The Rookie Review – Part 1

How have our new recruits been in their debut season?

This time last year, who would have thought that we’d have had a season with Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Glen Johnson in our team? Mark Hughes and Stoke City made that a reality last Summer by tempting these talents, among a few others, to set a course for the Britannia Stadium. In addition to these new faces, Stoke also smashed their brand new transfer record by bringing in Giannelli Imbula right at the death of the Winter window. A lot of these signings showed pedigree, others promise and one was celebrated so much that he had his very own press conference. Even though a couple of Premier League veterans adorned the red and white for the first time, a lot of these incomings has yet to experience English football. Now that the season has drawn to a close, it’s a good time to look back on how the new Stokies have got on in 2015/16. In order of their arrival date:

Joselu Mato (Striker)

Arrival Date: 16/06/15 | Former Club: Hannover 96 (Germany) | Fee: £5.75m

Stoke swooped for their second Hannover striker in a year with Joselu. Although known as ‘The Killer’ at former clubs due to his poaching ability; he came to England as somewhat of an unknown quantity and, with a price tag of almost £6m, had fans wondering exactly what the Spaniards’ role at Stoke would be. It emerged that Joselu could be a younger, stronger, faster version of Peter Crouch and could end up being his long term replacement. It’s been a difficult campaign for Stoke’s strikers this season as none of them have had a consistent run in the team or a consistent group of teammates to play with; but that didn’t stop Joselu from making some important contributions. These include winning a penalty on his debut at White Hart Lane, scoring a goal in the 4-3 thriller at Everton and beautifully chipping Heurelho Gomes during Stoke’s 2-1 win at Watford.  However, in 22 PL appearances this season, Joselu scored four goals and created one assist, which didn’t bring him close to being top goalscorer for his club this season and will want to add more of these next term. His workrate in the games that he has played in has been decent and could go on to better things next season but Joselu will want more game time and become more prolific if he wants to do so.

Expectation Level: 6/10 | Performance Level: 6/10

Philipp Wollscheid (Centre Back)

Arrival Date: 01/07/15 | Former Club: Bayer Leverkusen (Germany) | Fee: £2.75m

Someone who was technically not a new signing, since he moved to Stoke on loan from Leverkusen back in the previous season’s Winter window on loan, however Mark Hughes saw fit to make his move permanent at the start of the 15/16 season. Many Stoke fans were happy to see some permanent depth being added to the club and with the Germans’ defensive intelligence and calm distribution, however some were concerned with his lack of pace and did not see him as an adequate replacement to compatriot Robert Huth, who departed for to-be champions Leicester. To his credit, Wollscheid is one of the very few players this season to have not missed a game through injury and has managed to keep 10 clean sheets this season, Stoke not managing to keep one without him in the league. There have been times where his passing has been erratic and his lack of pace exposed, but on the whole Wollscheid has more than proved his worth as a Premier League defender as has my shout for being the most underrated player this season. Ryan Shawcross has been singing his praises and has warned Stoke not to answer any interest from other clubs, these are claims which Phil should be very proud of, along with his consistent season at the back. Maybe if he scores a couple of goals from set pieces next season, he’ll step up his game even further.

Expectation Level: 7/10 | Performance Level: 8/10

Jakob Haugaard (Goalkeeper)

Arrival Date: 01/07/15 | Former Club: FC Midtjylland (Denmark) | Fee: Less than £1m

Stoke prepared for the loss of Asmir Begovic by signing a new understudy to Jack Butland. Haugaard arrived from the Danish champions and immediately likened to fellow Dane and former Stokie Thomas Sorensen. A young talent with plenty of promise, he first displayed his abilities with an impressive display against Everton in Stoke’s pre-season tournament. Stoke’s goalkeeper depth looked good. The goalkeeping depth was lucky, as both Butland and fellow arrival Shay Given suffered injuries, meaning that Haugaard became first choice entering the final stages of the season. However, Jakob failed to keep a clean sheet in the league and also was held accountable for a number of goalkeeping errors, contributing to Stoke’s incredibly poor run towards the back end of the campaign. For such a young player though, this should not discourage Haugaard looking forward though; he needs to be ready to step up to the mark again if required and ensure that his performances improve, which of course they will with more experience.

Expectation Level: 5/10 | Performance Level: 4/10

Shay Given (Goalkeeper)

Arrival Date: 10/07/15 | Former Club: Aston Villa (England) | Fee: Free

An opportunity that Stoke saw was too good to miss. Given was snatched away at the last minute from a Championship team to provide experience to Stoke’s two young goalkeepers, experience that was missing since the departure of Sorensen. A Premier League legend, Given was a proven shot-stopper; but with his 40th birthday fast approaching the club knew that they would only be able to make use of his services for a couple of seasons. Given became injured during the first half of the season and did not manage to recover until the very end of the season. His performances in the games that he played were good despite the results being mixed, including the 4-0 hammering against Spurs and the 2-1 triumph over West Ham on the final day. His pedigree and reputation will only assist the emergence of both Butland and Haugaard and Stoke will have felt blessed to have picked up a league legend on a free transfer.

Expectation Level: 6/10 | Performance Level: 6/10

Written by Ben Rowley

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