The opening of the transfer window is now under a month away, and the best prepared clubs are likely already well into planning their January business. It is not typically a month in which a lot of major deals happen, but then this is no typical Premier League season.
Just six points separate the top six in what promises to be one of the most wide open title races in recent memory. All of the top teams have flaws, but all will also feel that there is a genuine opportunity to end up with the trophy in May. It all means that there could well be some significant business done at the top end of the table in January as teams look to separate themselves from the pack.
Here’s a look at what deals could be done, with apologies to Leicester City fans for their exclusion.
What they need: A familiar injury crisis means that the deficiencies in the squad Arsene Wenger failed to address in the summer have now become even more apparent. A defensive-minded midfielder is close to essential after a serious injury to Francis Coquelin. Once more, a top-level striker wouldn’t go a miss.
Who’s on the radar: Regular targets William Carvalho and Lars Bender are again said to be options to fill the void in defensive midfield, while Porto’s young captain Ruben Neves could also be an option. In attack, Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Celta Vigo’s Nolito have been mentioned as targets.
Likely outcome: Wenger is no fan of the January transfer window, but he will surely feel the pressure to do something. Still, it is unlikely he’ll do major business. Expect plenty of talk throughout the month of the players who could improve his squad simply not being out there, before perhaps making a cheap, short-term fix in the dying hours of the window.
What they need: It’s just a little far-fetched to consider Chelsea a title contender after their disastrous start to the season, but a Champions League place cannot be ruled out. A new striker may be necessary to make a resurgence, with neither Radamel Falcao nor Loic Remy up to the task and Diego Costa badly out of sorts. Ideally, a center-back and a commanding box-to-box midfielder, which should have been secured in the summer, will also be snapped up.
Who’s on the radar: To bolster Chelsea’s goal-scoring, Aubameyang, Vardy, Shakhtar Donetsk’s in-form Alex Teixeira and Fiorentina target man Nikola Kalinic have been linked. In midfield, Tottenham’s Mousa Dembele has been cited as a target.
Likely outcome: Chelsea have, perhaps surprisingly, decided to back manager Jose Mourinho so far, and they could do so, at least to some degree, in the January transfer window. A striker looks set to be the priority. Teixeira has claimed there has been contact with Chelsea and made it clear he would welcome a move. Although a deal could be difficult in January, it is certainly possible.
What they need: Jurgen Klopp has revived Liverpool’s fortunes to even spark talk of an unlikely title challenge. But he has stressed since taking over that signing players was not the solution to the team’s problems, and that he had plenty of quality players at his disposal. A goalkeeper more authoritative than Simon Mignolet would provide an upgrade, while Klopp may also want a pacey, high-energy wide forward to aid his high-intensity system.
Who’s on the radar: Unsurprisingly, a host of Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund players have been linked, including defender Mats Hummels and attacking midfielder Marco Reus. Also in Germany, Schalke’s emerging winger Leroy Sané is thought to have caught Liverpool’s eye. As for a goalkeeper, Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been mentioned.
Likely outcome: There is unlikely to be huge upheaval in January, and Klopp has insisted he is not looking for a replacement for Mignolet. One deal that could happen is for the newly capped Germany international Sané.
What they need: The current Premier League leaders spent big in the summer on Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi, and already have the strongest squad in England. With Sergio Aguero’s continued injury problems, an extra striker could be sought, although teenager Kelechi Iheanacho has emerged as a promising alternative to Wilfried Bony. A deep-lying midfielder with an eye for a pass could also be useful.
Who’s on the radar: City are one of a number of clubs to be linked with record-breaking Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, while they have also been credited with an interest in Atletico Madrid’s exciting Argentine forward Ángel Correa.
Likely outcome: It is hard to see Manuel Pellegrini making major additions to his squad. Leicester’s reported asking price of £30 million for Vardy is likely to be a deterrent. Perhaps a center-back may be sought if Martin Demichelis is allowed to move on.
What they need: Despite spending £250 million since Louis van Gaal took charge, the Manchester United squad is still desperately short of an elite attack for a club of their lofty ambitions. With Wayne Rooney clearly on the decline and Anthony Martial still raw, an established top-level striker is a must, as is some more pace out wide. Given injuries to Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo, another option at left-back may also be useful.
Who’s on the radar: Like their neighbors, United are believed to be keen on the Premier League’s top scorer, Vardy. Young Swiss striker Breel Embolo, and two wingers, Southampton’s Sadio Mane and Paris Saint-Germain’s Lucas Moura, have also been linked.
Likely outcome: United won’t be able to get the world-class star they have been chasing for the past two summers, but, if they are prepared to dig deep, they may be able to do a deal for Mane.
What they need: With a new stadium on the horizon, Spurs have adapted a strategy of spending more modestly, but directing it at up-and-coming talent. Under Mauricio Pochettino, they are exceeding expectations and have a real shot at making the top four, at the minimum. But injuries to key players could derail their charge, especially up front, where an alternative to Harry Kane is required.
Who’s on the radar: Tottenham’s pursuit of West Brom’s Saido Berahino descended into the most rancorous transfer saga of last summer. Although the young English striker has hardly impressed since, Pochettino has refused to rule out Spurs reviving their interest.
Likely outcome: West Brom may now be willing to do a deal for Berahino at a more reasonable price, although his attitude issues mean Tottenham could have some doubts about the transfer. Alternatively, a cut-price deal for Brazilian former prodigy Alexandre Pato could be done.