Is Stoke City's Kevin Wimmer The Worst Signing Of The Season?
There was a time when Stoke City were the team that none of the top sides in the Premier League would want to face but the Potters are in danger of becoming a 'soft touch' under Mark Hughes after they slumped to yet another heavy defeat on Saturday.
The 7-2 loss at Manchester City was the latest in a long line of humiliating results on the road that has left Stoke fans questioning the acumen of their manager in the transfer market, as well as the desire of the players on the pitch.
Stoke's record against the better teams in the country is nothing short of embarrassing as they have now shipped 22 goals in six visits to last season's top-five teams (Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal) since the start of the 2016/17 campaign, losing five and drawing one. It is not just the defeats but the manner in which the Potters are rolling over to have their tummies tickled like an eight-week old puppy that is concerning.
It was difficult to get close to City on Saturday but a return of just eight fouls and one yellow card from the visitors would suggest that the players weren't up for the fight and it is part of a growing trend under Hughes.
Stoke are top of the Fair Play table after receiving just eight cautions in eight games this season, which is in stark contrast to the team that Hughes inherited as Stoke had the worst disciplinary record in the top-flight in Tony Pulis's final season in charge, receiving 78 yellows and four reds during the 2012/13 campaign. The desire for Hughes and Stoke to play football 'the right way' deserves credit as they look to move on from the Pulis era and foul play cannot be condoned but Stoke do appear to have lost a bit of 'the devil' that made them such a tough opponent.
Stoke's struggles can largely be attributed to the absence of their injured captain, Ryan Shawcross, who has long been the defensive linchpin that held the Potters' defence together, and his no-nonsense approach has been sorely missed.
In his stead, the £18m summer signing from Tottenham, Kevin Wimmer, has been called into action and fans at the Bet 365 Stadium are already wondering if they have signed the next Philipp Wollscheid, the German defender who endured an unhappy spell at Stoke before being released in the summer.
After signing for Spurs from German outfit Koln for £4.3m, Wimmer made just fifteen Premier League appearances in two seasons as he found his path blocked by the formidable pairing of Tony Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen at White Hart Lane before he was shipped on to the Potteries, where he has struggled to settle early on.
He's scored -10 points so far, 5 less than anyone else 👀
Wimmer's five appearances this season have yielded one win, no clean sheets and an eye-watering concession of fourteen goals. The Austrian has won just 17% of tackles and 22% of aerial duels in the league this season (compared with Shawcross's 74%) and he was hauled off at half-time following a torrid opening 45 minutes at The Etihad on Saturday. Wimmer obviously has something about him but, quite simply, he isn't Ryan Shawcross.
The 24-year-old is coming in for a barrage of criticism from fans but he has had little time to settle as Stoke's injury crisis in defence has led to him being thrown in at the deep end, which is never easy particularly after so little first-team action in recent years. A hamstring injury suffered during the Carabao Cup defeat to Bristol City was another setback and it is important to remember that footballers are humans too. Problems with settling in a new area, gelling with new colleagues and understanding a new role are all part and parcel of working life, and Wimmer could yet come good.
However, there is little room for patience in the cut-throat industry of the Premier League nowadays and an £18m signing who has been capped eight times by his country is expected to meet certain standards. Anymore performances like Saturday's and Wimmer is in danger of winning the award for 'worst signing of the summer'.
Even at this early stage in the season, Wimmer and his Stoke teammates could do with adopting the physical approach of the 'old Stoke' if Mark Hughes' expansive ideas for the 'new Stoke' are to be successful.