It’s time for the tree to be taken down, the last mince pie to be scoffed, and for New Years resolutions to be made and broken. It’s time for the diet to begin, the credit card bill to be paid; and if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time for some horribly cold weather.
All of this sounds somewhat depressing, but it’s also time for something else. Something that truly warms the cockles of football fans all over the globe: the January transfer window.
The window in January is perhaps even more important than the summer’s window. Clubs now know how their season is going, they know what business they need to do in January, and they can also fairly accurately predict what will happen if they fail to get this business done.
Plenty of Premier League clubs will be delving into the market in some form this January, and with that in mind we thought we’d run through what each club could, should or might do in this short window. The article will run in two parts, and what’s more, for the sake of logic, it will be organised in alphabetical order – who said Christmas is over?
As we’ve alluded to on this website before, Arsene Wenger’s willingness to do business this January could be crucial to any title chances the Gunners might have. Arsenal do not have the strength in depth that other title contenders might have; and their reliance on Olivier Giroud to lead the line cannot continue if they are to emerge from this season as Premier League champions. For the most part this season, Giroud has played extremely well, but if Wenger has serious ambitions of winning the league, a second striker should be brought in to take the pressure off the Frenchman.
The defensive partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny has been a key factor in Arsenal’s success this season, but it has to be said that they look a different side if one of the pair is unavailable. Once again, if Wenger is serious about a proper title tilt, then investment in another centre back that isn’t Thomas Vermaelen would be prudent.
Paul Lambert’s side seem in much better shape this term; residing in 11th place after 20 games. However, the transition from the big-spending era of Martin O’Neill to the much more thrifty Lambert regime has been hard for Villa, and although they sit just shy off the top half, they are still only six points off the relegation places.
Defensively Villa have been solid enough, but having averaged less than a goal a game so far this season, the Midlands club could do with some extra firepower to increase their threat in front of goal. However, any purchase would have to comply with the frugality of this new era; so if Lambert brings anyone in, it’s either likely to be a loan or an unknown.
Well, one of the reported reasons why Malky Mackay was sacked as Cardiff manager was because he suggested that the team needed three additions in January. Owner Vincent Tan was apparently unimpressed given the significant outlay in the summer, and fairly swiftly brought Mackay’s employment to a close.
With that in mind, logic would dictate that no money would be available for the new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (who should be appointed by the time this goes to press). However, logic doesn’t necessarily seem to play a significant role in Tan’s dealings with the club, and therefore it’s difficult to predict whether or not there will be cash for Solskjaer to splash.
Cardiff have a fighting chance of staying up, but at least some investment would be sensible in order to achieve that aim. It would seem that they require a striker given that in terms of ‘goals scored’ they have the second worst record in the league, and Solsjkaer will know the necessity of goals only too well.
Given that Samuel Eto’o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres have only netted a combined total of seven league goals in 20 league games, it’s quite clear what Chelsea need this January. However, Mourinho has previously suggested that he is unlikely to spend in this transfer window, and with Eden Hazard, Oscar and Frank Lampard all capable of finding the back of the net, it may be that Mourinho takes the risk and decides to go with what he’s already got.
We all know which striker Mourinho wants, having unsuccessfully courted Wayne Rooney last summer. Given that a top four finish is looking increasingly unlikely for Man Utd, and that Rooney will only have a year left on his contract this summer, Chelsea will be in a much better position to bid again for Rooney in July. Mourinho may well be content to wait until then, with his job seemingly a bit (I stress a bit) more secure than last time around.
As has been remarked by all and sundry, Palace did not invest sensibly in the summer, and the blame for this has to lie at the feet of the previous manager Ian Holloway. It seemed that Holloway had singularly failed to learn the lessons of his previous Premier League campaign with Blackpool; as the Bristolian set about buying attacking player after attacking player whilst totally neglecting to strengthen his defensive options.
Thankfully for Palace fans, Tony Pulis is now in charge, and already his impact is apparent, with a far more solid and defensively responsible approach in place. Pulis will understand the necessity of bringing in some more defenders, and whether they come in the shape of loans or buys, you can expect the Welshman to bring in some players that fit his mould.
Wilfried Zaha’s move to Man Utd has not exactly been a roaring success, and as a former Palace favourite there’s an outside chance of the winger returning to Selhurst Park on loan.
Make no mistake; this Everton side has every chance of upsetting the apple cart and sneaking a Champions League place. Roberto Martinez has done a phenomenal job at instilling his footballing philosophy into the players at Goodison Park, and they will be vying for that fourth spot along with Liverpool, Newcastle, Man Utd and Tottenham.
In order to challenge for the Champions League spots though, a team needs cover, and this is perhaps the one thing that Martinez lacks. Romelu Lukaku has been a revelation on Merseyside, but with Aroune Kone injured and Nikica Jelavic woefully out of form, a striker to back up the Belgian is imperative. With Darron Gibson also on the treatment table, it would be wise to bring in another midfielder to bulk out the squad a bit.
Martin Jol did not enjoy a happy two and a half years at Craven Cottage, and was eventually given the boot on December 1st. Perhaps one of the reasons why Jol was not a success was his penchant for acquiring players who used to be quite good with John Arne Riise, Giorgos Karagounis, Scott Parker and Darren Bent some of the players brought to the club by the Dutchman.
It seemed at times that Jol was stuck in a time warp and the net result of buying players coming to the end of their careers is an average squad age of over 32. Jol’s replacement Rene Meulensteen now faces the unenviable task of trying to freshen up the Fulham squad, whilst scrapping for Premier League survival.
The Fulham midfield doesn’t exactly scream dynamism, and that’s one area that Meulensteen is almost certain to strengthen; with Man Utd squad player Anderson a reported target. It seems likely that Fulham may well lose their best and most disinterested player in Dimitar Berbatov; and if the Bulgarian departs, the West Londoners will definitely need to strengthen their forward line.
Steve Bruce’s side have been the surprise package of the three promoted teams, and the Tigers are currently sitting pretty in tenth at just over the halfway stage of the season.
However, Hull are still only six points clear of the relegation zone, and Bruce will be well aware of the need for a strong squad to cope with the relegation dogfight. The loan signing of Danny Graham hasn’t come off so far, with the striker only scoring one goal in his 17 games, and with that in mind, Bruce may look to bring in another striker to grab them the goals that they will certainly need. It’s been suggested that young Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes could be a target, but it seems unlikely that a move of that magnitude will be agreed in January.
Liverpool are no strangers to January transfers, with Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho arriving at this stage last year, and Brendan Rodgers will no doubt be acutely aware of the galvanising effect that those two players had on his side.
Although Liverpool have coped extremely well in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, losses against Man City and Chelsea saw them drop four places in the league; and Rodgers may want to invest in another striker in order to cope with the games that Luis Suarez and Sturridge are not available for.
If we’re being realistic, Liverpool probably have to be considered as fourth favourites for the title, and with that in mind, it seems unlikely that they will invest heavily in what is already a pretty pricey squad. However, if the right player becomes available, Rodgers will know that he has the funds behind him to make a move happen.
Whilst their neighbours have been imploding so far this season, City have been ruthless at home and now appear to be getting over their wobbles away from the Etihad. Sitting one point behind league leaders Arsenal with arguably the strongest squad in the division, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have a wonderful chance to win their second Premier League title.
However, although City are performing extremely well; even the most casual football observer will be aware how much less imperious City are when captain Vincent Kompany isn’t available. Given that the Belgian is somewhat injury prone, another central defender is an absolute must for City this January.
City’s main man up top has been Sergio Aguero, and with the Argentine injured there is a case to be made for recruiting another forward, but Pellegrini is more likely to rely on Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo until Aguero regains full fitness.