The January transfer window may lack some of the major signings the summer provides.
Clubs make acquisitions to shore up loose ends that exist from the first half of the season. There are a number of reasons these gaps in positions could exist.
For one, executive boards could avoid spending in the summer, then realize halfway through the season that changes are necessary. Take, for example, Manchester United. United, despite a transfer window that brought in Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho, needed a defensive midfielder. That gap still persists, and should be solved in January.
Another reason for January transfers could be clubs making a push based on first-half results. Across Europe, we see clubs making a push for a top-four finish or a European finish that many did not expect. In England, West Ham United is in a strong spot for Europe. Real Betis and SC Freiburg currently hold spots that would mean Champions League qualification. Albeit, there is still plenty of the season yet to play.
Finally, injuries arise. Some clubs get hit with the injury bug in ways that significantly hamper aspirations for a season. Barcelona, despite its multitude of off-the-field issues, lost a number of crucial players for extended periods of time. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the importance of depth within a squad.
Despite a relative lack of big names on the move, the January transfer window still bears a significant chunk of importance for major clubs in Europe. After all, some of the game’s most significant transfers in recent memory took place in January. Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool in 2018, Bruno Fernandes to Barcelona in 2020 and Christian Pulisic to Chelsea in 2019. Major names helping major clubs.
So, let’s take a closer look at the Premier League clubs who are hoping to qualify for Europe. Here are a few teams that could, and should, follow suit in the January transfer window.
January transfer window needs for EPL teams
In the summer, most people pointed out that Manchester United needed a defensive midfielder. A duo of Scott McTominay and Fred scared a contingent of United faithful. However, United opted to bolster its attacking options. Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho joined a group of attackers already featuring Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood.
Now, with Manchester United occupying seventh in the Premier League and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer out as manager, United finds itself in the same predicament as before.
One could accredit the Old Trafford’s issues to a number of reasons. However, the principal of those must be defense. Injuries to Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane combined with a dip in form from Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka do not help the Red Devils’ cause. McTominay and Fred show glimpses of potential every so often, but consistency at the pivot is the key for these top-level sides.
Liverpool’s Fabinho and Chelsea’s Kante are key to their recent success in England and in Europe. Manchester City employs a number of players in that role, particularly Rodri, who played well in the first half of Manchester City’s season. The fact of the matter remains, Manchester United needs a strong, capable defensive midfielder that performs on a consistent basis.
Tabloids link United with the likes of several players. For instance, Wilfred Ndidi from Leicester City or Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara, who are among the names considered for that role. However, United also has links to more attacking options, which may go against their true needs of defensive help.
As of now, Liverpool seems to be in the market for attacking options. Admittedly, this is somewhat surprising considering the rabid output of Mohamed Salah. Additionally, despite somewhat tame seasons, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino are still strong options.
Perhaps that issue comes in the form of depth. Looking at Liverpool’s other attacking options, there are not too many ‘big’ names. Diogo Jota looks to be the successor to Firmino at the top of the trident, with Divock Origi or Takumi Minamino taking up backup roles.
With Mane and Salah departing for what could be a month, and a crucial stretch of Premier League games coming up, Jurgen Klopp could be in the market for an additional forward. As seen, depth can never hurt a squad. That applies for the midfield and the attacking options.
Perhaps Liverpool could eye up a a talisman in the final third. Rumors included former Anfield star Philippe Coutinho, but he joined Aston Villa on a loan deal from Barcelona. Other options could include Luis Diaz from Porto. The Colombian has Champions League experience, but his market value and price tag could be expensive if Liverpool wants to be in the mix for Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe in the summer.
In the midfield, recent rumors after the first week of January include AC Milan’s Franck Kessié. Georginio Wijnaldum’s departure left a consistent and solid void in Liverpool’s midfield, and a gruesome injury to Harvey Elliott exposed that. Kessié will likely move in the summer, likely to a major club outside Italy if that is the case. However, Liverpool could make a mid-season splash to help their 2021/22 season.
It will just be a matter of fitting all the pieces together to try and slow down Manchester City at the top of the table.
The current Premier League leaders are head and shoulders above its competition. As things stand, Pep Guardiola looks set for his fourth Premier League crown in five seasons at the helm of City.
There is a certain risk involved with bringing players in and messing up the chemistry within a squad. And, as of now, Manchester City is humming along at a rate that is frightening to opposition in any competition.
Ferran Torres, who appeared in seven games for City before a metatarsal fracture, is perhaps the biggest name to move in this transfer window. He cost Barcelona just over $60 million to lure away from the Etihad.
That would be the one area to shore up for Pep Guardiola. Of course, just like Liverpool, Manchester City wants to throw its hat in the ring for the Erling Haaland sweepstakes. The Citizens have the second-highest spending over the last five years in the Premier League, so there is no shortage of funding at the Etihad. Therefore, it will just be about what player could Pep Guardiola bring in to deliver some goals.
The one thing he wants to avoid is disrupting the chemistry of his squad. There is a reason City finished top of its Champions League group that featured PSG and RB Salzburg, and currently has a comfortable lead at atop the Premier League table.
Personally, I do not anticipate any major moves from Manchester City. But, rumors do have them eyeing up Erling Haaland and Harry Kane for the summer.
As of now, Romelu Lukaku dominates the headlines with Chelsea. His discontent with Thomas Tuchel caused some stir into his playing time and in the general synergy at the club.
There is the chance Lukaku moves, but that is highly unlikely. It was only a couple of months ago that Lukaku returned to Stamford Bridge for $126 million.
It is actually more likely that Thomas Tuchel and the Chelsea board look to the other end of the pitch for assistance. Tuchel’s system relies heavily on success at the wing back position. On one hand, Reece James is putting together a phenomenal season on the right side. But, an injury to Ben Chilwell and lackluster performances from Marcos Alonso leave something to be desired.
There is a lot of openness for what kind of player fits this role. But, a couple of names to keep an eye on are Everton left-back Lucas Digne. The Frenchman is having a fine season himself as Everton struggles to find consistency across the board.
Digne would be a sensible fit for Tuchel as Ben Chilwell returns to fitness following knee surgery.
Arsenal spent the most money of any Premier League club during the summer. In the January transfer window, the task is not quite as tall for Mikel Arteta and the Gunners. Aaron Ramsdale looks to already be one of the Premier League’s best goalkeepers. Ben White and Takehiro Tomiyasu form foundations for a solid back line. Martin Ødegaard is Arteta’s heart in the midfield shooting passes around the pitch.
The one gap is up top. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is clearly out of favor due to on- and off-the-field issues. Alexandre Lacazette is a decent option, but is perhaps not living up to his $60 million price tag from the summer of 2017. Gabriel Martinelli is a young forward who shows promise, but it would be harsh to put the entire goal-scoring burden on a 20-year-old.
So, Arsenal could look at someone like Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad. The Swede is a true clinical goalscorer. The one issue is his ability as a play-maker. Mikel Arteta prioritizes passing, and that is somewhere Isak may struggle, relatively speaking.
Another option is Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic. Vlahovic burst onto the scene in Serie A with scintillating goal output. The Serbian has 21 goal contributions in 21 appearances this season for Fiorentina. That ratio would be hard to match in the Premier League, but the foundations exist for the soon-to-be 22-year-old.
Arsenal will face competition from a number of other clubs for Vlahovic or Isak.
READ MORE: Five forwards Arsenal should sign in the transfer window.
To wrap up the traditional ‘big six’ in England, a resurgent Tottenham looks well in the race for a top-four spot in the Premier League this season. After 18 EPL games, Antonio Conte’s Spurs sit two points out of that fourth place spot in the Premier League. The North London side also has a couple games in hand on those teams ahead of them, but those are no guarantees.
Antonio Conte is one of the managers that seeks out certain playing styles in footballers. Heavy on defense in the midfield is one of those characteristics. Currently, Spurs seems to lie on either end of the spectrum in its midfield. Eric Dier is more of a center back than a central-defensive midfielder like years prior. Dele Alli is certainly more of an attacking threat, who also has some defensive liabilities. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg fits Conte’s eye, but has not been strong enough this season.
Franck Kessié’s name swirled with Tottenham. Yet, even if he is to move in this January transfer window, a number of other clubs will be in that race.
As we know, Conte almost exclusively employs wing backs. One name that is starting to make headlines with Tottenham is Wolves’ Adama Traoré. Spaniard Traoré is one of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ most recognizable players, particularly due to his strength and speed on the ball. He would serve as a strong playmaker in Conte’s system, even if it is slightly out of position as a wing-back.
West Ham United
Of all the clubs that fans traditionally see on the ‘outside looking in,’ West Ham are firmly in a position to battle for Champions League qualification. A strong start to the season puts the Irons just on the cusp of that fourth position.
West Ham does not have the spending power of Tottenham, Manchester United or Arsenal, all of which see that fourth spot as priceless. But, at the same time, those clubs have ambitious plans for the summer, so that is when they do most of their spending.
West Ham should seize the opportunity to make a splash signing in this transfer window to propel the club into the Champions League. One area to do that is defense. At the end of November, Angelo Ogbonna picked up an injury against Liverpool. Since then, gaps exist along the back line. There are not too many marquee defenders in the transfer pool, but one of those is the aforementioned Lucas Digne.
This would be a marquee signing, taking a strong wing back option away from Everton, but also preventing Champions League contenders from a player that could fill gaps.
West Ham should also seek out depth pieces for Mikhail Antonio. The Jamaica international has been a strong force in front of goal, but West Ham must make sure not to stretch him too thin. A winger or an out-and-out forward to play in Antonio’s stead or alongside him would be a good move for West Ham. Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah is a name swirling to fill that role, as is former loanee Jesse Lingard. England’s Lingard thrived at West Ham during his loan spell last season, and a permanent move, or another loan, could serve all parties involved.
On the topic of underdogs, everyone’s favorite Cinderella story from just over five years ago is struggling somewhat this season. Inconsistency on the pitch puts the Foxes at the middle of the Premier League table as we enter 2022.
In the Europa League, a string of poor results sent Leicester into the Europa Conference League playoff. So, as things stand, Leicester are fighting for that sixth or seventh spot for European qualification next season.
A number of wealthier clubs want to poach players from Leicester, specifically a player like Wilfred Ndidi. But, Leicester needs to secure that player to hold the midfield this transfer window. Jamie Vardy (injured) and James Maddison are strong attacking options, which means defense should be the focus. Wesley Fofana’s injury obviously damaged the defense’s ability. His return should bode well to prevent goals. Leicester’s 33 goals against are the highest among teams in the top-15 spots in the league.
A potential centerback to assist Fofana, Johnny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü and Jannik Vestergaard could be someone like Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach. Leicester City may wait for his contract to expire in the summer, however. Additionally, Zakaria traditionally takes up a spot in the midfield, albeit defensively. This means the gap in the defense will be left to the fate of Fofana and the form of his teammates.
Brighton and Hove Albion
There was a time in the season this year when Brighton sat in the top four with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea. Everyone anticipated Brighton to fall out of that spot, but that tends to happen when the squad goes up against teams twice or thrice as expensive as the squad Brighton puts out.
Such is the nature of the sport in England and Europe. Those clubs with money spend it, and those without must hold on to it and spend it cautiously. Brighton fits into the latter. However, take that with a grain of salt. Over the last five years, Brighton has a net spending higher than Newcastle, Liverpool and other EPL clubs.
If Brighton wants to stun the Premier League and sneak into a European spot, they could use more goals, specifically match-winning goals from the January transfer window. Brighton leads the league in draws with nine, a number only matched by Southampton. The club’s four losses are only more than the top-three of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea, all three have two losses.
The aforementioned Eddie Nketiah could fit in well with Graham Potter‘s side. That could be on a permanent or a loan move, but Nketiah has experience in the Premier League, despite dropping out of favor with Mikel Arteta.
Rolling down the list of outsiders in the hunt for a Europa League or Conference League spot, Wolves takes up the eighth spot in the Premier League as things stand after 19 games.
Wolves lost its manager going into this season, but they seem like they have not missed a beat. Yes, Wolves is eight points outside of a Champions League spot, But, in the Premier League, those positions are so challenging to come by with the lofty spending of a few clubs.
Adama Traoré, a mainstay at Molineux in recent years, could be on his way out to one of the big spenders in the league. Traoré is a hard player to replace, and his physicality and pace are second to none among Premier League wingers. The January transfer window would be a good time to look for a replacement for Traoré if they cannot hold on to him.
On a similar topic, Wolves could be in the hunt for a striker to play behind Raúl Jiménez. Everyone wants depth, but Wolves would be in the need for a goalscorer if the club’s striker goes down and Traoré departs to a rival. Fourteen goals at this point in the Premier League campaign is simply not good enough for a European spot.
An answer to that issue is a winger or striker, and Wolves manager Bruno Lage knows that. He could look to the services of Nketiah or the return of Matt Doherty, whose move to Tottenham failed to pay dividends.
This month will not see Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe move clubs, barring a major change of events. This is the time for clubs to make emergency moves. Plug holes, add depth and deliver one big push for the rest of the season.
In the Premier League, these teams are in the running for a title or European qualification. The January transfer window could prove crucial to each club’s aspirations this season and into the near future.
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, Women’s World Cup, Euro 2024 & Gold Cup
The New Home of MLS
- Price: $14.99/mo. for MLS Season Pass
- Watch every MLS game including playoffs & Leagues Cup
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $9.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $12.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & FA Cup
2,000+ soccer games per year
- Price: $5.99/mo
- Features Champions League, Serie A, Europa League & Brasileirāo