The transfer window has barely just been closed ahead of a long, cold winter, but it reopens to let in the fresh air come New Years' Day.
Summer was a time of uncertainty, with clubs easing off from their usual high-spending in the wake of a pandemic. Now that a vaccine's in sight, could we see a big-money January window? FourFourTwo certainly hopes so.
We've put together a short dossier on where every club in the Premier League needs to strengthen, from the dream signings to the outlandish moves that would mean 2021 tops 2020 for excitement within the first few weeks (not that that's hard).
Arsenal - attacking midfielder
Blimey, where do we begin? Someone creative - anyone - would be lovely right now. And Arsenal might have to pay whatever it takes - look at Bruno Fernandes last year.
Houssem Aouar is the obvious choice - still - while Christian Eriksen looks a little worse for wear, if not still capable of igniting this team. If you’re going to spend £50m on Aouar though and have to leave another overseas player out of the squad, why not drop £80m on Jack Grealish? It’s never going to happen in a million years but at least he’s got proven experience of single-handedly saving a team from relegation.
Aston Villa - central midfielder
Not any midfielder, either, but specifically Ross Barkley. Dean Smith is currently presiding over a well-balanced team at Aston Villa, with all of his summer additions performing excellently this campaign.
Barkley has been a pivotal member of the squad since arriving on loan from Chelsea, and Smith may want to look into the possibility of making the move permanent before other clubs consider making their own summer offers. He might not come cheap, but his presence has added energy to the midfield, and taken some of the creative burden off Jack Grealish’s capable shoulders.
Brighton & Hove Albion - left-back
Brighton & Hove Albion may actually find themselves on the receiving end of a few bids this January, with the likes of Ben White, Tariq Lamptey and Lewis Dunk all gathering interest from around the Premier League. Should any key personnel leave, they will need to find replacements.
But, as things stand, a new left-back wouldn't go a miss. Bernado, the club’s only out-and-out in the position, has barely played this season, while Adam Webster and Solly March - who have frequently filled-in - are not naturals in the role. Manchester United's Brandon Williams would be a solid loan option.
Burnley - depth in midfield
Burnley could do with strengthening all over - but it seems unlikely that they’ll dip into the January market. Even if they didn’t particularly seem bothered about spending in the summer, either.
Any reinforcements that Burnley can make to the depth of the team may be in order though. Danny Rose may be willing to move back up north and take a pay cut - Tottenham Hotspur may even be willing to waive the fee to get him off the books - while Jesse Lingard and John Lundstram are coming to the end of their respective deals. Both seem like players Sean Dyche could rekindle a spark from - even if they just sort an agreement to sign them in the summer, there’s good business to be done, somewhere.
Chelsea - centre-back
Haven’t they spent enough? The only one of Chelsea’s summer signings not to have hit the ground running is Kai Havertz - a slow-burner anyway - with the likes of Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount showing why they’re better than just squad fodder for Frank Lampard. The Blues have a ferocious collection of players - they don’t really need any more.
If a long-term option at centre-back comes up about January - just how they sorted out Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic mid-season - it could provide useful for when Thiago Silva’s one-year deal ends this summer. Jules Kounde of Sevilla, for example, might be one to build around next season but whose club won’t want to lose him in January - perhaps just agreeing to a deal for David Alaba to join for free come summer may be enough…
Crystal Palace - central-midfielder
Crystal Palace aren’t exactly the biggest spenders, nor the most ambitious in the market. Ebere Eze was a great signing but aside from him, a load of free transfers including Nathan Ferguson and Nathaniel Clyne - plus Jack Butland for a million from Stoke City - was their lot this summer. They’re comfortable and not likely to spend in January.
And why should they? OK, they over-rely on Wilfred Zaha but he’s not going anywhere. If a classy midfielder becomes available - the kind of player they thought they’d get with Max Meyer, for example - that would be the wisest place to shore up. Shandon Baptiste at Brentford would be a strong shout, providing the asking price isn’t too high.
Everton - depth in midfield (or a cheeky goalkeeper...)
A lack of depth seriously showed up Everton’s brief title challenge. Once Richarlison, Lucas Digne and Seamus Coleman got injured, Carlo Ancelotti’s side didn’t look like the same team. Max Aarons, David Brooks and Ismaila Sarr could all give Everton’s squad a boost but all three are fighting for promotion. We’ve got a better idea, mind.
Dean Henderson wants minutes to put him in contention for the Euros; Carlo Ancelotti has already dropped Jordan Pickford once this season. Do you see what we’re getting at? Hendo moving to Everton on loan to displace Pickford from both the Everton and the England net would be a strange, confrontational move but one that we’d love to see at FFT. Not enough rivals elbow themselves into each other’s patches these days.
Aleksander Mitrovic was top scorer in the Championship last season and has been an absolute goal machine for Fulham since joining, initially on loan, in January 2018. His form over the past few months has been woeful, however, and Scott Parker has made the tough decision to ditch his star striker.
The backup options just aren’t cutting it either, though, with Ivan Cavaleiro, Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Aboubacar Kamara all more comfortable on the wing than playing through the middle. A new, pacy, striker is just what this team needs. Josh King would be the fans’ first choice option.
Leeds United - centre-back
The long-term injury to Germany international Robin Koch has cost Marcelo Bielsa one of his most influential and versatile performers. Koch is equally capable at centre-back and defensive midfield, though it is in the former role where he excelled in the opening months of the season.
There is cover, in the form of Pascal Struijk and youngster Oliver Casey, though neither possesses the composure in possession or the defensive awareness of Koch. A loan move could be the best option, with Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori a young and dynamic player in need of some Premier League minutes.
Leicester City - striker
Same old, same old for Leicester City. What do you do when Jamie Vardy isn’t fit?
Kelechi Iheanacho has had quite long enough to make himself a worthy deputy and it’s getting to the stage where time is running out. If Leicester can take advantage of a January market’s chaos to find a fair Plan B to give them a boost, it might supercharge their season - but only if it’s the right deal. Josh King at Bournemouth, for example, is a proven deputy striker in the Prem who’s nearing the end of his Cherries contract. £5m on his head might not be bad business.
Liverpool - centre-back
With Melwood beginning to resemble an A&E wing after last orders, Jurgen Klopp doesn't so much need new players as his old ones fit and healthy. The German does have a quality backup option for most players, but the same can’t be said for centre-back Virgil Van Dijk.
The towering Dutchman simply can’t be replaced from “within”, and Klopp may be tempted to spend big on a world class defender who can plug the gaps until VVD is fit again, and then partner him thereafter. Dayot Upamecano, perhaps?
Manchester City - striker
The problems with Manchester City’s midfield are well-documented by now. David Silva’s not been replaced either and City’s tempo still feels slightly… off. But goals are a bigger problem.
If Pep Guardiola could throw a few million on another striker to challenge Gabriel Jesus midseason - just as Jesus came in during a January window to challenge Aguero - it might boost City for next season, let alone this one. Sergio Aguero is approaching the end of his contract, after all. Lautaro Martinez is perhaps the obvious choice.
Manchester United - centre-back
It’s no secret that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's most satisfying days as United boss tend to come either on the road and against top opposition. While this has a lot to do with the pace and counter-attacking instincts of his forwards, it also reveals a worrying flaw at the back.
Manchester United’s first-choice centre-backs, Victor Lindlof and Harry Maguire, are too sluggish to enforce a high line. United are simply too vulnerable on the break and are unable to step-up and dominate opponents higher up the pitch. A rapid centre-back would allow them to do this. Dayot Upamecano or Tyrone Mings would both improve the backline, but would they cost too much?
Newcastle United - centre-midfielder
A ball-playing midfielder would be a useful addition, with Newcastle United regularly criticised for not creating enough chances. In Jonjo Shelvey, Steve Bruce already possesses a playmaker with enough flair and vision to cause teams problems, though the Englishman can be both erratic and injury-prone.
Shelvey missed 12 league matches last season and currently has more bookings than goals or assists this term. He needs quality support in the middle of the park; someone who can share the creative burden during the run-in. A pay-as-you play move for free agent Jack Wilshere could be an interesting option.
Sheffield United - striker
The Blades, rock-bottom of the Premier League, are a complete shambles at either end of the pitch. The decision to spend an eye-watering £23m on unproven Liverpool striker Rhian Brewster is looking like a desperately bold decision last summer and Chris Wilder’s side will be relegated if they don’t start scoring soon.
A move for Brentford’s Ivan Toney, currently the top scorer in the Championship, may be a decent option. The club’s predicament means few proven Premier League scorers will fancy signing up.
Southampton - centre-midfielder
Ralph Hasenhuttl has one of the most well-balanced squads in the Premier League and plenty of quality youngsters to promote from the club’s famed youth academy should he need cover. With no major improvements necessary, it is unlikely serious money will be spent.
Beyond the excellent James Ward-Prowse, however, it might be argued they’re a little light on quality creators in midfield, so that could be an area they choose to target in future. Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook would fit in nicely.
Tottenham Hotspur - sort the Dele Alli issue
The signing of Matt Doherty has pushed Serge Aurier to up his game. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has been Jose Mourinho’s newest talismanic midfielder. Gareth Bale is putting in cameos in the Europa League. Joe Rodon looks a fine long-term acquisition. All in all, Tottenham Hotspur’s summer business is justifying itself.
A marquee centre-back can probably wait until the summer - for now, the Dele Alli issue needs addressing. The midfielder has been a fan favourite for yonks and has barely featured this season - as expected - despite needing minutes to play himself into contention for a Euros place. A loan until the end of the season may suit all parties.
West Bromwich Albion - centre-back
Slaven Bilic has gone, Sam Allardyce is imminent. The Croatian was apparently unhappy with the Baggies’ summer window - so the pressure’s on to dig out a big effort in January and turn this ship around.
If Big Sam does assume the reigns then surely a big centre-back is inevitable for the Baggies - is Chris Samba still available? Given that he gave Phil Jones his debut at Blackburn Rovers and then tried to re-sign him at Everton, we’re going to say Phil Jones is most likely.
West Ham United - striker
Sadly, it now feels as if Sebastain Haller - who had been so excellent for Eintracht Frankfurt before his £45m switch to the Premier League - just isn’t suited to life in East London.
West Ham have struggled to score when the Frenchman has deputised for Michail Antonio, and Haller has scored at a rate of less than a goal in every four games. Another top quality option wouldn’t go a miss. Odion Ighalo could be taken on a loan for a quick fix.
Wolverhampton Wanderers - depth in defence and midfield
There’s been a lot of change at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The headlines were Doherty and Jota leaving, Semedo and Fabio Silva coming in - plus a few loans. Nuno won’t want to upset the apple cart too much midseason.
A move to a back four means new opportunities. Benfica defender Ferro (of course he’s Portuguese) is superb on the ball and could become a solid Coady alternative or even a defensive midfielder if Wolves start employing one and want Neves and Moutinho higher. It’s a strong squad though - there won’t be signings for the sake of them.
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