(Editor’s Note: The Scout has researched each of the twenty Premiership clubs and provides you with an insightful analysis of the upcoming January transfer window)
Despite the constant rumours regarding more attacking midfielders and wingers headed to the Emirates Stadium, the Gunners could use some depth at the back and in the longer term a replacement for Jens Lehmann is needed. Eric Abidal, Lyon’s starting left-back, would allow Gallas to play in his preferred role as a central defender. Another potential purchase could be Gareth Bale from Southampton. Another name often linked with Arsenal is West Bromwich Albion’s Curtis Davies. Davies proved himself ready for the Premiership last season and was often West Brom’s best performer in their failed relegation fight. The price tag during the summer was in excess of £10million and there is little to suggest that West Brom will drop the price drastically. This could be a major blockade to any potential move.
On the way out?
Arsenal have a number of their young players out on loan though it is unlikely that any will leave the club in January on permanent deals. Anthony Stokes has attracted interest from a number of clubs after scoring 13 goals in 11 games for Falkirk of the SPL. Charlton are the latest club to be linked to Stokes though Celtic, Sunderland, Everton, Manchester City and Middlesbrough have also been linked to him.
Birmingham chairman David Gold has also indicated that should they win promotion he will “move heaven and earth” to sign the on-loan players Patrice Muamba, striker Nicklas Bendtner and midfielder Sebastian Larsson. The Blues already have an option to sign wide player Larsson, who is out of contract with the Gunners in the summer, but it may be more difficult to convince them to part with Bendtner and Muamba.
Martin O’Neill has one of the smaller squads in the EPL and their form has suffered because of this. There could be a flurry of activity at Villa Park in January with Milan Baros, Lee Hendrie, JLloyd Samuel, Eric Djemba-Djemba and Patrick Berger likely candidates to move elsewhere. Hendrie and Berger have been on-loan at Stoke and could be sold to raise funds for new players. Baros has been a disappointment since coming to the EPL and might be best served with a move to a different league. Monaco may be a good fit as he has worked well with fellow Czech striker Jan Koller at the international level. Lyon and Hamburg have also been linked to Baros.
Depth is needed at almost every position though most critically at striker. A lot of Villa’s goals have been coming from midfielder Gareth Barry, whose seven league goals are three more than his closest teammate – Juan Pablo Angel. Villa has been linked with Robbie Keane but a more likely move could be for Garry O’Connor who has reportedly not settled in at Lokomotiv Moskow after his big money move from Hibernian last season. O’Connor looks to be supplanted by Chinedu Obasi Ogbuke who joined Lokomotiv from Lyn Oslo of Norway.
Other players that could help Villa are Queens Park Rangers winger Lee Cook, right-back Andy Griffin from Portsmouth or another of O’Neill’s former Celtic players – midfielder Stephen Pearson.
Unfortunately for Rovers fans, it looks likely that Lucas Neill will be moved in January, possibly in a swap deal with Liverpool for Stephen Warnock. Neill has been unhappy with contract negotiations and is eager to move on. Blackburn could also do a swap with Man City for out of favour Danny Mills, though City might have to top up the deal with some cash.
Jason Koumas from West Bromwich Albion or Sparta Prague’s Tomas Sivok could add some creativity to the midfield mix and aid in their continued UEFA Cup run. However, Everton currently appear to be leading the race to sign the 23-year-old Czech Republic international.
Don’t expect much cash to be splashed by Bolton this January. The Wanderers spent over £8m on capturing Nicolas Anelka and any deals are likely to be loan or free signings. Bolton could use a couple more squad players to provide depth and a likely arrival is French international Vikash Dhorasoo, who is currently unattached after falling out with former club PSG. Sam Allardyce has a reputation for helping players rebuild their careers and Dhorasoo certainly fits that bill.
The Addicks could provide some surprises in the January transfer window. New manager Alan Pardew inherits a side nine points from safety and is hampered by the fact that Iain Dowie, Charlton’s manager at the start of the season, dipped into next season’s budget with an £11.2m spree during the summer. What is likely to happen at Charlton is a mix of attempts to stay up with a precautinary eye towards being relegated. Speculation is that Pardew was hired because of his knack of getting clubs promoted and experience in the Fizzy Pop League (a.k.a Coca-Cola Championship).
There are a ton of rumours surrounding Darren Bent but if the Addicks are serious about trying to stay up they will need his goal scoring prowess. The players that should be moved out are J.F. Hasselbaink, who is on a big wage packet, and £3.75m summer signing Souleymane Diawara who has been a shambles at the back. Also a move could be made for Hayden Mullins and Marlon Harewood, both favourites of Pardew from his time with West Ham.
Charlton have made one signing – Chinese national team captain Zheng Zhi, who can play either in defence or midfield, joins from Shandong Luneng until the end of the season with Charlton having an option to buy him. Charlton have missed out on one target, former Hearts captain Stephen Pressley, who had undergone a medical at Charlton but decided to sign with Celtic instead. Pressley would have brought leadership to the side but it is unknown how well he would have adapted to the pace and style of the EPL.
With deep pockets, there will always be speculation about players moving to Chelsea. However, owner Roman Ambromovich has recently made statements about wanting the club’s academy to start producing so the free-spending days may soon come to a close but not this January.
Of immediate concern is the situation at the back. Mourinho has lost confidence in his choices at right-back (Geremi, Boulahrouz, Ferreira) and is looking to either Manchester City wunderkid Micah Richards, Daniel Alves from Sevilla or Valencia’s Miguel. Seville are currently top of the table in Spain and are unlikely to want to upset the club’s chemistry. Manchester City are likely to want a massive dollar amount plus Shaun Wright-Phillips. This won’t be an easy transfer window for The Special One.
SWP has been mentioned in a number of rumours as a potential loan signing for clubs such as West Ham or Man City. Also on the way out, though perhaps only on loan deals, could be midfielders John Obi Mikel (who had a bust-up with Mourinho) and Lassana Diarra who has not seen any regular football.
As mentioned they are in the hunt for Sparta Prague midfielder Tomas Sivok but the Toffees could also use another young central defender to pair up with Lescott. If they were to snag Curtis Davies that would give them a pairing for the future with massive potential. However, the more realistic buy is a cover player to tide them over the rash of injuries they have suffered. After being knocked out of European competition FC Copenhagen could be persuaded to part with right-back Lars Jacobsen who should come at a reasonable price. Lescott has been asked to play out of position and cover either flank and Jacobsen would allow him to move back to the centre of defence.
Their attack should be bolstered by the return of Tim Cahill from his knee injury and David Moyes has quashed any rumours of striker James Beattie leaving the club in the January transfer window. Moyes has further stated that he does not anticipate any players leaving the club this January as they are a bit short on numbers.
Everton will have one new player for sure — attacking midfielder Anderson Silva de França whose passport/work-permit issues are finally cleared up after signing from Racing Santander at the beginning of the 2005/06 season. Without the necessary papers, the Brazilian midfielder was loaned to Málaga CF for 6 months initially which was later extended until the end of 2005/06 season, due to again, his failure to secure a work permit.
The long-standing rumour has been that midfielder Clint Dempsey of the New England Revolution will join up with his US MNT colleague Brian McBride at Craven Cottage. After selling Steed Malbranque to Tottenham and losing Jimmy Bullard to injury, Fulham have lacked numbers, and more importantly creativity, in the midfield. Manager Chris Coleman may also struggle to hold on to his captain, Luis Boa Morte.
I’m not convinced that Clint Dempsey is the answer to their midfield problems. The Cottagers might be better off looking to a player with EPL such as Danny Murphy or Manchester United’s out-of-favor winger Kiernan Richardson. Another option could be to bring in a slightly less-experienced player like Watford’s left-sided midfielder Ashley Young.
Fulham have confirmed they will make some moves in the window and the most recent reports are suggesting that efforts to sign £2million-rated Norwegian defender Per Nilsson will be stepped up now that defender Zat Knight will be out for two months with a broken jaw.
Having invested heavily in new players two years in a row, one wouldn’t think that Liverpool would need to bring in further talent but they are unlikely to stand pat in January. Depsite a run of excellent form in their recent matches, Rafa Benitez is thought to be unhappy with his choices at right back and Blackburn’s Lucas Neill might fit in well. However, Liverpool has long been linked with Sevilla’s Daniel Alves and they may bid for his services. As I mentioned earlier, I am skeptical that Sevilla would be willing to sell one of their key players at this point.
Without Harry Kewell, Liverpool have been lacking a solid option on the left-side of midfield and are thought to be interested in Simao from Benfica or Quaresma from FC Porto. Both Porto and Benfica are still involved in European competition so the asking price for either player could be quite high.
There are several rumours about who might be on the way out of Anfield. Stephen Warnock has been mentioned in swap deals for several players, while both Craig Bellamy and Peter Crouch have been talked about as moving in January. Of the two, Crouch would be the more likely to move on. Liverpool has been building a team with a lot of pacy players and Crouch does not fit into that mould. Kuyt combines quickness with the ability to hold the ball up and can be a target man with almost the same effectiveness as Crouch, who for such a tall player is not overly effective in the air. As Benitez cannot decide which of the three is his best option, a change to the mix might be in order.
Rumours have it that the City manager Stuart Pearce has been given about £1.5m to spend in January and his transfer fund will increase should Sylvain Distin leave. City’s priority should be to bring in at least one winger and the hot gossip is that Shaun Wright-Phillips plus cash will be dangled in front of Pearce in an attempt to pry teenage right-back Micah Richards out of the squad. If City are to stay up and progress, Richards will be a key. His athleticism and versatility allow him to play anywhere across the back as well as in midfield.
To solve their width problems, a better option would be Olivier Thomert of Lens, a 26-year-old who can play on either wing and who reportedly came close to moving to City last summer. However, if the price is outside their range of available funds, City might turn to QPR winger Lee Cook or Luton’s Carlos Edwards.
Obtaining a winger would hopefully allow Darius Vassell to move back to a strike role and attempt to address the shortage of goals. Georgios Samaras, Paul Dickov and Bernardo Corradi have been inconsistent, though some of that can be attributed to a lack of service from the midfield. Depending on what funds are available, Pearce might try and buy some goalscoring from one of the lower divisions. Pearce has apparently been a regular visitor to see Billy Sharp, the Scunthorpe United forward who is League One’s leading scorer and is also monitoring League Two’s leading marksman, Izale McLeod of Milton Keynes Dons.
The Red Devils got their biggest concern taken care of early by sealing a loan deal for striker Henrik Larsson. A long-time target for Sir Alex Ferguson, Larsson will provide relief for Louis Saha and Wayne Rooney. Also likely to return from a loan to Newcastle is Giuseppe Rossi. Rossi has not seen as much first-team action as perhaps was expected and will provide further depth up front. Alan Smith and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are coming back from injury and looking to break into first team action so competition for places will be fierce. There are a ton of rumours about United brining in Fernando Torres or Darren Bent or even Nani from Sporting Lisbon but those would likely be summer 2007 moves and it would be a major surprise if a big deal were to be made now. The club chemistry is excellent and they are currently six points clear at the top of the table so SAF is unlikely to do anything too drastic to the mix.
The long saga of a potential for Owen Hargreaves might finally come to an end in January. Bayern Munich are reportedly resigned to losing the player but hope to land defender Wes Brown in addition to a dump truck of cash. In the long term, Hargreaves would add some steel and resolve to the United midfield but as he is recovering from injury, he is unlikely to make an immediate impact should he be acquired. His addition would likely spell the end of Kiernan Richardson’s stay at Old Trafford. SAF is reportedly unhappy with the youngster’s progress and would be willing to listen to offers for him.
Also mentioned to be moving out are left-back Gabriel Heinze and John O’Shea’s name gets thrown around a lot in rumours. With United still very much in the thick of Champions League as well as in a tight title race, I don’t expect either player to go anywhere as they both can provide coverage in more than one area.
Boro have a couple of obvious needs. First, another goal scoring option; a player with pace to complement either Viduka or Yakubu. If Craig Bellamy were to be moved from Liverpool, this might be a good fit for his abilities. A more realistic option is to buy a player from the Championship or bring in a striker on loan. David Nugent from Preston North End is often mentioned in transfer gossip but I would like to see Boro take a shot at either Aiden McGeady or Shaun Maloney from Celtic.
The Teesiders could also use some more depth at the backline. They brought back Abel Xavier after his drugs ban but a player like Matthew Upson from Birmingham or a potential loan deal for Wayne Bridge would add some strength to their backline.
In midfield, despite being linked with a number of players, I think Boro are just fine. Their best bet is to give their younger players, like James Morrison and Stuart Downing, an opportunity to develop.
Two players that I can see leaving are Gaizka Mendieta, who has been linked with a move to Spanish side Malaga, and Massimo Maccarone, who has been linked to several Serie A sides. Neither is getting many first-team chances at the Riverside and would be best served by moving on.
Another transfer season, same old problems on Tyneside. With one of the deeper midfields in the EPL, Newcastle need to shore up their back four and try to add another scoring option up front. Obafemi Martins seems to have found his rhythm and has been producing goals. With Michael Owen and Shola Ameobi injured and loan signing Giuseppe Rossi on his way back to Manchester United, rumours have been circulating that a bid for Liverpool’s Peter Crouch will be made. Both clubs have been quick in denying those rumors but a big-little partnership with Martins could work out nicely.
At the back-line, Newcastle should target one of the “available” players such as Lucas Neill or Matthew Upson though they may make a run at an experienced central defender like Sylvain Distin from Manchester City or even Mikael Silvestre from Manchester United.
Adding to their transfer funds might be the sale of forward Albert Luque who has not settled in since his big money move to St James Park. Luque has been linked with Villareal and other Spanish clubs.
What would a transfer window be without some activity from old Trader ‘Arry? Through his wheeling and dealing, Redknapp has taken Pompey into the top six (at the time of this article) and outlaid very little in transfer fees to do it. Sol Campbell and Kanu came in on free deals and David James was signed for £1.2m.
It is known that midfielder Manuel Fernandes will return to Benfica as his £12m asking price is more than Redknapp is willing to spend on the player. Fernandes is a highly-rated prospect that has been tracked by big clubs like Manchester United and is thought to have the potential to develop into a Patrick Veira style of holding midfielder.
Though they have been linked with a number of players like Hibernian midfielders Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson, If they can keep their current crop of midfielders and forwards healthy, they should have sufficient cover for the rest of the EPL campaign. They have been caught a bit short at the back in recent weeks and could use another defender like Villareal’s Juan Pablo Sorin or Taye Taiwo from Marseille or Fiorentina’s Tomas Ujfalusi.
Don’t count out Redknapp putting in a bid for either of David Nugent (Preston North End) or Robert Earnshaw (Norwich).
Still not assured of staying up, though looking very likely to do so, Steve Coppell has said he’s after a striker in the January transfer window. The need arises as Dave Kitson will remain out of action for a few more weeks with his hamstring injury and Leroy Lita has just returned from injury and is not back in form as of yet. Kevin Doyle has been a fantastic bargain buy and I would expect the Royals to look for another similar deal from a lower division. Ipswich’s Alan Lee (10 goals) or Burnley’s Andrew Gray (10 goals) could be good buys. If they want a more proven scorer and are willing to spend, Norwich’s Robert Earnshaw (16 goals) might be a good fit.
They have also been linked with Hibernian midfielder Scott Brown but could go after someone like Lee Hendrie from Aston Villa if they want to add midfield depth. I wouldn’t expect any departures from Madjeski Stadium at this time as Coppell needs depth at all positions.
Reading have stated their intention to hold onto their top midfielder Steve Sidwell despite his contract expiring this summer. They hope to get a new deal done but could they be tempted by a big money offer for the 25 year-old? Now that Aston Villa will have a bit of money to spend, don’t be surprised if they make a bid.
Bramall Lane could be a high traffic zone come January 1.
Neil Warnock, has put eight players up for sale or loan ahead of next month’s transfer window. Paul Ifill, Steve Kabba, Geoff Horsfield, Chris Lucketti, Alan Wright, Neil Shipperley and David Unsworth are available for either a permanent move or loan while Li Tie is available for loan only.
Additionally, Sheffield United shareholders approved a resolution to raise £10m via the proposed issue of convertible loan notes. Manager Neil Warnock has been handed £5m of that money to strengthen the club for their fight to stay in the Premiership. Warnock is unlikely to splash out big on just one player and will likely plumb the Championship for squad players. Two potential signings would be defender Matthew Kilgallon from Leeds, a highly rated prospect and David Nugent from Preston. Competition for Nugent is potentially going to be high but Kilgallon might be an easier deal to complete, particularly if Sheffield allow Horsfield, who is currently on-loan with Leeds, to move permanently to Elland Road.
One hope is that depth will be added at the back so that midfielder Phil Jagielka will not have to cover in defense. If the EPL had an MVP trophy Jagielka would deserve strong consideration as he has been heroic for The Blades. In their recent 1-0 win over Arsenal, he even covered in goal for the final half-hour after Paddy Kenny went off injured.
One of the clubs caught up in transfer window frenzy as of late, Tottenham are unlikely to stand pat in January. Their form has been inconsistent though largely due to a combination of injury and an ever-changing starting XI.
A lot of the interest will be to see which players may leave. Rumours have been flying around about both Jermain Defore and Robbie Keane, though at this point its hard to see either leaving on anything more than a loan deal. A loan move for Keane to a club like Aston Villa could be in the works, though he will still be out for several weeks recovering from a knee injury. One player hoping to get out will be Canadian international Paul Stalteri. After a sold season for Spurs last year, he has been relegated to the bench in favor of new signing Pascal Chimbonda. Stalteri is likely eager to get his career back on track and a loan move to a club like Sheffield United or Newcastle would be welcomed.
Tottenham have already arranged one deal ahead of the window opening, goalkeeper Ben Alnwick will be arriving from Sunderland with Martin Fulop and a cash payment of £1m going the other way.
Despite their spending in the summer, Spurs have been linked with defender Sylvain Distin from Man City, playmaker Yildiray Basturk from Hertha Berlin and highly-rated left-back Gareth Bale of Southampton. Following in the footsteps of former teammate Theo Walcott, Bale has been capped at the senior level by Wales and is noted for his his free-kick prowess. Spurs have made an initial approach while Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United and Newcastle also want the £7m rated 17 year-old. Man United are reportedly willing to let Gabriel Heinze move on should they acquire Bale.
Watford are going to have trouble attracting players and despite their need for a goal scoring, might find themselves coming up empty. Their best bet might be someone like David Healy, whose Leeds side is struggling to fight off relegation to League One rather than eyeing promotion to the Premiership. Their other option might be a loan deal for a player like their former striker Heidar Helguson. Helguson has not been able to get regular first-team action at Fulham and would likely welcome a chance to play regularly.
Their promotion last season was a big surprise and with their lack of additions during the summer, the club has struggled for points. In all likelihood, Watford are preparing for the drop and will not spend big money in hopes of staying up. They will attempt to work with what they have with one or two minor additions.
West Ham are a complete mystery to me. They go from beating Manchester United, to failing to gain a single point from home games against Portsmouth and Manchester City. They continue to sit in the bottom three after last season’s strong run and it appears that a shake up might be in the works at Upton Park this January. Alan Curbishley is reported to have up to £20m to spend on West Ham’s survival.
First, Paul Konchesky might be moved as he and Alan Curbishley did not see eye-to-eye during their time at Charlton. Nigel Reo-Coker has been linked with a number of clubs and was reportedly disappointed that he was not told of Arsenal’s interest in signing him this past summer. Reo-Coker has recently been linked with Everton and may be moved to make way for new signings. I think this would be a bad move in the long-term for West Ham but Reo-Coker’s form has been poor this season and the fans at Upton Park seem to have turned on him so a change of scenery might be in order.
West Ham need another winger to complement Matthew Etherington and Shaun Wright-Phillips (on a loan deal if Chelsea’s overtures for Micah Richards fail) would be a good choice to take up that role. If SWP is not available, Curbishley may look to Kiernan Richardson or another established EPL player. Bringing in players from outside the country could be risky as they typically need more time to adjust and time is not on West Ham’s side. A bid for either of Matthew Upson or David Dunn from Birmingham could be in the works should Konchesky move on.
Striker Freddy Eastwood from Championship-side Southend United, whose stunning free-kick put Manchester United out of the Carling Cup will attract bids from a number of clubs, West Ham likely to be included.
Last but surely not least, Wigan are one of the clubs to have already arranged deals ahead of the transfer window. Swedish defender Andreas Granqvist has joined Wigan from Helsingborg on loan until the end of the season. The 21-year-old central defender, rated as one of the top prospects from Sweden, has joined on a deal that could become permanent in the summer and could make his debut against Blackburn on 1 January.
Wigan have also beaten a number of other Premiership clubs to sign Norwegian international Kristofer Haestad. The highly-rated midfielder has won 11 caps for Norway. Haestad, who can play anywhere across the middle, has joined on loan for the rest of the season from IK Start and will provide depth for Wigan. Having just lost Paul Scharner to injury, this signing could not be more timely.
Wigan may make one or two other minor moves to shore up their squad. They could use some depth at striker to complement Heskey and Camara. A bid for former striker Nathan Ellington, currently with West Bromwich Albion. As West Brom are currently fighting for promotion, Wigan might have to turn their attention to other forwards such as Celtic’s Derek Riordan or Fulham’s Collins John.
Wigan may have to fight to hang onto left-back Leighton Baines, who is sought by a number of teams including Arsenal and Manchester United. His loss would be a massive blow to the club.
The Scout is a regular contributing writer to the EPL Talk Magazine. Read more of his writing and analysis on his blog. The Scout resides in Winnipeg, Canada.