As a tribute to the physical and robust nature of the English Premier League the old adage considered as a benchmark of success has been the ability of a player to perform on a cold windy night at Stoke.
‘‘But can he do it at a cold windy Tuesday night at Stoke?’’
This saying often has a humorous undertone, but ask the players who have been at the receiving end of the infamous Stoke treatment and they will (quite understandably) beg to differ. Having been stereotyped as playing a certain brand of football, which though distinguishable, was not a pleasing sight to the eye. Stoke, mainly known for their hard tackling, long ball approach and no-nonsense style usually signed players who were willing to do the dirty work. But such tactics bring limited success, as Stoke City were caught in mid-table obscurity for a long time before the board decided to appoint Mark Hughes as manager.
Recent seasons have seen Stoke gradually bring modifications to their playing style. With the appointment of Hughes and their subsequent release of a certain brand of footballers and the signing a set of players pointed to their attempts at a radical change in their playing style. Stoke have since secured the services of players like Shaqiri, Bojan, Joselu, Arnautovic and several creative players with playmaking abilities.
While Stoke have not had the magnitude of success the players on offer would be expected to deliver, one of the reasons cited is the number of overseas players being given the responsibility of shouldering the attack. Instead of enjoying a settling in season they were expected to start delivering from the word go and hence their effect waned after an initial burst. But latest reports suggest Marko Arnautovic is on the verge of signing a 4-year contract extension with Stoke after rebuffing Everton’s advances. The big Austrian has been an integral part of Stoke’s attacking forays and it would have been a big set-back if he left.
With the acquisition of Allen and so close to tying down Arnautovic to a deal, things are looking north for the Bet365 Stadium outfit. Both of them have sufficient exposure to the Premier League and will be mainstays in the starting eleven come next season. And Stoke’s elusive search for a striker also seems to be nearing an end with their determined approach of West Brom’s Saido Berahino.
With the latest developments it seems Hughes is finally looking to strike a balance in the team which will be expected to settle quickly in the upcoming season.