Stoke City managed to secure a much-needed 4-2 victory against Barnsley at Oakwell om Saturday, which gave Michael O’Neill a winning start to his time in charge of the club and also lifted them off the bottom of the table.
However, despite looking much better in the final third against Barnsley, with Stoke scoring more than twice in a Championship match for the first time this campaign, the Potters still showed signs of the defensive problems which have seen them ship 29 league goals in their opening 16 league matches.
That is something that O’Neill will be fully aware he needs to address if he is going to be able to get his new side picking up points on a regular basis – and he will have until January to assess the quality of the defenders in his squad, before potentially deciding to bring in some reinforcements.
Given Stoke’s defensive frailties so far this season, with left-back in particular being an issue, it is no surprise to see them being linked with a move for another full back – and the Potters are interested in making a potential move for Middlesbrough’s George Friend according to the Northern Echo.
Friend’s campaign has been hit by injuries this season, which has restricted him to just three games in all competitions.
But, the 32-year-old has shown his defensive ability during his performances for Middlesbrough so far, with Friend managing to win 21.04 of his duels and 5.83 aerial duels per game so far this season, which suggests he could be a very useful option for Stoke in terms of having the ability to break up opposition attacks.
The defender has also averaged 3.24 interceptions per game, as well as making 9.71 recoveries in the opposing half of the field, which highlights his ability to read the game effectively, and help to break up attacks and get his side on the front foot on the transition, something which Stoke have lacked at times this season.
Friend has also demonstrated his ability to help his side going forwards as well, with the 32-year-old averaging 4.21 dribbles per game, which shows that he is able to carry the ball forwards on the transition and get forwards in supports of attacks.
Stoke have lacked leadership and quality in their defence so far this term, and Friend’s form suggests he could very well be an ideal player for them bring in during the January transfer window – and it will be interesting to see if the Potters manage to sign him from Boro in the winter window.