The final two days of the transfer window promise to be busy at the Bet365 Stadium as Stoke City remain determined to build on a productive summer in the market by adding the final pieces to a healthy-looking squad.
A positive start to the season on the pitch has done much to dispel any early pessimism, having picked up a creditable four points from their first three games, including a satisfying victory over Arsenal and a respectable point at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
The Potters have addressed most of the problems of last season, bolstering a leaky defence with the loan signing of Kurt Zouma from Chelsea, a £7 million deal for Bruno Martins Indi from Porto and the £18m arrival of Tottenham Hotspur central defender Kevin Wimmer.
The reinforcement of the back line will also push existing squad players out of the door. German defender Philipp Wollscheid remains the likely candidate with a move to Metz in France heavily linked in recent days.
The shrewd acquisition of the highly-experienced Darren Fletcher adds some much-needed quality in the middle of the park, particularly in light of the departure of stalwart Glenn Whelan to Aston Villa and the imminent exit of expensive flop Giannelli Imbula.
Hughes has also attempted to reignite last season’s ineffective front line, adding the exciting Jese Rodriguez, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain and Ex-Schalke forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to his attacking options. Despite the £20m exodus of the talismanic Marko Arnautovic to West Ham United, the Potters attack looks to be far more potent this time around.
Despite the renewed and largely justified optimism surrounding the club of late, Hughes and the Stoke management team are well aware that there is still work to be done before the transfer window shuts in two days’ time.
A change from last season’s tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formation to a 3-4-3 has brought fresh tactical concerns.
The new shape has undoubtedly improved team performance in the first three fixtures but the deployment of natural striker Mame Biram Diouf and the inconsistent Erik Pieters in the wing-back roles is a clear weakness.
Rumours of a move for Arsenal’s left wing-back Kieran Gibbs have rumbled on without substance and a mooted move for Fenerbache right-back Gregory Van Der Wiel failed to materialise, the player recently joining Italian side Cagliari.
The arrival of another centre-back in Wimmer may see Zouma pushed out to play in the right wing-back role but it would be preferable to see Hughes push the boat out to sign a genuine attacking full-back.
The ageing Charlie Adam and the injury-prone pair of Ibrahim Afellay and Stephen Ireland, both currently recovering from long spells on the sidelines, remain the only cover in central midfield. That issue may force Stoke into finally concluding the drawn-out saga of a move for Manchester City’s Fabian Delph if they can eventually finalise a deal for the 27-year-old.
Finding an alternative centre forward may also be prioritised in the coming days. January signing Saido Berahino has failed to find the net in any competitive appearance so far and Hughes may need to look elsewhere for a reliable source of goals. Tottenham’s Vincent Janssen is a name that has appeared in numerous media outlets in recent weeks.
With time running out and clubs, players and agents frantically thrashing out last minute deals around the country, there is every reason to believe that the remaining two days of the window at the Bet365 Stadium will be hectic.