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January transfer window: Where does every Premier League club need to strengthen?

January transfer window
(Image credit: Getty)

The January transfer window is a fascinating look into the minds of Premier League managers. It's the equivalent of that challenge on The Apprentice, where the teams have to buy items on a list – rather than create their own brand to present in the boardroom.

Because often, the winter window is about tweaks and finishing touches. It's about the necessities; the signings that you can't find in the summer. Some of the best buys of the January transfer window in seasons gone by have actually been stopgap signings, loanees and players brought in by sheer opportunity. 

We've gone through each Premier League side and worked out exactly what will help them kick on for the rest of the season – while we've added the maximum budget that the clubs can reportedly spend due to FFP (data from Sportsmail). That doesn't mean that the teams will hit that limit – it's just wiggle room.  So… who should your side buy?

List compiled and written with Ed McCambridge

January transfer window: Arsenal – Central midfield

Estimated FFP limit: £201m

The striker crisis at Arsenal is dragging with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang still on the naughty step while Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah count the days on their contracts down. Still, that’s not the most pressing issue this January transfer window.

Arsenal’s reliance on Thomas Partey is worrying, given his fluctuation in form and now absence due to AFCON. With Ainsley Maitland-Niles now leaving on loan, midfield cover is an absolute necessity. Bruno Guimaeres or Frenkie De Jong would be ideal – even Gini Wijnaldum on loan or Callum Styles of Barnsley might do the trick, though. 

Aston Villa – Defensive midfield

Philippe Coutinho

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £5m

While Philippe Coutinho is linked with a shock move to Villa Park – where he’d be reunited with former midfield partner Steven Gerrard, now in the dugout – the wider consensus is that a more defensive midfielder is needed. Southampton’s Oriol Romeu is being considered – a player who can tackle, pass and boasts bags of Premier League experience. 

Brentford – Attacker

Estimated FFP limit: £88m

Depth in attack should be the order of the day for Brentford. While Ivan Toney has been solid enough and Brian Mbeumo plays nicely with the target man, there’s the lack of a plan B and the Bees miss that unpredictability that they had with the likes of Said Benrahma. Braga youngster Vitinha is apparently on the radar, while Championship talent Brennan Johnson is also being looked at. 

Brighton – Central midfield

Kacper Kozlowski

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £85m

A new striker had been the priority in the summer, but with Neil Maupay back to form and Danny Wellbeck back to fitness, that area is less of an issue now during the January transfer window.

Graham Potter has spoken of his desire to strengthen his midfield, and the Seagulls are being heavily linked with Polish international Kacper Koslowski. The 18-year-old has scored three goals and assisted twice for Polish top-flight outfit Pogon Szczecin so far this season, and would come with bags of potential. 

Burnley – Centre-back

Estimated FFP limit: £171m

It’s no surprise to see Burnley linked with centre-backs as Sean Dyche looks to double down on what’s made his sides tough to beat – with Ben Mee and James Tarkowski linked with exits, now might be the time to snare some Premier League quality. Calum Chambers of Arsenal and Nat Phillips of Liverpool are both potential options. 

Chelsea – Left-back

Lucas Digne

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £241m

Adding central defenders to his squad is increasingly important for Thomas Tuchel, with Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger all out of contract in the summer. Yet left back is a more immediate concern, with Ben Chilwell sidelined until the end of the season. Everton will offload Lucas Digne if the terms are right, and Chelsea are among those interested in the World Cup winner.

Crystal Palace – Right-back

Estimated FFP limit: £66m

Crystal Palace had a busy summer and therefore probably don’t have much more money to spend in January. They look clear of relegation and like pushing higher up the table – therefore any moves now should be about making subtle tweaks rather than disrupting the side. 

Calvin Ramsay of Aberdeen would be the dream summer signing – but Aaron Wan-Bissaka back on loan could help rejuvenate his form. He was superb at Palace the first time and would slot into a semi-inverted right-back slot that Joel Ward currently occupies. 

Everton – Central midfield

Denis Zakaria

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £-35m

With left and right back now sorted – following the arrivals of Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Petterson from Dynamo Kyev and Rangers respectively – attention now turns to midfield. Rafa Benitez wants to add steel and quality to the middle of the park and has identified Dennis Zakaria of Gladbach and Bruno Guimaraes as possible targets. They’ll face competition for both, however. 

Leeds United – Central midfield

Estimated FFP limit: £99m

Marcelo Bielsa is severely lacking in a number of departments heading into the January transfer window. The crisis in attack has led to the unexpected promotion of Joe Gelhardt to lead the line, while the defence has been short too, this season. Cagliari’s Nahitan Nandez has been heavily rumoured to be heading to Elland Road. 

At FFT, however, we’re hoping the Whites make a late bid for Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Bielsa realises his potential as an all-round, versatile midfielder that England could consider at the World Cup this year. 

Leicester City – Centre-back

Brendan Rodgers

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £99m

There are injury crises, and then there are the kinds of situations Leicester find themselves in at the back. Caglar Soyoncu, Johnny Evans and Wesley Fofana are all out with long term injuries, leaving Yannick Vestegaard as their only senior centre back. 

James Tomkins, who hasn’t featured regularly for Crystal Palace this season, could be a budget option. The 23-year-old has played in 16 of the past 17 Premier League seasons, and would bring experience at a low cost.

Liverpool – Central midfield

Estimated FFP limit: £273m

Sure, neutrals have loved Liverpool’s recent trips to London against Tottenham and Chelsea. Jurgen Klopp would not have – and the lack of control in both clashes are a case in point as to why Liverpool look unlikely to snatch the title back from Manchester City.

Better security in possession is a must and the Reds can’t guarantee it with so many injuries in midfield. Upgrading on Naby Keita now might be the answer: someone like Marcelo Brozovic or Kevin Kampl might keep play ticking over, while Florian Grillitsch might be a smart squad option.

Manchester City – Striker

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola smiling | Manchester City v RB Leipzig live stream

(Image credit: Getty)

Estimated FFP limit: £84m

The departure of Ferran Torres – who joined Barcelona in a £55m move at the start of the month – has compounded City’s need to sign a striker. Erling Haaland would be the ideal option, but wouldn’t be available until the end of the season. It’s unlikely, therefore, that City make any major moves before the summer. 

Manchester United – Central midfield

Estimated FFP limit: £243m

Please. Just sort the midfield. Manchester United could do with a new right-back, of course, but the gaping hole in the centre is a long-standing problem. 

Just as Paul Pogba’s signing in 2016 was seen as the bold new first jigsaw puzzle towards a new era, Ralf Rangnick needs to make a similar decision here. A leader in midfield with grit and hard-running is vital. You can see why they want Declan Rice: Amadou Haidara and Boubacar Kamara have been touted – we’d like to see James Ward-Prowse brought in, too. 

Newcastle United – Centre-back

Samuel Umtiti

(Image credit: PA Images)

Estimated FFP limit: £166m

Linked with practically everyone following their recent takeover by Saudi owners, Newcastle may look very different by the end of this month. With the third-worst offensive record and the second-worst defensive record, they only marginally need to prioritise defence over attack. 

Kieran Trippier will add quality to the right hand side, but an imposing centre back is a must. The Magpies are linked with Barcelona and France defender Samuel Umtiti, but getting a deal over the line will be easier said than done. 

Norwich City – Defensive midfield

Estimated FFP limit: £92m

Basement boys Norwich City had a busy summer but have only recorded one win under each of their two managers, this season. Where do you begin sorting this one?

Well, the midfield is a key issue with Billy Gilmour looking out of his depth in trying to stem the flow of attacks. Ex-Liverpool starlet Pedro Chirivella is performing well at Nantes and seems like the kind of player who could take to the Championship, should the inevitable happen.

Southampton – Attacking midfield

Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl | Chelsea v Southampton live stream

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £37m

The good work carried out during the summer – Tino Livramento, Romain Perraud, Thierry Small, Armando Broja and Adam Armstrong have all improved Southampton’s squad – has negated the need for fresh recruits at the midway stage, and Hasenhuttl has made it clear fans should not expect too much. 

While a new No.10 is required, the Austrian understands the difficulties in luring top creators to a club with Saints’ financial restraints. "The top-quality players in the no.10 position will never be available for us,” he grumbled, back in December.

Tottenham Hotspur – Attacking midfield

Estimated FFP limit: £400m

Tottenham’s defence lacks a leader, the right-back options are a little underwhelming, the goalkeeper is a little long in the tooth and, as ever, there’s no solid back-up to Harry Kane. And yet all of those deficiencies can be overlooked (for now).

Under Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and now Antonio Conte, Spurs have created very little, with no creative spark in the team since Christian Eriksen left before lockdown. Whether he could come back is less a question for football analysts and more one for cardiologists – but a no.10 like Ruslan Malinovskyi of Atalanta would be a smart acquisition.

Watford – Centre-back

Claudio Ranieri

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £60m

Still hunting for their first clean sheet of the Premier League season, relegation battling Watford are in desperate need of defensive recruits this month. Nice left-back Hassane Kamara and KAS Eupen defensive midfielder Edo Kayembe should join, but centre-backs are needed. Domagoj Vida, the blonde-haired Croatia linchpin tops the wishlist, with Udiense defender Samir also expected to join. 

West Ham United – attacker

Estimated FFP limit: £71m

There’s big pressure on Michail Antonio and the goals have started to dry up slightly. But while West Ham have a dreadful record of signing strikers, David Moyes figured the formula for unconventional no.9s to chip in with strikes, long, long ago. Jesse Lingard would be more than welcome back to the London Stadium. 

Wolverhampon Wanderers – Striker

Fabio Silva Wolves

(Image credit: PA)

Estimated FFP limit: £70m

Bruno Lage has spoken of his desire to add a new centre-back this month, with Romain Saiss on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. Yet his wish to also add a new striker seems far more pressing. Wolves have been solid at the back this campaign – conceding just 14 times in 19 matches – yet have only outscored bottom-placed Norwich. 

Finding a quality No.9 in the winter break is famously tricky, however, and Lage may be hoping Fabio Silva can finally come good on his promise. 

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Mark White

Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. He is a keen player of the Football Manager series and creates Twitter accounts for his Fantasy Premier League team every year, before losing interest in his team every September.