Stoke City are set to face a crucial period in the campaign when they return to action after the international break as Michael O’Neill’s side aim to keep in the top-six.
The Potters secured back-to-back 1-0 wins against Blackpool and Luton Town to head into the international break in 5th place in the table. Those results were much-needed after their form had just been starting to drop in the previous weeks.
O’Neill’s side will need to try and build on those successive wins when the campaign resumes to ensure that they keep themselves in and around the play-off places by the time the January transfer window comes around.
The winter window offers the Potters the chance to make one or two key additions to the squad that might help to make all the difference in getting them over the line in the promotion race.
There are a few positions that they will need to consider strengthening to try and enhance the squad with that bit of extra quality that could take them into the top-six come May.
There is also the obvious need for the Potters to hold onto all of their key assets as well in the winter window. They will surely be keen to ensure that all of their star players remain at the Bet365 Stadium with them fully in the promotion race.
So, with all that in mind, we take a look at some of the latest transfer talking points that are concerning the Potters ahead of the January window…
Stoke City to battle it out with Championship rivals for John Souttar
One major issue that Stoke are going to have to consider entering into the transfer market in January to resolve is the injury blow that has been suffered to the influential Harry Souttar.
That comes with the centre-back having suffered an ACL injury on international duty with Australia that is set to rule him out for the rest of the campaign.
The centre-back had been attracting transfer interest from the likes of Aston Villa, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur in recent months with those sides monitoring his performances for the Potters.
As a result, Stoke had been credited with a potential interest in John Souttar from Hearts with them thought to be weighing up a move for him as a direct replacement for his brother were to be forced to sell the Australia international.
According to the latest report from The Scottish Sun, Stoke are now ready to step up their efforts to sign Souttar from Hearts in January as a consequence of his brother’s injury setback.
It is believed that there is also interest from the likes of Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers, but Stoke could now be ready to edge ahead of their Championship rivals in the race for him.
It does seem that this will be one transfer link that will continue until the January window and it will be interesting to see whether the Potters can fend off the competition to sign Souttar.
Benik Afobe to make a permanent switch to Millwall amid Gary Rowett admission
O’Neill has been consistent in his messaging over Stoke’s desire to trim the squad down of high earners who are not in his long-term plans during his first two years in charge of the club.
A lot of good work has been put in so far in getting a lot of players out of the door, but so far they have been not been able to move on Benik Afobe on a permanent basis with him not living up to expectations since he made the move from Wolves in the summer of 2018.
Afobe was sent out on loan in each of the previous two campaigns by the Potters and this season he made the temporary switch to Millwall to reunite with Gary Rowett.
The forward has managed to score three goals in 13 Championship appearances for the Lions, which whilst not a mind-blowing figure has seen him play a key role for his loan club this term.
Rowett has admitted to News at Den in the past week that Millwall would now be keen to agree a permanent move for Afobe in the near future as his contract runs down at the Bet365 Stadium.
However, he did concede that a permanent move for him is out of his hands and that if the striker has a strong end to the season it might mean others become interested.
Given Afobe’s deal is up in the summer, this winter is the last chance for them to sell him and make some money back on the outlay they paid out to bring to the club.
It will be interesting to see if Millwall want to negotiate to sign him in January, or wait until the summer and try and get him on a free transfer.
Tom Edwards’ awaiting decision on his Stoke future after key admission
So far this season, Stoke have seen something of a complete transformation in Josh Tymon with the left-back coming back from the cold and establishing himself as a crucial member of O’Neill’s side.
That comes after the defender managed to slowly come back into favour last term after being shipped out on loan to Portuguese side Famalicão the previous season.
A similar turnaround will be needed for Tom Edwards to emerge as an important player with Stoke’s squad once again after he has been allowed to spend time out on loan with New York Red Bulls during the 2021 MLS season.
The right-back has been impressing in America with his performances and has played a key role in helping his loan club reach the end-of-season play-offs.
Edwards has recently admitted that he wants to return to Stoke and try to earn a place back in the side when his loan spell is up with New York Red Bulls.
Therefore, the choice now remains with O’Neill and he needs to determine whether he can come back into the fold like Tymon did, or whether the 22-year-old is best served moving on in January on a more permanent basis.