With just 17 days remaining of the winter transfer window, it’s startling how little transfer business has been conducted by Premier League clubs this month.
It’s evident that a lot of teams need a lot of work in order to improve performances and thus results, but in what areas should each top-six Premier League side be looking to improve during the winter transfer window?
A chaotic season on and off the pitch for Arsenal finally seems to be settling down, with Mikel Arteta beginning to implement a tactical structure to the side which was so dearly lacking in the final months of Unai Emery’s tenure.
Arsenal sit in 11th in both the expected goals for (xGF) and expected goals against (xGA) tables, so it’s hard to pin down exactly which end of the pitch they should focus on as both clearly need work. However, it’d be fair to suggest a lot of the North London side’s offensive players have underperformed this season, whilst there is definitely a severe personnel issue defensively.
David Luiz and Sokratis have underwhelmed until recent weeks, whilst Rob Holding has faced fitness issues and Calum Chambers has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. With Shkodran Mustafi likely to depart, this should definitely be an area Arsenal should focus on strengthening this window, even if it is with a short-term acquisition.
Protecting the back four has also been a problem for Arsenal this season, having conceded more shots than all but two Premier League sides. Whilst this was largely a structural issue caused by Unai Emery’s strange tactical system and Arteta has gone some way to reducing the number of shots faced, Arsenal evidently lack athleticism in their double pivot.
Lucas Torreira has been excellent in recent weeks in his natural holding role, but his short frame means he can sometimes be physically intimidated by imposing opposition midfielders. Providing a dynamic alternative to the revitalised Granit Xhaka to compliment Torreria should be a priority this month.
Potential signings: Dayot Upamecano, Jerome Boateng, Nathan Ake, Tyrone Mings, Boubakary Soumare, Abdoulaye Doucoure.
Most of Chelsea’s struggles this season have come against lesser opposition at Stamford Bridge. Whilst excelling away from home, with pacey attackers set up to hit teams on the counter working wonders, it has often been their inability to cut though teams with disciplined defensive blocks that has seen them unable to really assert themselves and further cement their place in the top four.
The West London side have been linked with several strikers this month, most notably Lyon’s Moussa Dembele, but this is not really a problem area for them. Tammy Abraham has outperformed his xG this season, scoring 13 times from 11.24 expected, whilst he has also notched up an impressive 0.6 xG per 90, greater than the likes of Jamie Vardy and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The problem lies deeper in the pitch, with their centre-halves poor ball playing abilities meaning they have issues progressing the ball from deep, with this responsibility solely being left on Jorginho. Kurt Zouma and Antonio Rudiger struggle to play expansive passes which could help speed up the pace of the Chelsea attack, key to breaking down packed defences, so moving for a defender who could help in this area is key.
Additionally, with Marcus Alonso and Emerson Palmieri underwhelming, targeting a left-back would be advised, with this being the side where goals they concede often come from.
Potential signings: Nathan Ake, Daniele Rugani, Kalidou Koulibaly, Lewis Dunk, Ben Chilwell, Christian Gunter, Lucas Digne.
Do Liverpool need to do anything? Their near perfect results would suggest there’s not an awful lot you can do to strengthen their team, but perhaps there are ways to strengthen their squad. To remain as consistent as they have been for the remainder of the season and to compete for a second successive Champions League trophy, they would may still require additional depth.
We know how reliant they are on their full-backs for providing creativity, and if one was to pick up an injury, they do not have the quality to replicate that final third output in their reserve players. James Milner can do a job there and Neco Williams is a bright prospect who has demonstrated this in various cup games this season, but it would be a huge ask for them to fill the void left by Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold in Klopp’s intense system.
Adding a versatile full-back with impressive output numbers could be vital for their competitiveness to remain at such a high level in the case either of their prized assets suffer injury.
Potential signings: Christian Gunter, Philip Max, Max Aarons.
Man City are another team you could look at and say that they are not in dire need of reinforcements. Whilst results have suffered somewhat, they remain as creative as they ever have been, and are on course to exceed their xGF from the previous two campaigns. Their problems are clearly defensively, with their xGA higher than both leaders Liverpool and neighbours Manchester United.
These defensive issues stem from a number of reasons: the loss of Vincent Kompany (departure) and Aymeric Laporte (injury); Fernandinho being deployed out of position as a makeshift centre-back, leaving the back four less protected with Rodri not as strong defensively as the Brazilian; Benjamin Mendy, a highly offensive full-back, receiving much more game time, with Fabian Delph or Oleksandr Zinchenko, both more disciplined, playing in this role more frequently last season.
Whether or not City actually address these problems this month with Laporte reportedly close to his return, they certainly have the resources to, and ought to look for a long-term partner for the Frenchman at some point.
Potential signings: Caglar Soyuncu, Kalidou Koulibaly, Samuel Umtiti, Dayot Upamecano.
United’s season continues to be plagued with inconsistency, and it will continue to be that way until Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is significantly backed financially. The squad simply isn’t good enough.
Whilst their impressive xGF+A stats suggest they are slightly unlucky in their current league positioning, it’s clear to see where their problems lie. The pace they possess in attacking areas means they are very effective on the counter, but their lack of incisive midfield ball players means they struggle when being forced to instigate play in possession.
Juan Mata is far past his best, Andreas Pereira and Fred are extremely average despite signs of moderate improvement, and Jesse Lingard is well, Jese Lingard. Without Paul Pogba, they lack a single effective midfield player who can progress the ball and be creative in possession. And with Pogba likely to leave Manchester sooner or later, this is an area desperately in need of strengthening.
Additionally, providing increased protection to their back four is key. Nemanja Matic and Scott McTominay aren’t sufficient enough. A new left-back would be good as well, but asking for such significant investment in one short window from this incompetent Manchester United board may be a bit excessive.
Potential signings: James Maddison, Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes, Sean Longstaff, Wilfried Ndidi, Declan Rice.
Mourinho inherited a mess at Spurs, and it’s understandable that he hasn’t answered every question as of yet. Offensively they have been poor this season, sitting 13th in the xGF table, whilst they have only managed two league clean sheets all season and sit behind Wolves and Sheffield United in the xGA table (higher xGA).
This would suggest most of their problems have come going forward, despite the intense media outcry on their defence. Harry Kane’s injury means recruiting a striker is absolutely essential, whilst Christian Eriksen could potentially leave with his contract set to expire in the summer, and even if the Dane remains his form is so poor that his once reliable creative influence has all but vanished.
In addition, they are still desperately in need of deeper midfield players, with Moussa Sissoko out injured, Harry Winks and Eric Dier continuing their mediocrity and Tanguy Ndombele in and out of the team with injuries.
Defensively, Jan Vertonghen needs a long-term replacement, whilst Serge Aurier continues to be a liability. Oh and, Mourinho appears to dislike Danny Rose a lot, so a left-back would be beneficial. Other than that, not a lot Spurs need to do.
Potential signings: Gedson Fernandes, Krzysztof Piatek, Thomas Lemar, Max Aarons.