As usual the transfer deadline day was an eventful one for the Potters, securing the signatures of Charlie Adam and Steven Nzonzi for the initial total of around £8 million. Given that they had already agreed deals for three other CM’s (by trade) earlier on in the window it seems that Tony Pulis is intent on change in the middle of the park.
Stoke now have as many as ten players competing for the centre midfield spots, admittedly the likes of Tonge and Arismendi are unlikely to feature, however the point remains that the wage bill is at an all time high as is competition for places.
Considering the managers reluctance to stray from a rigid 4-4-1-1 formation, there only appears to be room for two of these players in the starting eleven.
With the faith shown in Adam and Nzonzi it would be interesting to see how the two stack up against Glen Whelan and Dean Whitehead who have long frequented the midfield area for the Potters. All stats are from the 2011/2012 season:
Nzonzi was a main stay in the Blackburn midfield and a constant figure in their line-up. Much the same can be said about the Stoke pair, however cup runs and other factors saw them miss out on some game time. Charlie Adam was bought in by Kenny Daglish along with several other big money signings at a time that the club was in turmoil, resulting in varying team selections.
Stoke fans like their team to get stuck in, get in the faces of their opponents and generally make life difficult for the opposition. Given the fact that Adam played a lot less football than his new Stoke team-mates, he massively out-performs them all here contesting possession 61 times more than the next best. Encouraging news, or poor showing from the others?
Even more evidence that Charlie Adam will become an instant hit with the supporters. Six more tackles than Glen Whelan despite playing over 300 minutes less. An impressive stat in the Scots favour, however Dean Whitehead and Steven Nzonzi appear to under-perform again here.
Stoke’s ability to hold on the ball and keep possession has been bemoaned for a long time, with sloppy passes leading to break downs in attack and ultimately the loss of points. Although Nzonzi played the most, it is important to remember it was in a side that was relegated. Completing 1450 passes in the Stoke team could have made a big difference to their season, given the performance of the current crop.
Much has been made of the fact that Stoke scored the least amount of goals of any team in the 2011/2012 season, with this in mind it is important for the midfield to be able to support the strikers in order to spread to goal burden more evenly. Whitehead and Whelan managed just three assists between them for the entire campaign. With such little output from the centre of midfield there is far too much pressure on the wide men and front two to provide the creativity. With Adam’s famous set-piece delivery and eye for a pass, there is light at the end of the tunnel, additionally Nzonzi managed to assist five goals in a relegated team, cause for optimism.
Another area of creativity that the Potters have been void of in recent years is the art of shooting. Perhaps more so the reluctance to shoot in general given that Whelan and Whitehead managed just four shots on target between them in an entire season. Adam managed nearly three times that many on his own. With Nzonzi also putting in considerably more attempts on goal than the pair, Stoke fans could be forgiven for getting a little excited.
Glen Whelan and Dean Whitehead played a very large part in a Stoke side that again comfortably survived in the Premier League and that must not be forgotten.
However the majority of supporters would now be advocates for change in the middle with, creativity and steel two vital ingredients.
With the above stats in mind it would appear that Charlie Adam is a top signing, with the ability to tackle, pass and shoot. Couple this with a steady partner in Nzonzi who can help keep the ball moving and chip in with his share of assists; whilst adding some physical presence, I see no reason why this partnership would not work, at the Britannia Stadium at the very least.
All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.