It was only around three years ago when Stoke were being described as a long ball team, and one of the worst to watch in the Premier League.
Now, just two and a half years after Mark Hughes became manager at the club, they are playing fast, attacking football. On deadline day, they completed a club record £18.3 million deal for Giannelli Imbula from Porto, a man who could take Stoke to the next level.
Few would have imagined when they first came up from the Championship to the Premier League that Stoke would have assembled the team that they have now. In the past two seasons, Hughes has bought in the likes of Bojan from Barcelona, and Xherdan Shaqiri from Inter Milan, two men who have helped the Potters play much more attractive and adventurous football.
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Hughes has made the decision that now is his time to go big in the transfer market to improve his side defensively, splashing the cash on defensive midfielder Giannelli Imbula. The Frenchman, who like many French midfielders before him had been dubbed the ‘next Patrick Vieira’, spent only six months in Portugal with Porto before signing a five-and-a-half year contract with Stoke.
Despite the investment on players in the attacking positions, Stoke have looked light in the centre of midfield recently, with Charlie Adam and Glenn Whelan the first choice pair. In Imbula, they have signed a man who not only has the physical presence in the middle of the park, but all the technical attributes needed to use the ball as well.
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In Bojan, Ibrahim Afellay and Shaqiri, Stoke have been buying players who had struggled elsewhere in Europe, despite their undoubted qualities. This time out, they have signed a 23-year-old who has already made a positive impression at Marseille and Porto.
Imbula could be the man who can really take Stoke to the next level. He is clearly a quality player, and if he can recreate that form at the Britannia Stadium he could be the man that the Potters have been crying out for, even with their vast array of attacking talent.
If he can link up well with the players that Stoke already have at their disposal, Imbula could be their best signing yet.