As the Barclays Premier League’s hectic Christmas schedule winds down, it’s time for clubs to begin their winter shopping in the January transfer window. Teams are allowed to alter their squads in this midseason transfer grace period by buying or selling players to improve their clubs’ fortunes. Here, we’ll take a look at what each BPL team needs in January and who their targets might be.
Multiple reports over the past week or so claimed that the Gunners have reached a £5 million agreement for FC Basel’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny. If true, the deal seems like a classic Arsene Wenger transfer- a cheap, astute piece of business for a promising player, if a little underwhelming. The 23-year-old Elneny plays mainly as a defensive midfielder and would act as cover for the injured Francis Coquelin in the short term. Looking ahead, he might be a good replacement for the outgoing Mikel Arteta in the summer.
Rooted to the bottom of the league, 11 points away from safety, Villa clearly need to make some changes. New boss Remi Garde has pledged to be active in the transfer market and should receive serious backing from the club’s owners. Chelsea striker Loic Remy has been linked as a loan option for a side bereft of goals. Former Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa has also been mentioned, along with Croatian goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic. Garde may be forced to sell fan favorite Gabby Agbonlahor in order to raise funds.
The Cherries did a lot of business in the summer, little of which worked out, as many of their new recruits went down with serious injuries. But manager Eddie Howe has somehow kept his side above the relegation zone using players from last year’s promotion push. However, it appears that the club agreed a loan deal for Roma’s pacey winger Juan Iturbe ahead of fellow newly-promoted side Watford. Iturbe should provide much needed speed and creativity as Bournemouth look to stay up.
Where to start? After Jose Mourinho’s dismissal, news of the Chelsea brass sounding out Pep Guardiola for the job in the summer broke. The Bayern boss reportedly rejected their advances, saying that the Blues “needed at least ten new players” to compete in Europe. Though perhaps a bit overblown, Pep’s quote speaks to the sudden, inexplicable imbalance of a squad that coasted to the title last year. Striker Patrick Bamford is back after an unsuccessful loan with Crystal Palace, but will inevitably head out on loan again. Chelsea supporters will hope that the transfer committee will act rationally in the market for once and will wait until they have a permanent manager in the summer before making too many signings. Chelsea have a gaggle of good, young players in their squad- now is the time to give them a chance.
The Eagles are flying in 5th place thanks to a resolute defense, the searing pace of their wide players, and Yohan Cabaye’s combination of artistry and positional intelligence in center midfield. What they lack is a prolific striker: £10 million signing Connor Wickham is the only Palace forward to score all year, and he’s netted just once. Marseille forward Michy Batshuayi could be available, but could cost up to £15 million. A more realistic option might be QPR’s Charlie Austin, who scored 18 goals in the Premier League last season.
The Toffees might end up being sellers in January, with Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith both targets for clubs in England and abroad. On-loan winger Gerard Deulofeu may be recalled by Barcelona, as a back-up to Neymar. If any of these players leave, manager Roberto Martinez may be forced to buy, with Dynamo Kiev forward Andriy Yarmolenko a possible target.
Leicester have done so well this year because Claudio Ranieri has been able to send out virtually the same eleven every week. So the Foxes may be quiet on the transfer front in January. Ranieri has repeatedly warned suitors off of dynamic duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, amid overtures from Chelsea and Manchester United. If Leiceister can hold on to those two, they will consider this window a success.
New manager Jurgen Klopp should be given sufficient funds to begin shaping the Liverpool squad in his image. It appears that his first change will be in net, as the Reds pursue £15 million-rated Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda. Simon Mignolet has vacillated between passable and shocking this season, so a replacement makes sense. Klopp has already signed a player for the future in Red Star Belgrade’s 19-year-old midfielder Marko Gruijic for £5.1 million, who will most likely be loaned back to Red Star for the remainder of the season. You’d expect Klopp to add to his attack, which has scored just 21 goals in 18 games, as the Reds chase a Europa League spot.
Big clubs with a lot of money get linked to an astounding number of players during the transfer season, making in hard to determine which rumors are true and which are simply paper talk. City are no different, having been (probably) erroneously linked to Cesc Fabregas, Neymar, and even Lionel Messi this winter. One rumor that might have legs is a £30 million deal for Real Madrid’s attacking midfielder Isco. The diminutive Spaniard hasn’t seen much playing time in his two years at Real, and is regarded as the heir-apparent to City’s David Silva. However, City’s main transfer target is Bayern manager Pep Guardiola, who has said he will move on after this season.
Louis van Gaal remains under pressure and still may not be United’s manager come February. But the club that has become the poster child for inefficient spending will certainly look to strengthen in January. United’s attack has looked lifeless in recent weeks, and reports suggest that they will look to add Lazio’s 22-year-old winger Felipe Anderson for somewhere between £33-45 million. If that seems excessive, that’s because it is, but that’s the New Manchester United Way. More realistic might be Southampton’s Sadio Mane for around £25 million or Newcastle’s £18 million-rated Ayoze Perez. If van Gaal is sacked, don’t be surprised to see Jose Mourinho taking over in time to face former club Chelsea on February 7th.
The Magpies often do business in the January window so they will be one of the teams to watch. They’re currently in the relegation zone, which suggests that owner Mike Ashley will loosen the purse strings for manager Steve McLaren. United need another creative player or two to partner with the excellent Georginio Wijinaldum and could turn to Swansea’s Jonjo Shelvey or look to get Tottenham winger Andros Townsend on loan. They may be forced to part with star forward Ayoze Perez should Manchester United submit a good enough offer.
Rumors have been swirling about an £8 million agreement with Everton for forward Steven Naismith. Such a deal would represent a smart investment for a Norwich side that lacks Premier League quality up front. The board announced earlier in the week that they reached a deal with West Ham to make on-loan winger Matt Jarvis’s deal permanent. Manager Alex Neil may also look to add a defender, like Southampton’s Maya Yoshida.
Boss Ronald Koeman has already stated he will not sell any of his players in January. His resolve might be put to the test, however, if Manchester United come in for Sadio Mane. It’s been a disappointing season for the Saints so far, who sit in 12th place. Yet information on new recruits is a bit thin on the ground, suggesting that the club may sit tight in the January window and wait until the summer to make any major changes to their squad.
Stoke’s attractive passing game coupled with their sudden wealth of creative attacking talent has earned them the nickname “Stoke-alona,” in reference to their Barca-esque style of play. They’ve found themselves comfortably in 9th, well clear of relegation, with the chance of challenging for a European place. Manager Mark Hughes has already claimed that he is content with his squad, and you can’t blame him- Stoke have a balanced mix of flair and grit rare among mid-table sides. Maybe they bring in a young player or two for the future.
The Wearsiders seem to be competing with Villa to see which team is the league’s most inept side. They’ve collected misfits from other Premier League clubs for far too long and are finally paying for it; when you have to pick two of Younes Kaboul, Sebastian Coates, and John O’Shea to start at center back, you’re in trouble. New boss Sam Allardyce has hinted at a January overhaul and will look to bring in at least a center back and a striker. Lorient defender Lamine Kone should be available for £5 million, while Wolfsburg forward Bas Dost would be an excellent addition up front. Allardyce’s main problem will be convincing players to join, and could be forced to overpay new players’ wages. If they splash the cash and still get relegated, the club could face financial issues for years to come.
Since going unbeaten in their first four games of the campaign, Swansea have collapsed. They’ve won just twice since August and appear to be serious relegation contenders. The club sacked manager Garry Monk on December 9th and have not yet appointed a permanent manager to give them direction in the transfer market. Interim manager have said the club are looking for a striker, with the aforementioned Charlie Austin and French forwards Wissam Ben Yedder and Alexandre Lacazette possible options. The Swans would do well to keep hold of midfielder Jonjo Shelvey and forward Bafetimbi Gomis as they look to lift themselves to safety.
Spurs have quietly become this season’s most consistent team, losing just twice all season. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has utilized young players to great effect but may try to add experience to his squad as they chase a Champions League place. The spine of the team is strong but they could do with an out-and-out winger. One name that would fit the bill is Paris Saint Germain’s Ezequiel Lavezzi. The club tried to sign him in the summer but the deal fell through; he would probably be available for around £10 million. Spurs may also rekindle their chase for unsettled West Brom forward Saido Berahino.
Any other year, newly-promoted Watford might be the story of the season in 8th place, 1 point off of a Champions League spot. The club signed 16 players in a busy summer and will look to strengthen their squad again in January. Striker Emmanuel Adebayor is rumored to be a target on a free transfer as cover for the Hornets’ superb strike partnership of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney. It’s essential for the club to hold on to both players, despite Atletico Madrid readying a £12 million bid for Ighalo.
West Bromwich Albion
It seems like the Baggies always look like they might be relegation candidates but somehow finish 15th every year. It’s the same story this year, with West Brom in 13th place, six points above the bottom three, but not really convincing anyone that they can stay up. The key to their transfer plans is striker Saido Berahino. If they choose to sell him, they could bring in £20 million to reinvest in the squad. If not, the club will probably sit tight. Spurs winger Andros Townsend might be an option on loan or as part of a cash-plus-player deal for Berahino.
West Ham United
The Hammers got off to a brilliant start but have been hit by an injury bug that could drop them to mid-table if the club doesn’t strengthen in January. Most of their injuries have come up front, so signing a striker in the new year is imperative. Juventus’ Simone Zaza would be expensive but at 24, might be a long-term solution to the club’s striker problems. They might also go after Villa’s Gabby Agbonlahor or Swansea’s Bafetimbi Gomis as quick fixes. It’s also a good time for the club to sign on-loan midfielder Manuel Lanzini to a permanent deal.