Former Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham thinks the Potters need to strengthen in January

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Former Stoke City defender Danny Higginbotham thinks the Potters will need to strengthen in January if they are to achieve their aim of finishing in the top half of the table.

Higginbotham had two spells at the club, racking up over 120 appearances in all competitions for Stoke City.

Now working in broadcast and print media covering the club, the Manchester-born pundit says that what the club are really lacking is a clinical centre-forward.

He said: “If you look within Stoke’s team, and you look at the likes of [Xherdan] Shaquiri and [Marko] Arnautovic, Bojan [Krkic], Joe Allen and Charlie Adam – you’ve got a lot of players who can create opportunities.

“But it’s getting the out and out goalscorer that is the problem. They’ve got experienced Premier League forwards who can score goals but it’s getting that prolific goalscorer which I’m sure Mark Hughes would be hoping that [Wilfried] Bony would be.

“We’ve seen in his time particularly at Swansea he knows where the back of the net is.

“And Mark Hughes will be hoping that things click for him in the near future because that’s probably really the missing ingredient.

“To get a centre-forward of the calibre that’s better than what Stoke City have got you are talking breaking your transfer record again I don’t think there’s any doubt about it.”

The Potters reportedly bid for West Bromwich Albion forward Saido Berahino in the summer, but were unable to finalise the move.

Even with the January transfer window coming up, Higginbotham is unsure of whether that deal could finally be pushed through.

He said :“He’s not really been playing at West Bromwich and he’s been sent away a couple of times for fitness according to the press.

“It’s difficult to see whether going to a new football club would set him off again.”

Another possibility in January could be the permanent signing of a current loanee.

Lee Grant has been a pleasant surprise in between the sticks in the absence of goalkeeper Jack Butland, and the young England goalkeeper could face a battle to get his spot back according to Higginbotham.

He said: “I’ve seen Lee Grant on a few occasions and he’s been absolutely excellent. He was magnificent away at Manchester United, Swansea and Sunderland and against Bournemouth aswell.

“He’s done no wrong. What you have now is a settled back line, and with your centre-halves and your goalkeeper that is even more important. Lee Grant has come in and done a magnificent job.

“But with Jack Butland you have one of the best English goalkeepers around. I think he would have really been pushing Joe Hart [for that England spot], which is good to see when you have two goalkeepers of that calibre.

“It’s a tough decision for Mark Hughes because some managers will be like ‘the goalkeeper that is in now is doing a good job so how can I drop him?’ but others will have the opinion of ‘Well, he’s my number one so when he’s fit he’s going to go straight back in.’.”

“But Lee Grant has been brilliant and I wouldn’t be surprised if Stoke tried to sign him in January.”

As for what City fans can expect for the rest of the season, the former Gibraltar international reckons Mark Hughes’ side will be aiming to break into the top 10 in the Premier League for a fourth consecutive year.

He said: “They’ll try and match last season, get into the top 10. It will be difficult because the league this season is probably more competitive than it was last season.

“But I’m hoping that they can pick up some results having been on a decent run after that slow start. If you look early on in the season there was a constantly changing back four, but now there seems to be a bit more consistency.”

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