Start up the rumour mill, the January transfer window has officially opened for Premier League sides and with it a month of transfer talks begin.
The winter window often comes with its pitfalls, namely the difficult in finding value for money midway through a campaign, with many of the game’s negotiators viewing January largely as a time for panic buys in a bid to salvage a season.
That said, there has been some brilliant business in recent years with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United finding success in Virgil van Dijk and Bruno Fernandes respectively, so we’ve decided to look at where each of England’s elite could look to strengthen this time around.
Here’s one position each ‘big six’ side needs to strengthen in the January transfer window:
Arsenal – Attacking midfield
Arsenal’s lack of creativity has been evident this season with the Gunners having struggled for goals, scoring just 16 times in their 16 league fixtures during the club’s worst-ever start to a Premier League campaign.
Whilst the goals have dried up for club captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it is perhaps more a lack of invention that has proven costly with Arsenal‘s play having lacked a creative spark this season.
Mikel Arteta has turned to youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli of late, but an experienced and high-quality creator could have a transformative effect on a struggling side.
Houssem Aouar has been linked with a move to the Emirates in recent months but the Lyon midfielder would cost a significant sum, whilst Norwich’s Emiliano Buendia – who ranked fourth for chances created in the Premier League last season despite the Canaries’ relegation – has also been mooted as a potential target.
Arteta could look to Italy, however, for value in his search for creative flair and invention, with Papu Gomez and Hakan Calhanoglu attractive and attainable targets.
Gomez has provided more assists than any other player in Serie A over the past three seasons and the 32-year-old is keen to leave Atalanta after falling out with manager Gian Piero Gasperini. Calhanoglu, meanwhile, has created more chances than any other player in Europe this season and has entered the final months of his contract at AC Milan.
Chelsea – Centre-back
Chelsea’s expensive spending means that Frank Lampard’s wish-list is perhaps shorter than his top six contemporaries, having splashed out more than £220m on addressing his squad’s flaws during the summer.
Lampard’s recruitment drive included the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Edouard Mendy, the latter having filled a glaring weakness in the Blues side after impressing in goal over the opening months of the campaign.
Chelsea have improved defensively this season and possess the third-best defensive record in the division, but whilst the summer arrival of Thiago Silva has proven a shrewd signing it is important for the west London side to plan for the long term.
Silva turned 36-years-old earlier this season and was signed as a stop-gap at centre-back, whilst the likes of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen will enter the final year of their deals next summer and have failed to convince lately.
Declan Rice vs Everton:
87% pass accuracy
1 big chance created
100% dribble success
4/4 ground duels won
Still just 21 years old. Easy to see why he’s a key Chelsea target. pic.twitter.com/Hv9znTr5z7
— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) January 1, 2021
Fikayo Tomori is also expected to leave on loan and the arrival of a new centre-back could help Chelsea continue their development this season, with West Ham’s Declan Rice – currently playing in midfield at the London Stadium but earmarked for a defensive role – reportedly the club’s top target.
Liverpool – Centre-back
Another side potentially seeking defensive reinforcements this winter is Premier League champions Liverpool, who have seen their options decimated during the current campaign with a series of injuries.
Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are both expected to miss the majority of the season after sustaining serious knee injuries, whilst the fragility of Joel Matip is another major concern for the Reds, who have utilised midfielder Fabinho in central defence for much of the campaign.
Inexperienced duo Rhys Williams and Nathaniel Phillips have received minutes this season with Dejan Lovren having departed for Zenit St Petersburg during the summer, though it would represent a huge risk for Jurgen Klopp to abstain from doing business in January.
Ozan Kabak, Dayot Upamecano, Ben White and experienced free agent Ezequiel Garay are amongst the names to have been linked with Anfield in recent weeks, despite suggestions in the media that Klopp is happy with his current contingent.
Liverpool have previous in keeping deals under wraps and the arrival of a new centre-back would come as little surprise given the club’s stretched resources.
Manchester City – Striker
Just a matter of months ago Manchester City were enjoying a free-scoring end to the 2019/20 season, netting four or more goals on six occasions following the Premier League’s restart in June.
Solving the club’s defensive fragility was top of Pep Guardiola’s agenda during the summer with more than £100m splashed on Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias, the latter having impressed hugely at the heart of the division’s best defence.
City’s new-found solidity has come at the cost of the attacking verve that has defined their game in recent seasons, however, so a new striker may be on the club’s transfer wish-list this winter.
Sergio Aguero has struggled for fitness this season and has made just two Premier League starts following knee and hamstring issues, whilst the Argentina international has just months remaining on his contract with no decision yet made on an extension.
Gabriel Jesus possesses an impressive goalscoring record at the Etihad but is yet to truly convince he can be the long-term solution in attack, a striker search soon set to begin for Guardiola and his recruitment team.
Manchester United – Right-back
Manchester United’s summer recruitment was widely criticised with a deadline day flurry viewed as papering over the cracks, but as we approach the halfway point in the season the Red Devils are level on points with league leaders Liverpool.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have found some momentum over the festive period with eight league wins during a 10-game unbeaten run, and January offers the Norwegian a chance to add to his options and bolster ahead of a potential title tilt.
Man United‘s defensive options are the club’s biggest area of concern with no side in the top half having conceded more goals so far this season, and whilst their centre-back options are unconvincing it is at full-back where greater emphasis could perhaps be placed.
Aaron Wan Bissaka seeing Man utd are linked with a RB pic.twitter.com/2ym9jaLS8K
— ☬ (@UtdKomal) January 1, 2021
Aaron Wan-Bissaka arrived at the club in a £50m deal from Crystal Palace and whilst the defender undoubtedly has his qualities there are few disputing that sum was a vast overpayment.
The 23-year-old is a superb one-against-one defender and has made more tackles than any other player in the Premier League since the start of last season, but he offers very little going forward and has provided just one assist in the league this season.
Man United have been linked with a move to sign Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid and a player of similar profile to the England international would offer the Red Devils a different dynamic, particularly against opposition sides happy to sit deep defensively and absorb pressure.
Tottenham Hotspur – Centre-back
Another side who addressed much of their glaring weaknesses during a busy summer of recruitment, there remain holes in Jose Mourinho’s squad despite their improvement so far this season.
Centre-back is perhaps a position the Portuguese could look to strengthen during the winter window, with the north London side’s options beyond first-choice duo Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier unconvincing.
Davinson Sanchez has failed to build on the initial promise that saw Spurs splash a huge £42m to sign him from Ajax, the Colombia international having failed to win Mourinho’s trust and making just five Premier League appearances this season.
Joe Rodon remains inexperienced and has made just four league appearances since signing from Championship side Swansea during the summer, and with Spurs remaining in four competitions this season another experienced and reliable figure could be needed.