Problematic January Transfer Window

Sergio Aguero courtesy Daily Express

David Prendeville

In this most unusual of seasons it’s harder to predict than usual what sort of transfer activity will be taking place in the often turbulent January window. There have already been injury crises aplenty. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola have accused the Premier League of not protecting their players by refusing to extend the amount of substitutions a team can make in a game from three to five, like the other leagues in Europe have, to help cope with the highly congested schedule. Smaller clubs have opposed such a move, saying it benefits the big teams. It has also been one of the most entertaining seasons in recent memory with goals galore, leaky defenses and an open title race. Here I analyse what those at opposing ends of the table need to address in the upcoming window and what their chances of doing so are.

The two pre-season title favourites, Liverpool and Manchester City, have different ends of the pitch to address. Liverpool were dealt the hammer blow of losing Virgil Van Dijk for the rest of the season after the horror tackle from Jordan Pickford in the 1-1 draw with Everton in October. A serious injury to his usual centre back partner Joe Gomez on international duty for England has added to the clamour for Liverpool to bolster their defence in the winter window. The injuries at the back have hardly affected Jurgen Klopp’s title defence as of yet, however. They’ve looked as formidable as ever in the games since Van Dijk’s injury. Klopp is generally a manager who would rather deal with problems by finding a solution from within, rather than splurge the cash, unless he can get his absolute first choice for a position (e.g when he signed Van Dijk or Alisson). The January window is a notoriously difficult window to get value in, and that may put Klopp off dipping into the market, certainly if the form of defensive stand-ins Matip and Fabinho stays as it is between now and the beginning of January.

Manchester City, meanwhile, have struggled to score goals this season. Sergio Aguero’s injury problems haven’t helped. Pep Guardiola will hope the Argentine can put his problems behind him for the rest of the season, but even if Aguero can stay fit, CIty look lighter in attack and midfield than they have ever done previously during Guardiola’s reign. City badly miss the play-making abilities of David Silva, who left in the summer and who they curiously chose not to replace. Similarly, Ferran Torres hardly looks like he’s ready to fill the gap created by Leroy Sane’s sale to Bayern Munich. The likes of Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva have also been woefully out of form this season. With City currently sitting in the bottom half of the table, Pep will need to do something to spark them into life soon, unless things pick up dramatically. His recent signing of a new contract suggests he fancies himself as the man to oversee the necessary overhaul at the Etihad.

Spurs, Chelsea and Leicester all look like they have strong squads and it would be a surprise to see them do too much in the January window. Chelsea could still possibly do with another centre-half, though Thiago Silva has improved greatly in recent weeks. Manchester United still seem to have a very unshapely squad, that is unlikely to be fixed in the January window. They are bloated with far too many central midfield options, but could with upgrades up front, on the wing, and at the back. Their long-running pursuit of Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho is unlikely to be resurrected until next summer.

The often miserly Arsenal are unlikely to be too active next month, having spent a reasonably large amount last summer. They will have another opportunity to try to get the high wages of the out-of-favour Mesut Ozil off the books. High-fliers such as Everton and Aston Villa are also unlikely to be active, after impressive summer windows. Southampton seem to rely more on the excellence of their manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, rather than a large outlay on players. The same can be said of Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa. Despite Newcastle continuing to play utterly dire football under Steve Bruce, one wouldn’t expect Mike Ashley to put his hand in his pocket again next month, after spending, by his extremely low standards, a large amount during the summer.

Fulham desperately need to sign some defenders, as do West Brom, with both teams having conceded eighteen goals from their nine games so far and looking in serious danger of relegation. Burnley are desperate for reinforcements after signing nobody last summer. However, with takeover rumours still looming, it’s hard to know if Sean Dyche will get the players he desires. Meanwhile, Sheffield United and their Irish contingent, are currently propping up the table. It remains to be seen how much they could afford to spend and what sort of player they could attract, should struggles continue into next month.