After three successive ninth-place finishes Stoke City fans would have been grateful for anything to break up the inertia last season. What they got was 13th.
This campaign’s hopes would have been similar. And while some drama has been injected into the Potters’ season, flirting with relegation was definitely not what supporters had in mind.
But ahead of the January transfer window opening, that is where the Potters find themselves; their Premier League status of almost a decade under real threat for the first time in that period.
The good news is January can be a transformative time for clubs. And Stoke have been known to find value in the transfer market by turning up gems from across Europe. Think Marko Arnautović, Bojan or Xherdan Shaqiri.
A repeat will undoubtedly be required next month, else Stoke could find themselves battling at the top of a division next season – the Championship.
In order to get a handle on what Potters fans are thinking ahead of the transfer window opening on January 1, we canvassed the opinion of Stoke fans Dan Stevenson from We Are Stoke, Kyle Norbury, Lee Potter and Charlie Bennett.
Which areas do Stoke need to strengthen in January and why?
DS: We’ve been struggling this season in a number of areas and I think we need at least four signings.
I think first of all we need a right-back or a right wing-back as Mame Biram Diouf isn’t natural there.
We also need a left wing-back or a left-back too. A fresh faces in the middle of the pitch too would help us give a bit more fight, maybe a defensive midfielder.
We also need a better goalscorer up front too.
Name three realistic transfer targets you would like Stoke to sign in January and who should they replace in your starting XI?
CB: Islam Slimani
Frozen out at Leicester City, Slimani has been written off in the Premier League but there is still a reason the Foxes spent £30million.
Quick, strong and an excellent header of the ball, Slimani is a goalscorer and Stoke need one of those badly. Peter Crouch, for all his endeavour, simply can’t lead the line anymore.
Stoke are crying out for a right-back. Any right-back. Mame Biram Diouf is gamely plugging away but he is a liability and does not help a struggling defence.
Janmaat is hardly anyone’s idea of a dream ticket but he would any formation and has lost his Watford place this season. He could be a good bargain.
He may be a veteran now but Cabaye would still be the best passer in an otherwise static Stoke midfield.
A lack of creativity has been telling this season and signing someone like Cabaye could revitalise the team. Ideally, we’d change to 4-3-3 and bring the Frenchman in for struggling defender Kevin Wimmer.
What is your number one fear for the January window?
LP: My biggest fear for January is still having Hughes in a job as the manager. We urgently require full backs and a couple of energetic midfielders to boost a squad with currently the worst defensive record in the Premier League.
The majority of the fans have lost faith and do not trust Hughes with the transfer kitty. A new manager would hopefully breathe life back into a team in regression.
What would your dream January transfer window look like?
A striker who can nail down a starting position is also a priority. Saido Berahino needs to find form elsewhere if he isn’t starting games for us. A loan move would boost his confidence.
Quality strikers that are viable signings for us are in short supply at the moment due to our league position. We should look to the Championship and maybe take a chance on Matej Vydra, who’s in good form for Derby County. Those transfers would be enough to save our season.