If we check out any of the transfer rumours about Liverpool from 2015 and 2016, especially those that provide many rumours in one article, we can be almost certain that one name will feature in majority of those articles – Saido Berahino. Similarly, for Tottenham Hotspurs, if we check out any of the rumour bundles, especially from late 2015 till summer of 2016, the English youngster features in many of them.
So, when I saw the news earlier this month, that Saido Berahino had moved to Stoke City from West Brom for a fee of £12 million, it was a mild surprise. Of course, Stoke’s name had been taken among the top three-four clubs gunning for the youngster’s signature and Mark Hughes has pursued him for last 18 months at least. But I expected him to move to one of the bigger names involved in those rumors. Arguably it is a sideward step, not a move up. Indeed, I have started seeing memes on social media mocking this step too.
Now when he was being linked with Spurs or Liverpool, people always thought of the England U-21 Player of the Year, who scored 14 goals (and assisted one) in 2014-15. But by February 2015, he had started to earn a bad reputation for himself off the pitch and had disillusioned both his club and team mates. By then he had received a rap for drunk-driving and had angered his team mates by publicly claiming that he would be moving to a “bigger” club in that summer. But he could not move as West Brom were not willing to sell.
To be fair to Tony Pulis, he did give him a fair run in 2014-15 season, but he was never able to recreate the form of the previous season, scoring only 4 goals in 31 appearances (1740 minutes). And in the current season, it is clear that Pulis has completely given up on him, playing him for only 245 minutes (3 starts, one substitute) in the league, in which he has done nothing of note other than missing two penalties, especially after the player spent another summer transfer window “peering out of the window” as per Tony Pulis.
So, will this move work for the player and his new club? Stoke fans must be hopeful because if your side has Joe Allen as the top scorer in the league, you might also be hopeful when one of the talented, young center forwards in the land, arrive at your club. On the other hand, the player will almost for sure be looking at this as an opportunity to move to his dream “bigger” club. So, will this new relationship be more symbiotic than what the player had with his previous club? Let us see, what each of them hope for and bring to the table for the other.
What Stoke Would Hope For
In one sentence, the Saido Berahino from the 2014-15 season. Although the team are ninth in the league, which is pretty much par for them and where they finished the 2015-16 season, it is clear that they have a vacancy for a mobile, yet strong center forward. They had hoped that Wilfried Bony would be the answer to their lack of a credible threat up front. But that did not really work out well as his injury problems have kept him out of the team.
Stoke have had to depend on Allen, Shaquiri, and Arnautovic for goals and that means that a fairly large share of their shots (4.7 out of 11.4 per game) have come from outside the box. A mobile and strong center forward like Berahino will give Mark Hughes’ team more shots from inside the penalty area (currently 5.7 per game) and possibly from inside the six-yard box (0.9 per game) and hopefully that would result in better accuracy.
It is not that Stoke are not scoring enough goals to maintain their level. In their 2015-16 season, they scored only 41 goals and this season, they have already scored 25 in 23 games, so they are pretty much on course to meet the expectations of last season. However, if they wish to progress further up the league and improve in future, they need a dedicated goal scorer to lead their line.
Mark Hughes will be hoping that Saido Berahino can be that player at least in the near future. Because, one thing we can be certain of is that the player will definitely ask for a move in a few years.
What the Player Will Hope For
If Berahino has a future transfer to a bigger club in mind, he too has to hope that he discovers the form that helped him score that heap of goals in 2014-15. He scored 20 and assisted 6 across the league, FA Cup and the league cup during that season. He has at least 16 league games to look forward to in the current season. But before he starts scoring he has to prove himself at least physically fit to be a part of Stoke’s squad as soon as possible.
But if he gets occupied by the mental distractions that hampered him at West Brom in the last season and a half, then a future move upward looks unlikely. On the other hand, if he turns up on the pitch in the right frame of mind, then he has the aforementioned trio and Bojan to provide quality service and would have a great opportunity to prove his mettle.
Saido Berahino had to move from West Brom, with just six months left on his contract, as the club’s and his objectives were at odds. But at Stoke, at least initially, both the club as well as Berahino himself find themselves well aligned in terms of objectives. The club needs goals from their new striker and he needs to score those goals to prove to himself and others that he belongs at a higher level. At least for a couple of seasons, this relationship should be symbiotic, assuming distractions such as Chinese Super League do not crop up.
In any case, one thing is certain. With Berahino gone, the thesis that Tony Pulis planned to write on him has been cut short, perhaps giving great relief to Pulis, who found that 4-5 transfer windows with Berahino were equivalent of 20 windows. Let us see how many transfer windows he spends quietly at the bet365 Stadium.