Mark Hughes: Stoke can give Jese Rodriguez platform to perform
Manager Mark Hughes is confident Stoke will offer on-loan Paris St Germain frontman Jese Rodriguez the perfect platform to show why he is one of Europe’s elite players.
The 24-year-old, who came through the youth ranks at Real Madrid, has signed for the Potters on a season-long loan just over a year after costing the French club almost B#22million.
Jese failed to make an impact at PSG, scoring just once in Ligue 1 before a temporary switch to Las Palmas during the January transfer window.
Hughes could well hand the Spaniard his Premier League debut when Arsenal head to the Bet365 Stadium for Saturday’s early evening kick-off.
Jese spent nine seasons at the Bernabeu, scoring 12 goals in 62 league appearances, most of them as substitute, and was part of the Champions League-winning squads of both 2014 and 2016.
Hughes remains positive of just what he can bring to a Stoke squad which has seen the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Joselu both move on during the summer.
The Stoke manager said at a press conference: “I think we can give him a platform here to really enjoy himself.
“Everyone is excited to see him play. He is an elite player, a top-level player and you don’t get too many opportunities to bring players like him to the club, so when you do you should enjoy it.”
Stoke have been busy in the summer window, with the likes of Darren Fletcher, Kurt Zouma, Maxim Choupa-Moting, Bruno Martins Indi and Josh Tymon all now on board for the new campaign.
Hughes is “excited” by the squad he has been able to assemble as he targets a response from their opening 1-0 defeat at Everton.
“It is always the case in transfer windows that you want to be stronger at the end than the start,” he said.
“If you look at the players we let go I would argue that we have only let go of one who would be a regular starter. The rest would be squad players, but we have replaced them with starters.
“If you compare and contrast with last season I believe we are much stronger.”
On Arsenal’s side, Granit Xhaka has proved he can mix it with the hardest opponents the Premier League can offer but now the midfielder wants to show there is another side to his game.
The 24-year-old earned mixed reviews for his debut season in England last year as his performances were inconsistent and his discipline record poor.
When Xhaka was sent off in a 2-1 win over Burnley back in January it was his second dismissal of the campaign and a ninth in three years.
The Switzerland international also picked up 12 bookings, including a run of five in five games, which led to Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger questioning his style of tackling.
But, having shifted into a more orthodox midfield role since Wenger adapted his formation at the tail-end of last season, Xhaka is starting to show the type of form which saw the Gunners fork out a reported fee in excess of B#30million to bring him in from Borussia Monchengladbach.
Xhaka admits he is feeling more comfortable with his Premier League surroundings as he looks to impose himself in a different way moving forward.
“I think every player needs time to adjust to a new league, a new country and new team-mates,” he said.
“The back end of last season I already felt good and I am feeling more comfortable now and want to help the team as much as I can this season as well.
“I know it has been criticised but my style of play is to be aggressive. My two red cards can be discussed, were they necessary or not, but I am hoping to have less cards this season and build on the end of last season where I already had less.
“I’m a player who likes to have the ball, dictate the play.
“The fans knew that and the club did too, that is probably why they got me but there is another side to my game as well – that is being aggressive and fighting in the duels.”