Santa will soon be doing the rounds and Premier League clubs will have been busy penning their wish-lists for the festive season.
With a January transfer window fast approaching and a multitude of other issues to address, we’ve looked at what each Premier League club will be hoping for under the tree this Christmas.
Arsenal – A scheduled celebration for May
There’s only one thing on Arsenal’s wish-list this winter, with the Gunners sights set firmly on the Premier League title. Last season’s late collapse was tough to take for the North Londoners, who for so long looked set to upset the odds and be crowned champions.
A Declan Rice-reinforced midfield has strengthened Arsenal’s credentials this time around, with Mikel Arteta’s team again table-toppers as we tuck into our turkeys. A first Premier League crown since 2003/04 is attainable for Arsenal.
A fearless performance away from home ✊
Check out all the best bits from our draw on the road 👇 pic.twitter.com/9kG18WCcqx
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) December 23, 2023
Aston Villa – Big-time European away days
Another side who will be prepared to postpone their present until the end of the season, a fine start to the campaign has Aston Villa fans daring to dream. Unai Emery’s upwardly mobile outfit are just a point from the top and, with sides stuttering around them, have a real chance of Champions League football.
Villa have not competed in the Champions League/European Cup since 1982/83, when entering the competition as defending European champions.
Bournemouth – A Lloyd Kelly contract extension
The new-manager bounce at Bournemouth took a little while to kick in, but the Cherries are charging up the Premier League table under Andoni Iraola. There’s a feel-good factor on the south coast right now, with new(ish) owners and a new manager having increased expectations.
Key to continuing their improvement will be tying down their top names. Lloyd Kelly’s contract expires at the end of the season and the versatile defender is said to be attracting interest from Liverpool, Tottenham, Newcastle and AC Milan among others. A Kelly contract extension would be a big boost for Bournemouth.
Brentford – Ivan Toney, committed and available
Brentford have been without the services of Ivan Toney this season after last season’s leading scorer was suspended for eight months in May. Banned for breaching gambling rules, the 27-year-old’s absence has been a big blow to Thomas Frank’s plans.
Toney, who scored 20 Premier League goals last season, will be available to return in January, though speculation continues to link the England international with an exit. With Bryan Mbeumo currently sidelined through injury, Brentford will hope their most reliable source of goals will ignore overtures from rival clubs and hit the ground running on his return.
Brighton – A Europa League run
Brighton’s first foray into Europe has been a memorable one so far, bouncing back from a false start against AEK Athens to top a group containing the Greek side, Ajax and Marseille.
Big nights await if the Seagulls can reach the Europa League’s latter rounds, having booked a place in the last 16. West Ham, Rangers and Liverpool could all await deep into the tournament, while AC Milan, Benfica and Feyenoord have dropped in from the Champions League. The stage is set for some big nights on the south coast.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) December 15, 2023
Burnley – Premier League experience
Burnley’s return to the top tier has been tough, with the Clarets in 19th as the Christmas celebrations begin. Vincent Kompany’s side have talent, but perhaps lack the Premier League experience required to survive.
Only Chelsea have a lower average age than Burnley (24.8) this season, while many of the club’s recent signings have arrived without experience of English football, or senior top-tier football. The January window presents a chance for Kompany to bring on board the know-how his team needs.
Chelsea – Continuity
We’re not sure who runs the admin at Chelsea, but it’s fair to say they deserve a bonus this Christmas. It’s been change, change and more change in West London under Todd Boehly’s ownership, with five different managers and 29 new players coming in the door in less than two years at the helm.
Results, predictably, have been inconsistent with Chelsea struggling to find identity as their mishmash of new signings look to gel under Mauricio Pochettino. Some continuity would go a long way to improving results. The talent is there.
Crystal Palace – Fresh direction
Where are Crystal Palace heading right now? The panic-button was pressed last season with the sacking of Patrick Vieira, as the Eagles board got jittery after a downturn in form. In came a familiar face in Roy Hodgson, who oversaw an impressive improvement to take Palace to safety.
The 76-year-old signed a one-year extension to continue into the current campaign, though Palace have endured an underwhelming start and are seven Premier League games without a win. Change now could be a risk, but Palace need a long-term plan in place for the summer at least.
Everton – A Premier League U-turn
There’s only one thing Evertonians want for Christmas – a U-turn on the Premier League’s decision to deduct the Toffees 10 points for breaching profit and sustainability rules. Everton called the punishment an ‘unjust sanction’ and have appealed the decision.
Currently just four points above the relegation places, Everton would be in the top half if their punishment was overturned in full.
Fulham – An Aleksandar Mitrovic replacement
Just five players have ever scored more goals for Fulham than Aleksandar Mitrovic, who plundered 111 in all competitions during his five-and-a-half seasons in West London.
The life-changing riches on offer in the Saudi Pro League saw the Serb set sail last summer, leaving Fulham short of goal threat. Despite Raul Jimenez showing signs of his former self of late, Fulham need firepower to remain clear of trouble.
61.5% of the club’s league goals this season came in a four-game burst between November 27 and December 10. That purple patch looks an anomaly given their lack of goals for much of the season.
Liverpool – A defensive midfielder
Liverpool’s midfield rebuild worked out well in the summer despite some uncharacteristic uncertainty surrounding transfer targets, with Dominik Szoboszlai, Alexis Mac Allister and Ryan Gravenberch having lowered the average age of the engine room.
The search for a Fabinho successor landed at Wataru Endo, following an embarrassing situation that saw Moises Caicedo and Romeo Lavia opt for Chelsea over Anfield. The Japan international has grown in recent weeks but, at 30, represents a short-term solution.
Luton Town – A healthy Tom Lockyer
Football was put into perspective last weekend, when Luton captain Tom Lockyer suffered a cardiac arrest during the club’s game with Bournemouth. The incident was the second time Lockyer has suffered heart issues, after collapsing during The Hatters’ play-off final win over Coventry in May.
The Welshman’s health will be at the forefront of Luton wishes this Christmas.
“They saved (Tom Lockyer). They’re heroes.” ❤ pic.twitter.com/u7ctc6V9gV
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) December 22, 2023
Manchester City – Kevin De Bruyne at full fitness
Manchester City have not looked quite the same force so far this season, with the treble-winners six points off leaders Arsenal, albeit with a game in hand.
A big factor in City’s unconvincing start has been the absence of Kevin De Bruyne, who has not featured since the Premier League’s opening weekend due to a hamstring problem. Last season’s Premier League Playmaker of the Season, for a record-extending third time, the Belgium’s creativity could be the champion’s catalyst for a second half of the season surge.
List completed! ✅
Well done boys!!! pic.twitter.com/ypZ3UGUBue
— Kevin De Bruyne (@KevinDeBruyne) December 22, 2023
Manchester United – A team to be proud of
Comparative to the previous two, the last decade has been miserable for Manchester United. The once powerhouse of the Premier League has become stuck in a never-ending doom cycle, with new regimes only leading to the inevitable resurfacing of deep-rooted issues.
Erik ten Hag is the club’s fifth permanent manager since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013, but a positive debut campaign has been followed with a poor start to his second season. It’s now 13 defeats in all competitions for the Red Devils, many of which have come with a whimper.
The club’s issues start right from the top, but bad ownership is no excuse for a lack of fight on the pitch. That has been too apparent too often this season.
Newcastle – New goalkeeper
The injuries have mounted up for Eddie Howe and Newcastle this season, though few are as difficult to replace as Nick Pope. The goalkeeper suffered a shoulder injury against Manchester United earlier this month and is facing a minimum of four months out.
A new number one should be on the agenda for the Magpies, as January approaches. Spanish shot-stopper David de Gea could be the ideal festive gift for Howe, given his availability as a free agent. Feliz Navidad.
Nottingham Forest – A guide on how to defend set-pieces
The appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo should bring some defensive structure to Nottingham Forest, with the pragmatism of the Portuguese coach chosen to aid the club’s survival fight.
Only the bottom two teams have conceded more goals than Forest (33) this season, while no side has allowed more in from set-piece situations (9). Improving on those records should be a priority after six defeats in their last seven.
Sheffield United – Premier League points
An obvious one, but when you’re rooted to the bottom of the table Premier League points are all that matters.
Chris Wilder’s return as manager has lifted the Blades, who have taken four points from their last three games. It’s a foundation to build upon, ahead of a Boxing Day showdown with relegation rivals Luton Town.
Tottenham – A new centre-back
During the opening months of the season, Tottenham spent time as table-toppers and boasted one of the best centre-back pairings in the division in Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven. The latter’s hamstring injury has left Spurs short in central defence, with Ben Davies deputising out-of-position at the heart of the defence in recent weeks.
Ange Postecoglou has made clear his plan to bring in reinforcements next month, with reports having linked Spurs with Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo. The France international would be an ideal addition to boost the club’s Champions League hopes.
🚨🥇| #Spurs have entered talks with OGC Nice over Jean-Clair Todibo and are currently thought to be ahead of United in the race for his signature.
Nice are prepared to do a deal with Spurs for the right price, rather than hold out for United. [The impending United takeover] is… pic.twitter.com/FUK5hpz0Ul
— The Spurs Express (@TheSpursExpress) December 22, 2023
West Ham – The (overdue) arrival of a reliable number nine
West Ham have a rather chequered history when it comes to signing strikers. Sebastien Haller and Gianluca Scamacca are among the high-profile disappointments of recent windows, forwards who – despite obvious talent – failed to click at the London Stadium.
While Jarrod Bowen is doing a fine job as an auxiliary centre-forward at present, a recognised out-and-out number nine should be at the forefront of West Ham’s wishes. An ageing Michail Antonio and Danny Ings fail to cut it for a team with ambitions of challenging the top teams.
Wolves – Pedro Neto fit and firing
Pedro Neto has not played a minute of Premier League football since late October, but remains the joint-leading source of assists in the division. The Portugal international’s effervescent talent has suffered several setbacks in recent campaigns, though this season’s opening weeks provided a reminder of his qualities.
In a Wolves team that has traditionally struggled for goals, Neto’s sparkling wing-play added real threat for Gary O’Neil’s team. The sooner he can return from a hamstring injury the better for Wolves.