In the Premier League, and across Europe, the start of the new year means the opening of the transfer window and the chance for teams to bolster their ranks going into the second half of the season. Often January is more hype than reality, with the best players not available, at least not at reasonable prices, and clubs opting to refresh their squad in the summer.
But this time around there promises to be some serious business conducted over the next month. In the most unpredictable, wide open Premier League in recent memory, a host of teams have a huge opportunity to achieve unexpected success. Here’s a selection of teams who could do just that, with the help of one or two key additions.
What they need: Arsenal reached the halfway point of the season in top spot and have their best chance yet of ending their 12-year title drought. Perhaps the greatest threat to that objective is consistent injury problems and a lack of squad depth. Injuries have struck particularly strongly in midfield, where Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, are ruled out for the next two and three months, respectively. While Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey have performed admirably as replacements in the past few weeks, reinforcements are surely required, particularly with Flamini and Mikel Arteta both slowing down and likely to leave the club in the summer.
Who they could get: In contrast to past transfer windows, Arsenal look set to get some business done early this time around. Basel’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Elneny is expected to complete a move to the Emirates Stadium for around £5 million in the coming days, having reportedly already completed a medical. Midfielders Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan and Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot have also been linked, as have striking options. But there is a strong possibility that Elneny could well be the only arrival.
What they need: Expectations weren’t especially high at Tottenham at the start of the season, given that there has been a focus put on young talent and balancing the books ahead of a move to a new stadium. But manager Mauricio Pochettino’s astute marshalling of his inexperienced squad and the open nature of the Premier League means Spurs go into 2016 in fourth place, just four points off the top spot. Yet there will be frustration that their situation could be even better. Tottenham have drawn eight games, many of them at the start of the season when they struggled to score as their one true out-and-out striker, Harry Kane, went through a barren patch. Particularly given forward Clinton N’Jie is now out for at least two months, another striker is surely required.
Who they could get: The obvious option is the man they came so close to getting in the summer, Saido Berahino. Spurs are rumored to still very much be interested in the England Under-21 international, although given he has played seldomly since reacting angrily to being denied a move to White Hart Lane in the summer, they will surely expect his valuation to have dropped considerably. If they cannot strike a deal, then Valencia’s former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo has also been cited as an option, as has Marseille’s highly rated Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi.
What they need: This is not a hard one, given Manchester United’s desperate lack of pace and verve in the final third and just 22 goals scored in 19 Premier League games. While much criticism has been directed at manager Louis van Gaal, who may not been in charge to spend the considerable cash reserves at Old Trafford in January, there is also a staggering lack of established attacking quality in the squad for a club of Manchester United’s ambitions and resources. Whoever is in charge must surely address that failing if United are to climb back into the Champions League places and perhaps still mount a challenge for the title.
Who they could get: Manchester United expressed an interest in Southampton’s dynamic forward Sadio Mané in the summer and could well go back in January. Already adapted to the Premier League and with the ability to create and score, he would certainly add something to United’s front line. However, it is highly doubtful that Southampton will be willing to sell for anything other than an astronomical fee. And United could well encounter similar resistance if they are to follow through reported interest in Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy. Especially as he will turn 29 in January and has been a regular scorer at the top level for just half a season, it is hard to imagine United paying a fee that would convince Leicester City to sell.
What they need: When Jurgen Klopp took charge at Anfield in October he insisted that he already had the quality at his disposal to turnaround the team’s fortunes and that players would be given a chance to prove themselves. Yet continued inconsistent results might prove a rethink. The main issue remains at the back, where, despite Klopp’s comments to the contrary, a top-class, commanding goalkeeper is sorely needed. A solid center-back would also go a long way if Liverpool are to capitalize on a real opportunity to push for the Champions League and just perhaps even a title challenge.
Who they could get: Since taking over, it has been frequently suggested that Klopp will look to his former club Borussia Dortmund for reinforcements. While most of his potential targets would be out of reach, one player who could be attainable is center-back Nevan Subotic. The Serbian international has hardly featured this season, and, having worked with Klopp at both Mainz and Dortmund, should need little time to adapt. Another rumored option is Schalke center-back Joel Matip, although that deal looks more likely to go through in the summer, when he will be out of contract.