The January transfer market is the most bonkers time of year when it comes to signings. This is the point in the calendar where you can pick up Philippe Coutinho for nine figures, Fernando Torres on deadline day or Andy Carroll for goodness knows how much.
Clubs are a lot more sensible than they used to be, using this opportunity strictly for business that will aid the rest of their season these days. So with more to play for than ever, thanks to the season not even being halfway finished, who needs what?
Let's go through each team's weaknesses and see who could be on the move this month.
The winger that evaded Arsenal in the dying embers of the summer transfer window looks ever more a certainty three months on. Gooners were panicking about Bukayo Saka burning out but with Mykhaylo Mudryk talks reportedly progressing, it seems the much-needed winger for depth could be close.
That was Arsenal's big priority: but a Thomas Partey injury seems far more likely to dent the title bid. If a top No.6 can be targeted – and it's a big if – it could ease midfield woes.
Unai Emery has come into Aston Villa and provided optimism within an unhappy squad, but there are still some glaring areas where they’re lacking: most notably, in wide areas.
Leon Bailey is arguably the only player in the first-team squad capable of playing with pace on the wings, and, with Emery preferring to use the Jamaican in a more central position, finding a winger with pace and trickery could ensure Villa’s turned fortunes are here to stay.
On paper, Bournemouth have a solid squad with plenty of profiles across the pitch. One may argue that it's not a new player that they need in January but for manager Gary O'Neil to learn quickly how to gel his side together: opting for Dominic Solanke and Kieffer Moore up front together isn't working and the Cherries are woefully open in transition.
Go back to Bournemouth's infamous -17 season in League Two: Steve Fletcher arrived as the captain-like catalyst to galvanise the side. Bournemouth skipper Lloyd Kelly has been absent for much of the season, while the old guard of Steve Francis, Steve Cook, Tommy Elphick and co. have moved on. A leader to organise the defence would be ideal not just now but for the next couple of seasons, wherever AFCB end up – though it's a tough task to find the right profile midseason.
Ivan Toney could face a ban for alleged gambling offences – though Brentford proved emphatically against Liverpool that they don't necessarily need their No.9 to put on a show. Still, planning for the future with ruthlessly cold realism is what the Bees' success has been built on.
Toney may well leave for pastures new at some point or another and there isn't a player anything like him in the squad. Sure, Yoane Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo were superb on the break in the 3-1 romp against the Reds but a true hold-up specialist who can step in for Toney, bully defenders and perhaps create and lay off chances for the nippy wide men could be helpful.
At least if there were two of Toney, Thomas Frank would have the choice of whether to adapt when missing his talisman.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo are still Brighton players. For now. The club’s hierarchy have likely already sounded out their replacements in South America, their unrivalled scouting network finding gems before selling them just a few seasons later.
Of course, losing players such as Mac Allister and Caicedo will be a huge blow, but if Brighton’s record in signing players – especially in midfield – is anything to go by, then it doesn’t seem like it will cause too much problem at the Amex Stadium.
The last central midfielder Chelsea signed permanently was Mateo Kovacic in 2019, and since then the triumvirate of the Croatian, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho has featured in some capacity at all times.
However, it is now in desperate need of a refresh to compete against the big teams, with Kante injury-prone and Jorginho out of contract in the summer. Signing a midfielder would also allow Graham Potter to build his team around the area of the pitch that proved so vital for him at Brighton: Enzo Fernandez looks poised to join.
Crystal Palace still haven't replaced Aaron Wan-Bissaka since the right-back left for a huge-money move to Manchester United – and for a couple of seasons now, he's been waning yet would probably fit Patrick Vieira's side nicely. But really, as impressive as Palace have been over the last 18 months, there's a more pressing problem.
Wilfried Zaha leads the scoring with six goals in 12; Odsonne Edouard has three league strikes, while Jordan Ayew has none. A new No.9 to challenge Edouard is imperative in the summer but there may be a deal to be struck for one now. Ben Brereton Diaz, for example, is out of contract at the end of the season and probably available for £10m now.
Fairly strong defensively, it is in attack where Everton have struggled greatly this season. Injury has meant Dominic Calvert-Lewin has featured in just eight league games, while Neal Maupay has struggled to get going at Goodison. With Salomon Rondon released, Ellis Sims has been recalled from his loan spell at Sunderland – but that’s still not enough goals in a struggling attack.
Signing a striker proven to stick the ball in the back of the net could help Everton stave off relegation, and puts less pressure on Calvert-Lewin to play when only half-fit.
With Fulham strong across the pitch, a striker to replace Aleksandar Mitrovic would enable the Serbian to miss games when he’s not fully fit. Indeed, Mitrovic has soldiered on for the majority of the season with niggles in his foot and ankle, and he’s not done too badly either, scoring 11 goals in 15 games.
However, just imagine what a fully fit Mitrovic could be capable of, making it preferable for Marco Silva to bring in a competent striker in his place on the odd occasion.
Leeds desperately wanted a striker in the summer and were apparently angling for Cody Gakpo. They made some fine signings in the summer and though Wilfried Gnonto has been a good addition, more firepower may be needed to keep the Yorkshire outfit out of harm's way.
Even a foil for Jesse Marsch's wide attackers to swoop into the box might be an option. A Patrick Bamford-like presence could be the difference between getting the likes of Jack Harrison and Luis Sinisterra into games.
Where do you start with Leicester City, who have lost all three of their post-World Cup fixtures? The Foxes have lacked a right-winger of any real quality since Riyad Mahrez left, while Patson Daka, Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho have all been outscored by James Maddison this season. He latter may leave for Newcastle – with Youri Tielemans going on a free in the summer, too.
And yet goals haven't been the most significant source of worry. Wout Faes has steadied the backline but Danny Ward between the sticks has been shaky – despite improvement from a dreadful start. A replacement for Kasper Schmeichel and another centre-back would be ideal this month… though another midfielder and winger would also go down a treat.
More frequently exposed, Liverpool’s midfield seems ageing and lacking the intensity that once saw it dominate games in the Premier League and across Europe. Fabinho is a shadow of the player he once was, while players such as Naby Keita aren’t up to the required standards.
Injecting the midfield with some energy and exuberance seems top of Jurgen Klopp’s to-do list, but priority signing Jude Bellingham will likely have to wait until the summer, if he does indeed move to the Reds anyway.
For all of Manchester City’s abundantly talented players, a wide player with real pace seems to be lacking from the side. Leroy Sane would be the perfect fit – it’s just a shame they sold him three seasons ago.
Sure, Erling Haaland has scored non-stop since joining, with Kevin De Bruyne effortlessly providing him with assists, but adding another avenue to their attack would make them simply unstoppable. Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish are both similar players on opposite flanks – partnering one with an out-and-out winger on the other side would prove massively beneficial to the whole team’s dynamic.
With Cristiano Ronaldo gone and Anthony Martial injury prone, signing a world class striker is of paramount importance for Manchester United. There’s just one slight issue – there seemingly aren’t any players available who fit the mould the Red Devils need.
Erik Ten Hag has stated he doesn’t want a quick-fix (sorry, Odion Ighalo), preferring a player he can work with and develop during a prolonged period of time. Making that signing in January is tough, but at least they have Marcus Rashford in-form and banging them in.
Eddie Howe wanted an additional midfielder in the summer before Jonjo Shelvey suffered a serious hamstring injury in pre-season. Newcastle held their nerve and opted against paying a sizeable fee for Leicester’s James Maddison. Shelvey has now picked up a calf injury and is out until February so securing a No.6 has become the main priority.
A fresh body in midfield would serve the twin purpose of adding depth whilst also enabling Bruno Guimaraes to push further up the pitch and do more damage in the attacking third. Maddison may be too expensive (and injured) to buy this month, so the likes of Youri Tielemans, Moises Caicedo and Declan Rice could be considered. A move for the latter would set the tone for a big year on Tyneside.
You’d have thought, having made 22 signings in the summer, that Forest would already be strengthened enough. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out on their Premier League return, but there’s still plenty of the season left to play and they haven’t been cut adrift yet.
Forest need to add some calm to the middle of the pitch, and a central midfielder comfortable on the ball while under pressure would help them enormously. Remo Freuler and Orel Mangala are both adept at winning the ball back, but adding a player who can then add some calm would encourage more possession within the side.
It’s not necessarily a question of where Southampton need to strengthen, and more a question of who Southampton need to strengthen.
Indeed, the Saints are inexperienced across the pitch, their summer experiment of signing young, hungry players failing to materialise thus far. Bringing in players with genuine Premier League nous would help the younger players, rather than relying upon them for results. Of course, players such as Romeo Lavia have thrived, but having more experienced individuals alongside him to guide him through his first professional season would certainly help, rather than hinder.
Creativity wise, Tottenham are miles off the pace. Without Dejan Kulusevski, it is genuinely difficult to figure out where Spurs are capable of creating chances from. Harry Kane can drop deeper, but then they lose their biggest goal threat as a result. Additionally, Son Heung-min has scored in just one game this season – a far cry from his Golden Boot exploits last campaign.
A midfielder or forward who loves picking out eye-of-the-needle passes (ahem, Christian Eriksen) would sort that problem. It’d be a bonus if they know how to play football in the first half of games, too.
West Ham United
Some West Ham supporters may argue that the change needed at the London Stadium is in the dugout rather than the pitch. But assuming David Moyes continues, it's clear that this is a team evolving away from his ideals.
Moyes always valued hard-workers over technical genius – OK, that's a generalisation, but you get the point. He built this West Ham side around the likes of Pablo Fornals on the wing, Tomas Soucek in midfield, with a runner like Michail Antonio in the channels: the likes of Gianluca Scamacca and Lucas Paqueta are top players but are they "Moyes players"? Do the Irons maybe need a versatile disrupter in there?
A Cahill or a Fellaini – awkward, physical threats – who could play across the front four, win aerial duels and second balls and link the other forwards could be the answer to keep the manager in a job.
Fail to sign a goalscorer, and Wolves might as well wave goodbye to the Premier League. Managing just 10 goals after 17 games makes them the lowest scorers in the league this season, with Diego Costa proving uninspiring up front as he lacks the intensity he was so famed for at Chelsea.
Meanwhile, Raul Jimenez understandably looks a shadow of the player who terrorised defences a few seasons ago. Julen Lopetegui is a coach capable of helping Wolves stay up – it just depends on if they have a striker to stick the ball in the back of the net.
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Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.
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