Even though it doesn’t feel like it, we have reached the halfway point in the season, and the January transfer window is now open. Each of the 20 clubs in the Premier League has had good and bad points in their performances and results, but what does each need to add to the squad this month? In this article, I will look to answer that question, giving my thoughts on which positions each side can target to boost them in the coming months.
After a very poor start to the season, which saw them go as low as 15th in the table, Arsenal have managed to find some wins in the last few games, and now look almost a different, more confident side. As far as January additions goes, I think Mikel Arteta just needs a bit of quality for his side all around, just to give them a lift. A regular goalscorer on loan would not be a bad addition, because Alexandre Lacazette has only just started to find the net again, and captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has misplaced his shooting boots in recent weeks, so adding more to the front line would not be a bad move. There have been links to Norwich City’s attacking midfielder Emiliano Buendia, who has been in fine form in the Championship this season, but the Canaries won’t let him go cheaply. Other than that, adding a leader in the middle of the pitch would also be a smart move, as that would help give the defence more protection, as well as organising the team going forward too.
I’m not sure anyone expected Aston Villa to have the season they are having so far, given they only just avoided relegation last season. However, credit to them, they have been magnificent so far, and look now like a squad with all the right quality in the right positions. Bringing in Bertrand Traore and Ollie Watkins has definitely helped solve the “missing goalscorer” problem of last season, whilst Douglas Luiz is the unsung hero in the middle, allowing others like John McGinn to get forward and join the attack. This time last year, we were listing all the positions Villa needed to add to, but I think this year they will be very quiet, with a big squad and no obvious need to add much, if anything.
Brighton and Hove Albion
Brighton have had a poor season, winning only two out of 17 league games, and sit only three points outside the relegation zone. Therefore, it is likely that they will be looking for a few players to come in and boost them in the second part of the season; the defence is a key area to strengthen, because they have been very leaky at the back, conceding 28 goals so far, so having a leader there to organise them and make them harder to beat is a must. Polish midfielder Jakub Moder has been recalled, having signed and left on loan on the summer transfer deadline day, but they still need more to help them survive this season. Graham Potter likes to play attacking football, aiming to get the ball as high up the pitch as possible and put pressure on opposing defences, but he might now need to focus on defending if he wants to keep his team up. In attack, their top scorer in the league is Neal Maupay with six goals, so giving him some help would also be a good move.
Burnley are one of those teams that you want to do well, because they are so honest with their football, and just go about their way regardless of who they are playing; that is why they are so difficult to play against. However, we can’t shy away from the fact that they are only five points outside the relegation zone, having won only four games all season, and that means they need to add some players this month. Over the summer, the club seemed reluctant to make signings, with midfielder Dale Stephens’ move from Brighton their only major move, and I think their low league positioning is the result of that. They can’t afford to have another window of few additions, and need to add more to the team; a new goalscorer, a controlling central midfielder, and a good backup for James Tarkowski and Ben Mee should all be priorities for them, but they just need to make some moves, even if they are on loan. If they get the right players in, they should then have a good chance of staying out of trouble.
After a very busy summer for them, we come to January, with Chelsea struggling to get the team clicking. I wonder if they brought in too many players over the summer, with many now not able to get into the team when I think they would make a difference; young winger Callum Hudson-Odoi is one of those who always changes the game, but hasn’t been consistently given many starts so far. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have both struggled to find regular form this season, and you do have to wonder how much longer they will be given places in the starting 11. I watched Werner in the World Cup in 2018, and wasn’t utterly convinced by him as someone who can lead the line, so I did think it would a risk to bring him in, albeit he had been playing well for RB Leipzig. Unfortunately, so far, his move hasn’t quite paid off for Chelsea and Frank Lampard. I don’t think they will be that busy in January, because they have enough players now to see them through, but the question is whether Lampard can find his best team and get them working together in time, and that is a different matter altogether.
Crystal Palace arguably had one of the more underrated summer transfer windows, looking for proven young talent from EFL clubs, rather than spending loads on players from abroad. Signing midfielder Eberechi Eze was a masterstroke, and one I thought a lot of other clubs might have looked at doing, but Palace are now reaping the rewards of having him in their squad. He has added a significant threat from midfield, and a lot of pace going forwards, and that has caused plenty of problems for their opponents this season; his recent goal against Sheffield United proved that. Another good signing was full-back Nathan Ferguson on a free from West Bromwich Albion; someone who gets up and down the pitch and looked really promising in his time in the Championship with the Baggies. In January, with the club sitting 11 points above the league, I think they will have a window of “we’ll do a deal if it adds anything, but not if it doesn’t”, and will look to bring in perhaps one player on loan to give them an extra boost, but otherwise I don’t expect too much business to be done at Selhurst Park.
Everton had a flying start to the season, but have stalled of late. I don’t think that will mean they go out and add lots of players, because they did well in January with the ones they did bring in; Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez have all slotted in well to the team, and you can see that Carlo Ancelotti now has the squad moulded to how he wants it, and their results and league positioning reflect that. They may be seventh in the table, but they are only four points off leaders and rivals Liverpool, and the teams above them are all stuttering a bit, so there is no reason why they can’t finish in a European place this season. I think, as far as this window goes, unless Ancelotti sees something he likes, Everton will stay relatively quiet.
Fulham had a poor start to the season, but have shown in recent games that they have the fight in them to mount a survival campaign. Whether they have the players to do so is another question, but they certainly look in a better place this season than last time they were in the Premier League, when they went down with a whimper. However, they still miss a regular goalscorer; Alexander Mitrovic was a proven goal machine in the Championship, but he has struggled this season, and some off-the-pitch matters have not helped this. Their top scorer in the league this season is Bobby Decordova-Reid, but he has only scored four goals, so clearly bringing in a striker needs to be a priority, and preferably someone with proven Premier League experience and, if possible, relegation battle experience.
Leeds United have their own unique way of playing football, and that hasn’t changed in their transition from the Championship to the Premier League. It has caused problems for some teams, but others have worked out how to beat it and punish their high back line. Leeds may be strong in attack, but defending, and particularly opposing set-pieces, has been where they have fallen down. Therefore, adding to their defence has to be a priority for them this month, whether it is with a permanent signing or a loan signing, but they just need to change something there. In attack, they don’t need to add anything too urgently, because they have plenty of players who are creative and can set up and score goals, as has been the case this season; Brazilian winger Raphinha in particular has been brilliant so far for them. I think, after bringing in so many players over the summer, it will be a quiet window for Leeds, but just adding one or two to increase their options and add extra strength will definitely benefit them.
Leicester have made a really good start to the season, challenging once again for Champions League football next season. The big thing about their team is the balance they have, with James Justin moving to left-back at times, a position he has previously played in for Luton Town, aAnd Belgium international Timothy Castagne has come in at right-back to compete with Ricardo Pereira. Now, they have a threat on either wing, and I do think that Justin is a long-term left-back option, as I wrote about in an article for Total Football Analysis. As far as this window goes, I think Brendan Rodgers won’t want to change too much, but I do think that another centre-forward is a must for them, because they need to bring in suitable cover for Jamie Vardy; at the moment, Kelechi Iheanacho comes in as his replacement, but, whilst he is a good sub to have, he never looks the same when starting games, and it means Leicester lack a threat in the final third when Vardy isn’t there.
Liverpool need to bring in a new centre-back; I think everyone agrees on that. I was saying that back in the summer, before their injury problems arose, because I always felt that, having lost Dejan Lovren to Zenit St. Petersburg, and with only Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk as senior central defensive options, they looked a bit short. Unfortunately, all three have suffered injuries at times this season, and I do think that this has been their undoing at times. The Reds have been linked with Lille’s Sven Botman and Ajax’s Per Schurrs, but Jurgen Klopp has apparently said he doesn’t want to bring any new players in this month, which I do think is a worry. A possible summer option is Bayern Munich’s Austria international David Alaba, but I still feel they need to address this problem this month, even if it is with just a loan signing. In attack, they haven’t had the same fluency as last season, and have dropped a lot of points this season to teams they were beating comfortably previously, so, whilst they were top at Christmas, it hasn’t been as happy a time for them of late. I don’t think they need to add anything here though; only in defence.
Manchester City are another team who have had a few wobbles this season, although they have looked more in control in recent games. They do still lie in fifth place at the moment though, four points off leaders and rivals Liverpool, which they won’t like, but they have only lost two games this season. However, as we have seen in the last two seasons, two losses can be too many to win the title with, and those losses came against Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur, so two teams also fighting for European football. I don’t think that Pep Guardiola will make too many moves in this window, because he doesn’t tend to, and I think they will be fine with what they currently have. The defence is where they have looked shaky at times, but this season, with summer addition Ruben Dias partnering the recalled and in-form John Stones, it has looked much more difficult to penetrate.
A lot of criticism has been thrown at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season for the results Manchester United were having at the start of the season, but they have risen up the table and now sit in second place in the league. They were unbeaten in December, winning five and drawing two games, but they still have a few areas to work on. Defensively, they have looked quite shaky at times, conceding some really poor goals, and have let in 24 already, which is the most in the top half of the table, so it is clear that this is somewhere they could target this month. In the final third, they look much better, especially with Edinson Cavani as an option. However, sometimes they just need to get a player into the middle of the box to be a target player, but that can be fixed without adding any other players this January. There have been links to young Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, who looks to be a future talent, but, if I was them, I would look to add another defender to the team to stem the flow of goals being conceded. Other than those potential incomings, I don’t expect them to do too much business.
Newcastle made quite a few astute signings last summer, with the likes of Jamal Lewis and Callum Wilson coming in from Norwich City and Bournemouth respectively to add defensive quality and goals to the team; Wilson has already added what they missed last season at times, which was a relatively consistent goalscorer. However, their form has been mixed, with periods of looking unbeatable to periods when they look very easy to beat and short on confidence. They currently sit 15th in the table, which I don’t think is a bad place to be, but, if they can add a few more players in this window, adding a bit more strength in all areas of the pitch, they should be fine. I don’t think they need to go out and spend a lot, but just a few here and there will definitely give them a boost.
What can we say about Sheffield United that hasn’t already been said? I think the problem is that, last season, when they came up, they had an unusual style of play that caught a lot of teams out, with the centre-backs moving outside the full-backs to double up on the wings. However, and we saw this start to happen at the end of last season, teams have now worked out how to play against them. If you couple that with the fact that they have lost confidence at the back, as shown by Eberechi Eze’s goal for Crystal Palace just last weekend, and the goals have dried up at the other end, then we can see what the problems are for them. It therefore goes without saying that this month is very important for them, as they need to bring in players to help their massive fight in the second half of the season. There are no specific positions they need to address; just everything needs looking at and improving.
Just like in 2019/2020, Southampton have had a brilliant season, providing plenty of problems for plenty of teams. The goals of Danny Ings have definitely helped them since he came in, but the whole team has quality in it. At the back, Jannik Vestergaard and Jan Bednarek have been a solid defensive duo. In midfield, captain James Ward-Prowse always provides a threat, whilst Moussa Djenepo, Theo Walcott and Stuart Armstrong are all capable of cutting in from the wings and asking questions of opposing defenders, and summer signing Ibrahima Diallo adds a defensive quality to balance them out. In attack, Che Adams has settled in to the team after a difficult first season, alongside Ings and Shane Long, so they have plenty of options there as well. I don’t expect there to be too many incomings this month, because they don’t need any urgent repairs. However, as with every team, one or two would never hurt.
Jose Mourinho has now made Tottenham his own team, and, just like with Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, we can now see them playing as he wants them to. The results reflect this newfound confidence on the pitch, and, after a season of looking to finish as high up the pitch as possible, they are now going after a Champions League place once again. He made some really good signings over the summer, but the partnership between Son Heung-min and Harry Kane has been the main driving force in their good form, with the rest of the team built around getting the ball up to those two as often as possible. Jose Mourinho doesn’t generally sign players in January unless he has to, and I don’t think he needs to in this window, so I expect that it will be a quiet month for them.
West Bromwich Albion
West Brom have not had a happy time back in the Premier League, and have been the only Premier League team to change manager so far, with Slaven Bilic being sacked and replaced by relegation battle veteran Sam Allardyce. The task given to the former England manager is simply to survive, but, with the squad he has, you wonder whether that will be possible. I have mentioned it a lot, but, when coming into the Premier League, you need to add Premier League experience to the team, and they didn’t on the whole; only former Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has spent a good amount of time in the division out of their summer additions. Allardyce will no doubt want to bring in some experienced players to help them in the coming months, and the defence is where I expect them to be doing quite a bit of reshaping, with their 39 conceded goals being the most in the division. If they can get a clean sheet, they can build on that and then look to pick up vital points. Therefore, I expect a fair amount of movement at the Hawthorns this month.
West Ham United
At the start of this season, I mentioned in a feature for West Ham magazine Blowing Bubbles how I thought a good aim for the Hammers this season would be to stay away from the relegation battle, but they are doing more than that. I think the main positive thing has been the confidence that they have been playing with, and that comes from the players they have in the team. Jarrod Bowen was an inspired signing this time last year, because he is a goal machine, and, when I watched him at Hull City in the Championship, he was everywhere for them, scoring from every possible angle you can think of. Add in the likes of Michail Antonio, who has been successfully transformed into a centre forward since the league restarted last season, the rejuvenated Pablo Fornals, and new signing Said Benrahma, initially on loan from Brentford, and you can see the amount of creativity they now have in the final third. As far as this window goes, a new striker might be needed, with Sebastien Haller off to Ajax, according to reports, but I don’t think they need to go out and urgently find players to make a difference, as they have needed to in previous winter windows. However, seeing as they are in 10th place at the moment, David Moyes might want to find one other player just to boost the side and maybe get them further up the table, but there’s no need to unless he finds the right one for the team.
Wolves’ main problem this season has been creativity in the final third. They have had plenty of moments, but have often looked short of options. The main problem I think, and I wrote this in a Premier League midseason guide for Total Football Analysis, is that they lack suitable cover for Raul Jimenez; this problem has been highlighted in recent weeks, and, without the Mexican, they don’t have the same confidence in front of goal. They have plenty of wingers, but not a striker who can ably step into his shoes and put the ball in the net on a regular basis (Fabio Silva is a promising young prospect, but I still think he’s too young to be landed with that responsibility at the moment). Therefore, it seems obvious that they go and look for a striker this month. They have already recalled Italy international Patrick Cutrone from his loan at Fiorentina, as well as midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White from Swansea, and there have been links to former Chelsea striker Diego Costa, all of which shows that they think the same thing, and need to add in that position. Defensively. I think they are fine, and have enough to last certainly through to the end of the season, but, if they want to make the next step up and really challenge the top teams in the European spaces, as we see them constantly wanting to do, then I think they need to add another top centre forward to the team.
This article has looked at each of the 20 teams in the Premier League, giving my thoughts for where they can improve and add to their squads in this season’s January transfer window. I have given some analysis on what each team is doing right or wrong this season, but, ultimately, for those teams that have got things to work on, we are only halfway through this strange season, and there is still time to improve. However, recruitment will be really interesting to see this month, with finances being tight for a lot of teams, so one possibility is that we may see more loan deals and signings from EFL clubs than we normally do.