Pablo Hernandez added a second, thanks in part to an error from Jack Butland. After the break, Stoke revived a lifeline with Benik Afobe converting from 12 yards after Barry Douglas brought down Tom Ince.
Liam Cooper extended the home team’s lead only three minutes later to kill the tie off and Leeds remained composed as they saw out the tie for the win.
Here’s what can be taken from the clash…
Bielsa is already having an impact
There has been an awful lot of excitement surrounding Marcelo Bielsa’s appointment as Leeds United manager but few knew quite what to expect from the man in charge. With the line-up revealed, people were equally at a loss but on the opening day it worked to perfection.
Perhaps the clearest example is Mateusz Klich. A disappointment in the past, in pre-season and against the Potters he has looked a formidable potion and opened the scoring with a well-taken goal on Sunday, his first in Leeds colours.
Gary Rowett’s problem is the hangover of last season
On paper, Stoke City’s squad is probably the strongest in the division. Yet, in reality, it hasn’t quite worked out. Bringing on players like Darren Fletcher and Bojan Krkic as substitutes is something that most Championship managers could only dream of, yet his team looked a shambles for much of the tie.
Like much of 2017/18, big names with talents to match, such as Jack Butland, Ryan Shawcross and Joe Allen, didn’t live up to the occasion and left plenty to be desired. Even new signing Tom Ince was lazy in his tracking back and defensive duties, costing the side dearly for the second goal.
Leeds may not need another striker after all
What will have impressed Marcelo Bielsa most will have been that his team looked to have a goal threat even with £10 million signing Patrick Bamford on the bench. Goals from a defender, holding midfielder and more advanced midfielder showed that goals will come from all over in the current team.
Kemar Roofe lacked the killer instinct that is required but produced a magnificent display running Stoke ragged with his movement. The addition of Bamford could add the clinical final touch. Some have claimed that the Whites must sign another centre forward to be in with a chance of promotion this season, but early signs suggest it may not be the case.
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