The January transfer window is seen by many managers as a bad time to do business, prices are often over-inflated, top players are usually ineligible for European competitions and there’s the potential difficulty of integrating them into a new team without the benefit of a pre-season. However, this season, possibly more than any other previous, may see the biggest and most important January transfer window since its inception for many clubs throughout the Premier League.
Certainly, for Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, QPR and Sunderland, it’s an opportunity to bring in some fresh faces and boost their squads for a campaign that is not going to plan.
Despite signing an entire squad of players in the summer, QPR’s disastrous start to the season and change of manager means that they’ll likely be looking for a striker and at least one defender if new manager Harry Redknapp is to somehow guide them to survival.
Whilst Sunderland may not be as quite a bad position, they look like they too are in need of a defender and a striker too ease the burden on Steven Fletcher. A creative midfielder is also lacking for the Black Cats who have massively under performed after manager Martin O’Neil would’ve hoped to at least cemented them as mid-table this year.
As I pointed out in the opening weeks of the season, Chelsea’s squad lacks balance and it’s a problem that has all but ended their hopes of winning the Premier League this season. They were always a central midfielder and at least one striker short of a prolonged title challenge.
They probably will do business in January, with Atletico Madrid’s Falcao linked, but that’s unlikely in January and whoever they do bring in to bolster their attack, it will be too late to rescue their title ambitions as Man City and Man Utd will not both concede the ground Chelsea would need to make up and that’s not even taking into account the upheaval caused by changing managers.
Arsenal are another team whose season has come unstuck and the depth of their current plight has surprised many, including myself. Two problem positions that have not been addressed for at least 2 years are left-back and defensive midfield. It’s an area of the pitch that Arsene Wenger needs to invest or their campaign could end in disaster; without a reliable and top quality left-back, Arsenal are vulnerable in that position and their lack of physical presence and natural defensive instinct in midfield sees them bullied and open to attack.
Another striker is also where many pundits say Arsenal need to buy, but Podolski will score goals when played in his natural central striking position and Giroud starting to settle; so my view is that the wide areas should be more of a concern, especially given that it’s looking increasing likely that Theo Walcott could depart. Whether or not Wenger moves to deal with these issues in January is anyone’s guess, given his much-maligned stubbornness to spend.
Liverpool, too, desperately need to add to their squad, particularly in attack. Brendan Rodgers has not even attempted to be coy about his intention to use the January window to ease the goal burden on Luis Suarez. The concern of many Liverpool fans though, is just how much money will be made available to the Reds boss.
Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge and Thomas Ince are all names that have been heavily linked, as have Wilfried Bony and Klaas Jan Huntelaar, though the latter is the most unlikely with Schalke through to the Champions League knock out stages and looking to ensure a top 3 Bundesliga finish means that it would take a sizeable fee to tempt them; even though the Dutchman’s contract expires in the summer, it’ll take a lot more than the laughable £6m fee quoted by some for Schalke to part with the prolific Holland striker.
With the inconsistency shown by so many of the sides in the top half of the league, an opportunity for a Champions League place exists for any team that can string a run of wins together and the right additions in January could just be the catalyst to that happening.
Equally, for those looking for survival, just one great signing could possibly bring that. So this upcoming transfer window may not see the most ever money spent during January, but it could just be the busiest and most vital one yet.
Written by Andy Wales
Follow him on Twitter @AndyArmchair
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