What the Steven Fletcher transfer means for Stoke City
Earlier this month Steven Fletcher joined Stoke City on a free transfer from Sheffield Wednesday. The center-forward netted 13 goals and 2 assists in 27 matches for the Owls last season and finished as the clubs leading scorer. While Fletcher is far from his days as a prolific Premier League forward, he will instantly add another offensive threat to the Stoke City squad. Specifically, he gives Stokes another legitimate aerial threat as well as a sure finisher around the net and from distance on his left foot. While Fletcher does bring quality and an impressive resume, age is definitely a factor as he turned 33 in March. Michael O’Neill does not seem to hesitate to side with experience in his signings as Stoke recently also signed 33 year old midfielder John Obi Mikel.
Fletcher will compete with Sam Vokes, Benik Afobe, Lee Gregory, and Tyrese Campbell for playing time up front which will make Stoke’s attacking ranks rather crowded. This signing could have a number of implications going forward:
- Lee Gregory, who has already been linked to a move, might be on his way out. A move here would make sense as Michael O’Neill seemed to prefer Vokes and Campbell up front in starting roles with Gregory coming off the bench.
- O’Neill is gathering pieces for a formation with two forwards up front. We saw this a few times last season and its clear from preseason matches that this is still a possibility.
- We should expect to see Tyrese Campbell make a more permanent transition to wing. It was no secret Tom Ince lost his form for the Potters towards the end of the season, and since Stoke have yet to sign another winger, this could mean O’Neill has plans for Campbell to spend more time on the outside.
The Fletcher signing, though it does create noticeable roster questions, has to be welcomed for Stoke fans. He brings intensity, consistency, and a winning mentality to Stoke – all things O’Neill is looking to instill in the rest of the roster. The bigger implication of the signing will be seen in the overall roster shaping as well as selection of a consistent formation.