If you’re a Stoke City fan, a shrewd and frugal approach to a transfer window will be nothing new to you. Whilst there is something to be said for teams who can compete with a small budget, never moving forward from that mindset can be dangerous, as Stoke found out last season.
Many fans were expecting a response from the club’s board as an indication that they had learnt the harsh lessons of last season, yet with deadline day just weeks away it’s been underwhelming from the Potters so far.
What began with so much promise has quickly dwindled to a few, mostly lacklustre rumours that still seem a good deal away from completion. Benik Afobe and Oghenekaro Etebo look like two good signings for Stoke but with the club in need of a bit of overhaul, it’s not much of a cavalry.
Adam Federici is the only other player to join Stoke and he isn’t expected to be anything more than an understudy. Yet ten first team players from last season have already left including all three of the clubs recognised wingers.
Meanwhile, the futures of Jack Butland, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Badou Ndiaye, Bruno Martins Indi, Charlie Adam, Bojan Krkic, Giannelli Imbula, Geoff Cameron and Darren Fletcher all remain up in the air. Indeed it seems the only transfer rumours surrounding Stoke at the minute are regarding players leaving the club.
The club seems confident of retaining all the talent they desire to after convincing Joe Allen to commit his future. But even then, Stoke are taking a huge gamble in assuming that this squad is strong enough to win promotion because of the Premier League longevity.
This was a team that wasn’t good enough to survive the drop last season and it’s arrogant to assume the Championship will be any easier. It’s also a team that was bested by Bristol City in the Carabao Cup last season and by Coventry City in the FA Cup despite fielding two strong teams.
More importantly, goals win games and it’s still hard to see where those goals are going to come from in this side. Only West Brom have scored fewer goals than Stoke over the last three seasons in the top flight.
The Potters have finished in the bottom five for goals scored in each of those seasons, with their previous two top scorers Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri having left the club. Afobe may go some way to fixing that, but when you consider the goals they are already missing, Stoke need a lot more firepower in this squad.
Mame Diouf and Peter Crouch got just 11 goals between them last season and with no wingers in the squad and little goal threat from midfield, there won’t be much in the way of support.
The misfiring Saido Berahino is apparently once again scoring for fun in training and will for the third season running be ‘as good as a new signing’. And it seems the club are content with his progress enough to roll the dice again on him being a key player next season.
If the club doesn’t bounce back at the first time of asking they could be set for a long stay in England’s second tier. Aston Villa currently exist as a cautionary tale to support Stoke’s frugal approach, as chairman Peter Coates frequently says the most important thing is the financial future of the club.
It’s the same approach that took them down in the first place though and they are taking a bigger gamble on the club’s future by assuming the squad is good enough than they would be by spending big in the transfer market.