A sustained stretch of poor springtime form saw Stoke City end 2015/16 clinging on to the top-half finish that looked destined to be theirs for most of last season.
Having attracted some surprisingly high-profile names to the Britannia Stadium last term, it’s fair to say the Potters were aiming for a somewhat loftier standing, but their ambition in the transfer market is sure to continue with their coffers due to be inflated by the Premier League’s new TV agreement.
A price of 50/1 says Stoke crack the top four next term and, while that may be a little beyond them whatever moves they make this summer, these deals could get them closer.
Sign – Yunus Malli
One of the main men behind Mainz’s sixth-place Bundesliga finish last term, Malli established himself as one of the German top flight’s most lethal goal threats from midfield.
His incisive runs, spatial awareness and understanding of when to pass or shoot render him best deployed behind a solo striker, which ensures there are options ahead, to the side and behind him. He’d slot perfectly into Mark Hughes’ preferred formation, enhancing their goalscoring prowess in the process.
Stoke have had plenty of joy shopping in the Bundesliga in the past and Malli’s acquisition wouldn’t besmirch their stellar record.
Sell – Bojan
The Spaniard’s Stoke renaissance deservedly drew all manner of plaudits, but he closed the previous campaign on the bench after a largely underwhelming 2016, in which he found the net just twice.
Hughes isn’t averse to a blockbuster, shirt-selling signing and moving Bojan on while is stock remains inflated to make way for a new number ten isn’t the worst idea.
Keep – Marko Arnautovic
The Austrian international has a year remaining on his contract and speculation that he’ll leave is rife.
But the teams allegedly looking to secure his services don’t strike as an obvious step up from his current station. The likes of Everton and Crystal Palace, for example, can’t offer him European football immediately.
If Arnautovic’s deliberation about inking an extension revolves around wage demands, Stoke must pay what it takes it takes to keep him. His 11 goals and six assists – which directly won his team 13 points last term – will be a challenge to replace, with any potential successor capable of delivering such results likely to command a weighty wage packet too.