The fans love it. The media loves it even more. So why does the January transfer window scare so many clubs including its managers and chairman? Well quite simply, the next 32 days can make or break your season. Less than 7 days into the window, the early signs are indicating that it will be a busy one, with several clubs already dipping into the market to strengthen their squads. History has taught us that the January transfer window, whilst generally not as busy as in the summer, can be more important to the success or failure of a club. In the summer, players have time to bed in to life in the Premiership and with their new team, managers can play around with formations and players. But come January, the gloves are off. There is no grace period, each signing needs to make an impact immediately or risk being labelled a poor capture. Managers are frantically watching at the over priced market, looking for ways to save their season. So what clubs need to act during this window and who should they chase?
With the Ba saga finally concluded, Newcastle can focus on getting back on track in the league. Moving Papa Cisse into main central striker role once again from his wide right position, should lead to more goals but its the lack of depth across the squad that has been Newcastle’s undoing this year so far. With the loss of key players like Cabaye, Ben Arfa and Steven Taylor, their replacements have been unconvincing, lacking both in the talent and experience needed to play competitive Premiership football. Alan Pardew appears to be still nursing the hangover from celebrating his new eight year contract that keeps him at the club until 2020, but now faces the real possibility of relegation as Newcastle slip further down the league. With only three clean sheets this campaign and having won 2 of their last 11 games in all competitions, strengthening across all areas is a necessity for survival. French right back Mathieu Debuchy has arrived to help the defence but another one or two are needed. West Ham’s James Tomkins and Southampton’s Luke Shaw could offer options at the back and fit with Pardew’s mandate of investing in young talented players. On a similar note, midfielders Ross Barkley from Everton and Southampton’s Adam Lallana or James Ward Prowse could bolster a weak midfield. Upfront, the Ameobi brothers provide cover but lack goals so Loic Remy of Marseille or Genk’s Jelle Vossen would make strong partners for Cisse.
Harry Redknapp has a job on his hands. His toughest challenge yet sees him inherit a good squad that lacks in confidence and results. He needs to hold on to Ryan Nelson, subject to a coaching offer by his former club, DC United or if he lets him go sign a replacement quickly like Michael Dawson from Spurs. But midfield is the area Harry needs to work on the most. QPR haven’t looked the same since Mark Hughes broke up the trio of Barton, Derry and Taarbat and results have gone against them ever since. Barton, now on loan with Marseille and partner Shaun Derry weren’t the silkest of players, but as two tough tackling, no-nonsense central midfielders, they broke up opposition teams attacks like a hot knife through butter. Without the duo, teams pass their way through the QPR team until they get to a weak back four and eventually punish the team. An enforcer like France’s Yann M’Vila would be an ideal fit if they can secure him, but a player of his calibre should be pulling on a shirt from one of England’s top four, not its relegation favourite. Harry also needs to find a player in the style of Scott Parker or former Newcastle captian Rob Lee who can not only protect the back four but drive the ball up field and create openings. They are few and far between and come at a price so Harry may struggle to get a player of this nature. A loan deal for Yossi Benayoun may be ideal as QPR look for inspiration. Whilst not defensive, Yossi can create from very little and would add a new dimension to the team.
To be fair to Nigel Adkins, Southampton haven’t played that poorly this season but still find themselves in a relegation dog fight. Sitting in 17th place, above Wigan on goal difference only, Adkins needs to strengthen to survive. Based on form and looking at attacking statistics, Southampton have played well and would be sitting comfortably in mid table but in reality, having drawn six games and lost ten (five of which were by only one goal), they find themselves in a mess. Adkins biggest problem is his defense and in particular his first choice goalkeeper. During the first half of the campaign, the Southampton boss used three different goalkeepers – Kelvin Davis, Artur Boruc and youngster Paulo Gazzaniga with little success. None of the three have stepped up to make the slot their own and all are guilt of making mistakes. Granted Gazzaniga, at 21 years old is still learning so can not be too harshly criticized, but both Davis and Boruc a have had long careers so should not be making the schoolboy type mistakes that they have been guilty of. It appears as though Adkins has no choice but to buy another safe pair of hands and stop the rot. Former England and Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson would fit the bill, or Birmingham’s Jack Butland, who is attracting a lot of interest due to his recent form.. If money is tight, then a 6 month loan deal for QPR’s Rob Green or the free signing of Scotland stopper Crag Gordon may also be options available.
Liverpool need a striker and it’s not Daniel Sturridge. The recently £12 million acquisition from Chelsea is not the answer to Brendan Rodgers problems, even if the Northern Irishman thinks he is. Despite scoring on his debut in the cup against Mansfield, the England striker has never been an out-and-out goalscorer. With 40 career goals from 140 appearances, the pacey forward has never really demonstrated his ability to be a 15-20 goals a season striker. His best ever tally was 12 goals in all competitions for Chelsea last season but that was from 44 appearances so 1 in 4 on average. With 17 games left in the domestic season, and based on the same goal scoring ratio that would mean Strurridge would chip in an extra 4 goals between now and the end of the season. That’s £3 million a goal, which to Liverpool fans may be a difficult pill to swallow. Strurridge is a useful player, a squad player, but he is not the next Fernando Torres. For that Liverpool will need to look elsewhere. The likes of Charlie Austen of Burnley, Nicolas Helenius of AaB and Loic Remy of Marseille may be a better option for Rodgers to look at. With Liverpool almost coming out publicly and admitting they got the last transfer window wrong and were left short of numbers up front, Rodgers won’t make that mistake again. Well hopefully not for his sake.
The Welsh side have yet again performed above expectations but not unexpectedly. The foundations laid down by Roberto Martinez, followed by Rodgers and current boss Michael Laudrup have led to stable base to build upon and success on the pitch. Laurdrup, who faced criticism when he took over the post in the summer, has won over the players and the fans with his strong work ethics and approachable manner. Added into this, his ability to locate and purchase a bargain such as Michu has helped to bolster the teams chances of survival. Sitting 9th in the league with 29 points to their name so far, it would appear as though Swansea are safe. But as history shows, the magic mark for survival in the Premiership is around 42 points which leaves them needing 13 points from their last 17 games. To give them a chance of getting the points needed, they need to retain the services of their influential spanish midfielder, Michu. A sensation since arriving in the summer, he has helped lift Swansea to the position they are in with some incredible performances and 13 goals along the way. His form has started to attract interest both domestically and back home in Spain, with several clubs rumoured to be willing to pay over the odds to sign him during this window. Laudrup could cash in on his £2 million signing and likely make considerably more. But he also knows that it could cost his team dearly as they push to secure Premiership football for yet another year.
The defending champions find themselves trailing in the race for the title, some 7 points behind local rivals, United. It’s not been a smooth first half to the campaign with Mancini’s men being knocked out of Europe at the Champions League group stages by three teams they should have been winning if not competing against. Added into this, the constant drama surrounding Mario Balotelli has led to more than one sleepless night for Mancini. The latest event, a training group bust up with the manager himself, will surely signal the end for the talented yet troublesome Italian striker. Mancini has tried to father him over the past few years but has not managed to curb Balotelli’s enthusiasm for destructiveness. With suitors watching with interest, Mancini must sell him now to give his team the relief it needs for a final push towards retaining the title. With the money he gets from selling Balotelli, Mancini can pursue another striker who will add goals rather than headaches to the mix. Falcao is on every clubs radar so may be too difficult to secure in this window without a fight so it may be worth Mancini switching his attention to Russia and the problems that Hulk is having in settling there. A powerful striker, with goals galore across his career, he may give City the edge against United in the race for the trophy.
With 24 days left in the transfer window, there is still plenty of time for clubs to make the necessary changes to their squads before attacking the second half of the campaign. At the end of the season, we will be able to look back and see who has bought wisely, who made rash purchases and who failed to make the grade which ultimately lead to their club being relegated. Come May three teams will face this fate, but for the managers involved in that struggle at the moment, and the ones balanced just above them, now is the time to act to save your clubs season.