Norwich City boss Alex Neil aims to profit from Stoke City’s new direction
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Alex Neil admires Stoke's quest for upward mobility in the Premier League but aims to profit from any trace of growing pains on Saturday at Carrow Road.
Mark Hughes' summer recruitment drive has harvested a number of high quality additions, headlined by former Bayern Munich starlet Xherdan Shaqiri's arrival in Staffordshire.
The 23-year-old is poised to make his Potters' debut against the Canaries as Hughes selects from a squad with five Champions League winners, in marked contrast to the toil and sweat of Tony Pulis' era.
'It will take a wee bit of time for all those new signings to bed in. That might be a problem for them,' said Neil. 'As a manager you have your style of play and you want to implement that as quickly as you can and sometimes changing the philosophy or the culture can be a good thing - like when (Roberto) Martinez went to Everton they had that solidity that (David) Moyes had left and then Roberto came in and added the type of flair he is known for and it can produce a real good blend at times. I think Stoke could be in the same mould, where they had a bit more of a direct style and are now looking to add bits of quality. It is not going to happen overnight, it takes time and sometimes you don't get that in the top level at football but they have done well enough to attempt it.'
Neil and his players will be fully-briefed on the creative threat of Shaqiri.
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'I have studied him a lot - small, robust, dynamic, left-footed, yes he's decent,' said Neil. 'It doesn't mean Shaqiri is better than any other players they have there at the moment, but they are trying to buy a different pedigree. They are obviously trying to get themselves beyond where they have been, in terms of trying to put themselves on another level, with the players they are purchasing.
'They have been a good, steady team for a number of years and Mark Hughes is trying to change their style. They are the type of club who have grown and stabilised over the last eight years or so. Hopefully we can get to that stage, but they are still looking for their first win this season.'
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Neil knows Stoke still retain the same streetwise edge as City's opening day opponents Crystal Palace.
'Maybe Palace were a bit more experienced at this level and Stoke know what it is all about as well,' he said. 'They have that resilience at the top level where even if they haven't played well in the majority of a game they can get goals when it matters. Like Palace they are trying to push up towards that top 10 and Europe, but we believe in what we're doing. If we are on our game we are a match for anyone if we do things properly. We've got to force our style of play on them, work hard if not harder than them, to get a result. That's where we are. We're in the Premier League and you're going to come up against quality every week. We've got quality in our team too and we showed that at Sunderland.'