Wednesday 15 August 2018

Who needs who in the January sales?

Transfer fever will be rampant next month with most clubs all set to splash the cash

Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Kevin Long, Theo Walcott and Philippe Coutinho will all generate plenty of conjecture when the transfer window opens on Monday. Photo: Getty
Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Kevin Long, Theo Walcott and Philippe Coutinho will all generate plenty of conjecture when the transfer window opens on Monday. Photo: Getty

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Arsenal

The bigger issue for Arsenal next month will be the players that leave, rather than the ones that stay. Arsene Wenger has admitted as much and he will spend January focusing on the players who have only six months of their contracts left.

There are likely to be offers for Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, giving Wenger a decision to make on whether he takes some money for them or lets them both go for free next summer.

Then there is Jack Wilshere, who is more receptive to a new deal, if details can be agreed with the club. They plan to finally sit down next week.

Olivier Giroud is an Everton target but Wenger is reluctant to let such a reliable Plan B leave the club after almost six years there.

If there is any mass exodus from Arsenal in January, and they find themselves without three first-teamers, they will have to go back into the market for replacements. But the likeliest outcome is that he keeps hold of his players, at least for a little bit longer.

Kevin Long. Photo: Sportsfile
Kevin Long. Photo: Sportsfile

Bournemouth

Bournemouth found success in loaning and eventually signing Nathan Ake from Chelsea, and are encouraged to return to the same talent pool in January with the young full-back Dujon Sterling on Eddie Howe's shopping list.

The 18-year-old is primarily a right-back and would provide competition for Adam Smith. He can also play further forward or on the left side of defence - useful given the long-term injuries to left-backs Brad Smith and Tyrone Mings.

However, Howe's January priority is to keep his squad intact. West Ham have been heavily linked with a £15m move for Harry Arter, who would be a significant loss in the middle of a relegation battle on a knife edge, while striker Benik Afobe is reportedly a target for fellow strugglers West Brom and Championship leaders Wolves.

Theo Walcott of Arsenal. Photo: Getty
Theo Walcott of Arsenal. Photo: Getty

Howe insisted last week that the team's "heartbeat" Arter is not for sale, but the club's resolve is likely to be severely tested.

Brighton

Brighton will be pleased with the first half of their first Premier League season but know they need to strengthen their squad to ensure they can pull clear of relegation worries.

A striker is undoubtedly their top priority, with an upgrade wanted that would allow Glenn Murray and Tomer Hemed to return to the back-up/alternative roles more in keeping with their abilities.

Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho. Photo: Getty Images
Liverpool midfielder Philippe Coutinho. Photo: Getty Images

Celtic's Moussa Dembele is reportedly on their radar and they won't be shy when it comes to spending big money on the right player.

Burnley

What do you buy for the proudest man in Proudsville? What more could he possibly want? One look at the league table shows why Sean Dyche has every right to turn around to his Burnley players this January and say: "As you were."

It is no secret that Dyche likes to keep a settled starting line-up, to the extent that some of his summer signings - Nakhi Wells and Jonathan Walters, in particular - are still waiting for significant minutes on the pitch with their new club.

There are still issues Burnley could address, though. Michael Keane was not replaced during the summer and, though Ben Mee and James Tarkowski have excelled in his absence, there is a lack of depth at centre-back and third-choice Kevin Long has his critics.

With Long's countryman Robbie Brady facing a lengthy period on the sidelines, a wide player to provide cover would not go amiss, but anyone who arrives would have to fit the club's modest salary structure. Burnley's annual £35m wage budget is one of the Premier League's smallest.

Chelsea

Beyond Manchester City, the defending champions were the club whose business provoked the most discussion and debate in the summer, but this window is already expected to be that bit more muted at Stamford Bridge.

Some of that is down to Antonio Conte's constant ability to adjust to what he has, some of it is down to the club's general policy, and some of it is just down to the market.

There is one signing that Conte wants sorted - a player who can fill in across the front line who can also provide them with more options beyond Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi.

Tentative moves have been made for Aletico Madrid's Yannick Ferreira Carrasco. Napoli have made it clear, however, that any interest in Dries Mertens will go nowhere.

The emergence of Ethan Ampadu has lessened the need for another defender and those close to the club feel that the signing of Arturo Vidal is unlikely.

Crystal Palace

There is little doubt over Crystal Palace's priority, having somehow made it through the autumn with just one fit, senior striker in the squad.

When Christian Benteke went down with injury that dipped to zero and you can expect to see that situation addressed before January is out.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah's lack of first-team football has the potential to free up a space. The defender is one of a few Frank de Boer signings whose futures are up in the air, with Jairo Riedewald the obvious other.

Joel Ward has recovered from having his confidence destroyed by De Boer to become the player who has improved more than almost any other since Roy Hodgson took over.

That may not dissuade the club from looking for competition or an upgrade at right-back, however, especially if Fosu-Mensah were to return to Old Trafford.

If Palace don't secure a new deal for Yohan Cabaye, they would be wise to replace him in January even if they don't cash in on Cabaye's expiring contract, but there appear to still be both more pressing needs and an awareness that FFP will limit what Palace can do mid-season.

Everton

No Sam Allardyce salvage operation would be complete without a handful of January signings made with varying degrees of success and Everton's new manager almost certainly had a number of potential targets in mind when he sat down and accepted the job. Given the bloated size of the squad at Goodison Park though, the man himself is expecting no more than two new arrivals.

One is likely to be Cenk Tosun, the Besiktas striker. The major problem with the club's summer window was that, despite the ambitious spending, they failed to adequately replace Romelu Lukaku. Allardyce wants to correct that this winter and Tosun, scorer of 14 goals in 24 appearances this season, will be able to ease the workload on youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Steven N'Zonzi is also of interest, though Allardyce has sounded more cautious about a reunion with the former Blackburn Rovers midfielder. An addition at left-back is more likely, despite the impending return of Leighton Baines and the good form of stand-in Cuco Martina.

Patrick van Aanholt is out of favour at Crystal Palace and a player that Allardyce knows well.

Huddersfield town

There seems to be a distinct possibility that, despite all pre-season predictions to the contrary, at least three Premier League teams will finish worse off than Huddersfield Town. Perhaps even a mid-table finish is there to be won.

Reinforcements in several positions to bolster a thin squad would help Huddersfield's cause no end. David Wagner's side have looked a little light in attacking areas all season and their lack of options out wide worsened with a serious injury to Elias Kachunga earlier this month. An addition there and a player who can fill in at No 10 in Wagner's favoured 4-2-3-1 would be welcome.

At the other end of the pitch, Christopher Schindler and Mathias 'Zanka' Jorgensen have practically been ever-presents at centre-half but there is a worrying lack of depth in the position. A back-up option with more top-flight experience than Martin Cranie is required.

Leicester City

The top priority for Leicester is Adrien Silva. The Portuguese was forced into footballing Siberia after his deadline day move was blocked by Fifa due to late paperwork. With all the I's dotted and the T's crossed over summer, it's a deal that can finally be secured in the opening days of the transfer window.

Technically gifted and composed, the player will bring some much-needed cohesion to Leicester's midfield following the loss of Danny Drinkwater.

At the back, the ageing Wes Morgan continues to lead by example, but his days at the top are surely numbered. With Robert Huth struggling to regain fitness, an injury to Morgan could leave Leicester in a sticky situation.

A young, mouldable centre-back would strengthen the Foxes defensively and provide them with a blueprint for the future alongside Harry Maguire who continues to impress.

An out-and-out Number 10 would serve to enhance Leicester's frontline, which is lacking a midfield maestro capable of running the show.

Liverpool

For almost four years now, Liverpool have needed additions in the same three positions. A defensively-minded midfielder with the ability to manage a game is required. He should sit in front of one or possibly two new centre-halves who defend assertively and keep errors down to a minimum. They in turn should protect a reliable new goalkeeper who inspires confidence in his team-mates.

The £75m capture of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton is at least a start at filling those vacancies and a welcome change from transfer strategy focusing on the front end. Those expecting the Holland international to be a miracle cure may be disappointed though, precisely because there are still those other areas that still need strengthening.

The chances of a full-scale revamp this month seem slim at best. Jurgen Klopp has reiterated his faith in Liverpool's current crop of players time and again and usually saves any major work on his squad for the off-season.

The chief concern for the rest of the month will be keeping Philippe Coutinho, who continues to be linked with Barcelona.

Manchester City

How do you improve the best team in the world? Manchester City are currently destroying the opposition in the Premier League but they are still considering whether to go back into the transfer market next month just to reinforce their title challenge.

City still want a centre-back, owing to John Stones' hamstring injury and the continuing problems of Vincent Kompany.

They wanted Virgil van Dijk but now he has gone to Liverpool and so City are likelier to go back for Jonny Evans, for whom they made two bids at the end of the summer window. They did want a left-back but have been persuaded against buying one by the success of Fabian Delph in the role.

But the big question is whether City pursue Alexis Sanchez, another they bid for in the summer and who they nearly signed for £60m. This would be Arsenal's last chance to get any money for a player who does not want to be there, but the move would not be without risks for City too.

Manchester United

By making so much noise about money of late, Jose Mourinho pretty much shut down any notions of a quiet January, but that doesn't just apply to his public words.

United were initially just going to move for a left-back this window, with the manager having been informed that funds would be limited, but it is understood the Portuguese has been behind the scenes using recent results - and especially the sensational League Cup quarter-final defeat to Bristol City - to push for much more.

Even beyond the grander debate surrounding Manchester City's capability, his argument is that a match like that displayed the lack of true depth in his squad. He would thereby ideally want that left-back, a defensive midfielder and a playmaker or winger.

Whether the board bend to his will remains to be seen, but another issue is that so many of United's top targets are cup-tied in the Champions League - the competition that is now the number-one priority.

That applies to all of Juventus' Alex Sandro, Tottenham Hotspur's Danny Rose and Borussia Dortmund's Julian Weigl and - more fancifully - Juventus' Paulo Dybala.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil and Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic at least haven't played in the continent's premier club competition this window, but it still feels likelier United will at most get a left-back - probably Sandro - and one other.

United still look like they are going to have one of the more interesting windows - whether they get those players or not.

Newcastle United

Rafa Benitez has been told that he won't have his hands tied for a third successive transfer window, and has been promised funds with Mike Ashley on his way out of the club and new owners arriving shortly.

The Spaniard will be handed somewhere between £30-40m, depending on wages, to strengthen his squad and pull them clear of the relegation battle with a view to establishing them back in the top flight.

Aleksandar Mitrovic tops the list of players who might leave in January, and the Magpies will look to bring in an upgrade on him to lead their attack.

Newcastle had been keen on Cenk Tosun but he appears to be close to signing for Everton, a richer club who those involved in the Toon's recruitment note have been fishing in remarkably similar ponds for players.

Danny Ings is one of few players who features on Newcastle's list that Everton aren't eyeing. But a striker is not the only position Benitez wants to upgrade, with the coach also looking to improve the spine of his team.

Southampton

The end of the Virgil van Dijk saga has brought some relief to St Mary's and injected significant funds to Manuel Pellegrino's transfer kitty, but the club are wary of joy-riding their way through the £70m bounty immediately recouped from the defender's sale, especially in January when prices are inflated and proven Premier League quality is particularly hard to come by.

Even so, there is an acceptance that a relegation battle looms if the squad is not improved during the window.

Saints are unlikely to go looking for a replacement for Van Dijk given the combined £20m spent on Wesley Hoedt and Jan Bednarek in the summer, even if recent heavy defeats have rung alarm bells.

Instead the priority will be further forward and the squad is in need of fresh impetus in the final third. Targets are likely to be more marginalised Premier League players and leagues abroad, rather than premium top-flight talent.

Stoke City

Four points from two games over the Christmas period appears to have shored up Mark Hughes' precarious position at Stoke City, though his side remain just three points above the dotted line.

Funds will be made available to him this winter and a significant improvement in the club's fortunes will be expected.

First on Hughes' shortlist is a full-back, most likely a right-sided player to solve what has been a problem position this year.

Promising 18-year-old academy graduate Tom Edwards has played there over the last two but he may have to make way for Augsburg's Daniel Opare, who has been widely linked.

Midfield reinforcements are desperately needed, with Darren Fletcher having struggled since his summer arrival and few alternatives in reserve. Ki Sung-yueng's name has been mentioned though the Swansea City midfielder would not provide the steel and presence needed alongside Joe Allen.

Up front, Stoke have just a 36-year-old Peter Crouch, a struggling Saido Berahino and Mame Biram Diouf, who spent much of the early part of the season as a right wing-back. Potential argets include Islam Slimani, out of favour at Leicester City, and Danny Ings, who is expected to leave Liverpool on loan.

Swansea city

The Swans have been haemorrhaging talent in recent seasons, without bringing in suitable replacements.

Gylfi Sigurdsson was last summer's most notable loss but the club failed to fill his shoes, with the likes of Renato Sanches and Roque Mesa struggling to live up to expectation.

Swansea are deeply missing the Icelander's experience and talent in the heart of their midfield. Without him, they've lacked creativity going forward and the ability to convert possession into chances and, more importantly, goals.

Jonathan Viera of UD Las Palmas was notably linked to the club last summer but whether he's willing to join a side on course for relegation seems unlikely.

Alongside a Sigurdsson replacement, Swansea are crying out for a reliable forward capable of actually finding the back of the net.

With just two goals to his name this season, Wilfried Bony has failed to deliver on his return to the Liberty Stadium. The Swans need a new scoring forward and fast.

In all reality, reinforcement across the whole starting XI would strengthen Swansea's hand heading into the second half of the season but how successful they can be this January remains to be seen given their precarious circumstances.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs still have unfinished business from the summer window in the form of Ross Barkley, a player they followed for months only to watch anxiously as he pulled out of a proposed move to Chelsea in August.

Barkley has only six months left on his Everton contract so if Spurs can agree a salary then they should be able to draw a conclusion to this particular transfer saga.

Midfield is where Spurs need the most in January, having been short of options with Victor Wanyama's long-term knee injury and Mousa Dembele's struggles to reach 100 per cent fitness.

One cheaper option would be to recall Josh Onomah from his loan at Aston Villa, where he has impressed.

There is all the issue of the wide areas where Spurs can add spark, but they are likelier to lose one than add one: if Erik Lamela takes Georges Kevin N'Koudou's place in the Champions League squad than N'Koudou may well be loaned out.

Watford

A new centre-back has to be the priority. With over half of the season gone only Stoke City and West Ham have conceded more goals than Marco Silva's Watford.

The club are interested in Galatasaray defender Koray Gunter, although it remains to be seen whether the Pozzo family will make a bid for him now or wait to sign him on a free transfer next summer.

A new left-back wouldn't go amiss, although recent rumours the club could move for Manchester United misfit Luke Shaw are unfounded.

Silva also wants a striker now that Stefano Okaka has fallen firmly out of favour, and a loan move for Leicester's Islam Slimani is possible.

West Brom

Alan Pardew has placed Liverpool centre-forward Danny Ings at the top of his list and he is expected to be available on loan.

A move to Albion would at least give him the first-team football he craves, even if it was with a struggling side.

Sporting director Nicky Hammond is also looking for deals for more creative attacking players, with Pardew keen to add an element of artistry and "chaos" to a team that he feels is playing within itself.

West Ham united

David Moyes has already made it very clear in which areas the club need to strengthen.

"We've got lots of forwards, but we're really short of midfield players," he said after the club's 3-3 draw with Bournemouth.

"We've got quite a few who are comfortable playing on the left, but not so many who can play on the right, so we've got a little bit of an imbalanced squad which we've got to straighten out in January if we can."

Steven N'Zonzi is a target - albeit an optimistic one. Ditto Theo Walcott.

Alfie Mawson is available at the right price, but £25m is a lot for a player with just one-and-a-half seasons of Premier League football under his belt.

Irish Independent

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