Stoke City have probably rivalled West Ham United as one of the clubs to have majorly disappointed in the early stages of this season. The Potters find themselves in the 19th spot in the table with 3 points and the worst goal difference in the division.
Mark Hughes entered his 4th year as Stoke City manager and his improbable task of establishing Stokealona in Staffordshire entered a phase which was expected to yield results by now. But the lengthy transformation seems to be going off-track as the Potters look like having regressed on the work done in the past couple of seasons. The task in itself, was humungous, with Stoke especially renowned for their physical and slightly brash style of football which solely focused on getting the job done.
But the club decided to change track after a period of stagnation. And Hughes was brought in for his inside knowledge of the Catalan style of football. No one expected Stoke to adopt tiki-taka but there was a hope that by resorting to a more creative build-up, the success of the club will increase manifold.
Stoke changed their blueprint, getting rid of players not suited to the new philosophy and got in players like Arnautovic, Shaqiri, Bojan, Afellay and more recently Joe Allen. But things have just not clicked for this new-look Stoke and in a season they were expected to launch a bid for at least a Top 8 finish, they now have to recover to ensure safety first.
There was a concrete talk of Stoke City moving for Axel Witsel in the summer and while the move failed to materialise, it is understood that the club have retained an interest in the player.
Witsel is primarily a defensive midfielder but has evolved into more of a box-to-box player and has honed his passing skills as well. His physique helps him in dominating his opposition midfield players and he is good in tackling and strong in the air as well.
He will bring much-needed steel along with international experience into the struggling Stoke team. With Allen thriving in an advanced role, Witsel can provide ideal cover for the Wales international and he will be a perfect fit as a player who can adapt to Stoke City’s past and present philosophies.
While the club now needs the player more than ever, it is a different matter altogether whether the player can be lured to Stoke, if a better club with playing opportunity is also in the race for the player.
But Stoke will be looking to improve on their position considerably by the time the transfer window reopens and a lucrative package along with the opportunity to play in the Premier League might be enough to lure him. With the player available to move on a free, there will not be a dearth of suitors for him.