Adam or Ireland choice for Hughes with N’Zonzi Stoke’s key midfielder

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Mark Hughes is certainly no stranger to managing players known to be on the temperamental side that have a bit of a problematic streak in them. Therefore, if anyone can get Stephen Ireland to rediscover his best or calm down Austrian bad boy Marko Arnautovic, then Hughes could be the man.

The two deadline-day recruits can both expect to feature for Stoke, with Arnautovic to battle with Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones to start in attack and in a way he mixes the leading qualities of the pair.

He is another tall striker with a decent touch that can be used to bring others into the game, but unlike Peter Crouch, Arnautovic is more mobile and will think nothing of dribbling at defenders.

Meanwhile, he brings some versatility of being able to play from the right.

For Ireland, it would seem that he would be in direct competition with Charlie Adam for the role at the tip of Stoke’s central midfield trio.

Adam has started in this role previously, but has not been terribly consistent with the quality of his final ball, while he can additionally fall short in a defensive sense.

Given the quality of his long passing, a slightly deeper position would seemingly be his preferred position, but again his defensive contribution could leave Stoke open.

Ireland may help in terms of the quality of his final pass and when on his game, he has the workrate and energy to perform in this role off the striker.

The other factor preventing Adam playing from deeper is Steven N’Zonzi, who is perhaps wrongly regarded as a holding midfielder when he is a more potent force mixing attacking and defensive duties.

Not only can he pass accurately; he can compete aerially, he has an engine that enables him to get up and down the pitch, he is combative in the tackle and can break up play.

These attributes are not only wasted if given a role marshalling a defence, but this is a skill set that is not shared elsewhere in the Stoke ranks.

Stoke are 9/5 to finish in the top half of the Premier League this season and although their two newest additions will have a role to play in this, it is the form and fitness of N’Zonzi that could most affect this eventuality.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.