The January transfer window has opened and we analyse the needs of the big teams in every league going into the second half of the season. Keep in mind that most teams are reluctant to let their big stars go midway through the season. Also coaches are wary of new arrivals disrupting the camaraderie within their existing groups of players. Existing rules preventing players who had participated in a cup competition from representing a new club in the same competition have been been abolished. We analyse the issues of the big six in the Epl in this first part of the series.
Champions going into the the second half of the season (6 points clear) and looking likely to win their first title in 28 years, there is not much wrong with Jurgen Klopp’s side as they have made really good investments but there is no such thing as a perfect squad. The once problematic defence now looks set for years with the signing of Virgil Van Dijk and the emergence of Joe Gomez. Naby Keita may still be trying to find his feet but Fabinho has started delivering on his price tag, adding steel and guile to that midfield. Klopp despite his position on the table had been rumoured to have an interest in Captain America, Christian Pulisic who will presumably play back up to Sadio Mane who features in a superhuman amount of games for the reds. Their interest might go unrequited as he has agreed a deal to join Chelsea in the summer for €64 million. Also a bit of creativity seems lacking in midfield with Lallana constantly injured and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain remains out till February (according to the latest prognosis).
Liverpool pulled out (phrasing) of a deal to sign Nabil Fekir due to concerns over his pesky knee issues and while the Frenchman has put his injury concerns behind, every single time he does go to the treatment table it is almost always for his left knee. Lorenzo Insigne has been floated around but with Aurelio De Laurentis placing a €200 million price tag on the Neapolitan, that’s as clear a ‘fuck off’ sign can get. The reds have no glaring need for reinforcements but if they must, then a back up for Sadio Mane and Midfield creativity must be targeted. Also with Daniel Sturridge out of contract by the end of the season and Divock Origi’s future looking uncertain, they might also be interested in a back up striker but it’s hard to see this happening in January.
For centre forward: Luka Jovic, Timo Werner
For left wing: Steven Bergweijn
For midfield: Nabil Fekir, Hakim Ziyech
The reigning champions who based on the strength of their squad were expected to retain their crown looked up for it at the beginning of the season but time has begun to expose some cracks in the squad. They had just two transfer targets going into the previous window (Riyad Mahrez and Fred) and after extensive, tenuous negotiations Mahrez joined. Mourinho worked some of that old time magic to snap Fred out of the jaws of the sharks and he joined the red half of Manchester. Jorginho was the next target to be identified by the mancunians but he decided to continue his love affair with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea (leading to accusations of unscrupulous dealings). There were continuous links to any able bodied Midfielder (Mateo Kovacic, Tanguy Ndombele) but none came to fruition and Guardiola decided to power through the season without a back up holding midfielder.
They started well enough with rumours of it going down to the wire in a battle with Liverpool but losses to Chelsea, Leicester City and Crystal Palace have dampened expectations, highlighting the importance of Fernandinho and the need to get an effective back up as he nears the twilight of his career. A €75 million move for Ajax Wonderkid Frenkie De Jong was mooted but it seems the Dutchman has his heart set on Psg. New rumours of a move for Tanguy Ndombele have resurfaced but Jean Michael Aulas is still a menace in the negotiating room and his €80 million price tag might prove a bit too much. City have seen first hand the prowess of the powerhouse midfielder having faced his Lyon side across two legs of the Champions League. Another area City should be looking to address is at left back with Benjamin Mendy finding it impossible to stay fit in England. Delph and Zinchenko have alternated to varying degrees of effectiveness but neither are orthodox full backs. English media claim Ben Chilwell is a target and this makes a lot of sense as he is homegrown and possesses the talent to rub shoulders with the likes of Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva etc. Guardiola has stated that they aren’t looking to bring in anyone this winter but that 3 game blip may have sent alarm bells ringing off in his mind.
For holding midfield: Amadou Diawara, Stanislav Lobotka, Julian Weigl
For left back: Ben Chilwell, Junior Firpo
Regained much ground after a tough summer (which saw them sign no one) and a tougher beginning to the season. They climbed to third on the table with big wins over Manchester United, Bournemouth, Everton and Chelsea. Then in true Tottenham fashion, just when they were considered title challengers, they were beaten 3-1 by Wolverhampton Wanderers. At this rate, Pochettino would probably start Harry Kane even if he were in a wheel chair and with limited options out wide and star players looking for exits this window should see some incomings. Jack Grealish who was their only summer target looks to be off the menu. Anthony Martial whom they had also kept an eye on has seen the one year extension option on his contract picked up by Manchester United and they remain wary of letting the Frenchman move to a domestic rival. There was also a deadline day bid for Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham which was rejected vehemently (Chelsea and Tottenham do not do transfer business). Tottenham have a good squad but Levy has to find alternative / depth options for Pochettino.
For the wings: Thorgan Hazard, Steven Bergweijn, Hirvin Lozano, Memphis Depay
For centre forward: Luka Jovic, Timo Werner, Andre Silva, Krzysztof Piatek, Tammy Abraham
The doom and gloom of Mourinho’s presence is quickly fading away, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer bringing in fresh air of proactive, attacking football which the red devils crave. OGS has won 4 out of 4 with multiple goals scored and Manu look to have their swagger back, however it would be naive to get carried away as there as still major concerns about this squad. They are yet to keep a cleansheet since OGS’ arrival and it looks like Ed Woodward may have to listen to the cries for competent centre halves. Marcos Rojo doesn’t look cut out for the top level, Lindelof is still a bundle of inconsistency, Bailly still flies into tackles like a Sunday league footballer, Smalling still hasn’t fulfilled the promise he showed in his early days and Jones is more of a meme these days. Manchester United this summer looked like they might sign any Defender available ( Jerome Boateng, Harry Maguire, Diego Godin, Kalidou Koulibaly were all linked) but they ultimately signed none. Koulibaly is the most consistently mentioned name these days but his new contract may or may not have a €150 million release clause and Gazzeta state that he will move for no less than €120 million making it nigh impossible for any team (that doesn’t have the backing of an oil rich nation) to sign him. Eder Militao is another name that has sprung up mainly due to Mourinho but it’s a transfer worth investigating. The Brazilian is in his first season in Europe but his performances have led to the big teams keeping an eye on the former Sao Paulo man. Chelsea were linked to the golden boy finalist after a string of impressive performances in Brazil in which he showcased versatility (he played at right back, centre back and even defensive midfield) and maturity. Porto snapped him up and coach Sergio Conceicao placed him permanently on the left side of centre half and he has performed admirably saving his best performances for the big games. Brazilians have hopes of seeing him fill that problematic right back role even if his crossing isn’t great but might have to settle for him partnering Marquinhos in the centre of defence. Militao is a tall, modern, uncompromising defender who loves to tackle and is comfortable with the ball at his feet. Another name on the list is Fiorentina’s Serbian giant Nikola Milenkovic who plays right back despite being a centre back. Another one who might not have the requisite experience to stabilize that United backline. Right wing is also another position that might need a specialist as Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Alexis Sanchez, Anthony Martial are not proper right wingers. They have an interest in Douglas Costa but the player and his club are said to not be keen so alternatives might be needed.
For centre back: Kalidou Koulibaly, Lucas Hernandez
For right wing: Hirvin Lozano, Douglas Costa, Malcom Oliveira
After early defeats to Manchester City and Chelsea, Unai Emery stabilised the ship – leading them on a lengthy unbeaten run and it looked like the ghosts of Arsene Wenger had been banished into the abyss. Losses to Tottenham, Southampton and Liverpool have seen fans doubt the post Arsene project especially after the spineless crumbling against Liverpool. The gunners look light on the flanks, loose in the centre of defence and short of quality in the full back areas but this window is not the one in which they can solve all these problems. The most pressing area is in the centre of defence where injuries and inconsistency has proven a thorn. Koscielny doesn’t look his former self but that is expected considering his lengthy spell out, Mustafi looks shaky, Sokratis is still yet to come to terms with the speed of the English game and Rob Holding who was their best defender remains on the injury table. Emery must be looking for reinforcements to provide some measure of confidence. A makeshift option like Gary Cahill has been touted but surely there must be better options out there. A young budding centre half who will partner the experienced Koscielny or Sokratis might be the most viable option. On the flanks Iwobi and Mkhitaryan remain the only experienced wingers on the squad so this might be addressed too (Cengiz Under is being linked). Mkh doesn’t have the blistering pace to disrupt premier league teams and Iwobi’s decision making still leaves a lot to be desired. Monreal and Lichsteiner are progressing in age and their performances continue to decline so this must be addressed. Whether all these can be sorted with rumours of Kroenke tightening the purse strings remains to be seen.
For centre back: Dayot Upamecano, Matthijs De ligt, Daniele Rugani
For right wing: Cengiz Under
For left back: Ferland Mendy
For right back: Youssef Atal
Maurizio Sarri arrived after months of negotiations to meet an oversize squad severely lacking in quality in some departments required to fulfill Sarrismo. Sarri had asked for Higuain but the Chelsea board were reluctant to sign him based on his age, leading Sarri to head into the season with Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud. Giroud took months to score his first goal and Morata’s perchant for going to ground easily and straying offiside will definitely have frustrated Sarri. A new system has seen Hazard played up top but it is still clear that Chelsea need a consistent goal scorer to lead their line. They will be wary as this has proven a problem position that will require delicacy. They have had magnificent strikers who could turn the results in their favour by sheer force of will while they’ve had some who couldn’t hit a barn door. There were mentions of a swap deal between Acmilan and Chelsea for Higuain and Morata but that deal looks too complex to be attempted with FFP sanctions looming large on Milan preventing Elliot (Milan’s new owners) from being able to redeem whatever figure Chelsea would demand for Morata. Chelsea’s over 30 policy is another sticking point in this deal going through. Chelsea’s drab draw with Southampton is further evidence of how much a goal scorer is needed at the bridge. Chelsea have hit the woodwork 15 times this season (more than any other team) and if they want to challenge for the title then they have to start converting these chances. Mauro Icardi is said to be Sarri’s second choice and while he might fit the bill, footing the bill might prove to be a problem for Chelsea who are running on a new model of self sustainability. A younger, more futuristic target like what City did with Gabriel Jesus might be the best option.
For centre forward: Luka Jovic, Timo Werner, Mauro Icardi, Maxi Gomez, Krzysztof Piatek