Stoke’s poor performances in the transfer market have played a key role in the downfall of the club over the past few seasons. Big money flops like Kevin Wimmer and Saido Berahino undoubtedly played a huge part in the club’s relegation from the Premier League last season.
It had been another largely subdued transfer window after a couple of early promising deals for Benik Afobe and Oghenekaro Etebo. Things have picked up recently for Stoke though, with the start of the season just over a week away.
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The unveiling of James McClean divided fans over his controversial political views, but Stoke may have finally got the promotion charge back on track after also announcing a £10m deal for Huddersfield winger Tom Ince.
The club finally got some wingers through the door after seeing all three of their senior wingers leave this summer. The lack of width had been a serious concern in pre-season as Stoke fell to three consecutive defeats on a tour of Germany.
The biggest task Stoke will face this season is scoring the goals they need to win promotion. Stoke’s current five forwards – including Afobe – have just 58 goals between them in the last three years, with none of them having managed more than seven goals in a single season in that time.
Stoke’s last two top scorers played on the wing and that record suggests the club will likely be reliant on support from their wide men once again this season. McClean’s four goals in the last three years offered little to alleviate the burden, but Ince could be exactly what they need.
A direct and creative winger, Ince should provide a serious goal threat in the Championship next season. The 26-year-old already has 68 goals from six seasons in the Championship having hit double figures in four of his last five seasons at this level.
He should be able to effectively pick up the role that Xherdan Shaqiri vacated this summer, which was crucial for Stoke’s success. With nearly half of Stoke’s goals either created or assisted by Shaqiri last season, it was a vital role that needed filling.
For the first time this summer Stoke look like living up to the billing as league favourites. With a spattering of impressive talent having stuck by the club following relegation, one more good signing could make Stoke one of the strongest teams in Championship history.