With the transfer merry go round in full swing, WhoScored.com have picked out five Premier League teams and the areas they may need to strengthen this month.
Arsenal – Striker
Injuries to Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin have left Arsenal somewhat lightweight in midfield, though Thursday’s capture of Mohamed Elneny should ease the pressure on Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini in the middle of the park. Only Mirko Valdifiori (105) has averaged more passes per game than Elneny (92) in the Europa League this season, so the Egyptian matches the needs of manager Arsene Wenger in that respect.
The next port of call should then be up front. Olivier Giroud may have bagged a brace in the 3-3 draw with Liverpool on Wednesday night, but his miss on the half hour mark effectively summed up the Frenchman’s inconsistencies in front of goal. Theo Walcott may be an option for Wenger, but two seven-out-of-ten strikers doesn’t make for a world class frontline. Giroud has missed more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities (11) than any other Premier League player this season; Walcott (9) is joint-second on that list.
Given creative fulcrum Mesut Ozil has both played more key passes (87) and created more clear-cut goalscoring opportunities (22) than any other player in England’s top tier this term, bolstering the frontline could be what Arsenal need to secure their first Premier League title in over a decade. Options may be thin on the ground in January, but it may well be in the Gunners’ best interests to splash the cash on another goalscorer this month or run the risk of their title bid petering out.
Manchester City – Centre-back
“It’s difficult for me to give you an update about Vincent (Kompany),” Manuel Pellegrini said of his captain earlier this week. The Belgian suffered another set back on his return to competitive action following injury on Boxing Day and is unlikely to return “before the last part of the season.” It’s a blow to City’s title quest, with the Citizens are far stronger side with Kompany in the team.
Of the 21 goals City have conceded, 20 have come when Kompany hasn’t started, further amplifying his importance to the team. With Eliaquim Managala flattering to deceive, Nicolas Otamendi struggling without the Belgian’s composure alongside him and Martin Demichelis in his twilight years, Pellegrini could yet be forced into bringing in another centre-back before the transfer window closes.
There are a host of young centre-backs impressing across Europe’s top five leagues, but the stand out arguably comes in the form of Marc Bartra, who is struggling for regular first team action at Barcelona. At 24 years of age, the Spaniard needs to be playing consistently if he is to realise his potential.
His approach matches Pellegrini’s demands, while with Txiki Begiristain already at the club and Pep Guardiola tipped to take charge at the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season, it could convince Bartra to want out at Camp Nou. Barcelona will be loathe to losing a defender whose WhoScoed.com rating from his three league starts this season is a commendable 7.61, but could cash in on the youngster if City make a suitable offer.
Tottenham – Striker
The Gunners aren’t the only team in London in need of reinforcements up front, with Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat to Leicester highlighting the need for help on the frontline. Harry Kane has proven his quality under Mauricio Pochettino, but his 11 goals have directly earned Spurs just one point this season, that coming against Arsenal. Heung-min Son may be capable of filling the void, yet is arguably better suited in the bank of three supporting the frontman in Mauricio Pochettino’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, while Clinton N’Jie has struggled in his sporadic appearances for the side.
Links with Saido Berahino refuse to die down, though Spurs would be wise against panicking and splashing the cash on the out-of-sorts West Brom striker. The 22-year-old has averaged a very respectable return of a goal every 232.5 minutes over the last three Premier League seasons but if he is not scoring, he offers little else to the attack. With Pochettino favouring a striker that brings others into play and hassles the opposition defence, bringing in Berahino would be the equivalent of signing a square peg to fill a round hole.
Like with Arsenal, options for a new striker to help achieve their seasonal goal are thin on the ground in January unless Spurs are prepared to splash the cash. Simone Zaza could be available for the right price from Juventus, with the Italian struggling to force his way past Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala and Alvaro Morata in the pecking order under Max Allegri. Despite a lack of first-team football, the 24-year-old has netted four goals in his last 84 minutes of competitive action for the Old Lady and with his work off the ball he could be what Spurs need to secure a Champions League return.
Manchester United – Left-back
The problem area for Manchester United at the moment comes at left-back after Luke Shaw’s season-ending injury sustained at PSV Eindhoven back in September came as a blow to both club and country. Indeed, manager Louis van Gaal resisted the temptation to invest in a new left-back in the summer, such was the confidence placed in Shaw.
However, with the versatile Marcos Rojo also struggling to overcome a succession of injury concerns, it comes as little shock that the club has been linked with a new left-back this month. The strongest candidate comes in the form of Ricardo Rodriguez, who has been targeted by the club in their bid to solidify the defence. He has played more key passes (151) than any other defender in Europe’s top five leagues in the last three seasons, highlighting his offensive and creative capabilities.
An impressive WhoScored.com rating this term (7.37) may be at its lowest in the Bundesliga in the last three seasons, but he’s still one of Wolfsburg’s more consistent performers. An average of 2.1 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game reinforces his defensive quality, while his set-piece ability would be a bonus to United in their quest to secure a top-four finish.
Liverpool – Goalkeeper
Reports that Simon Mignolet would be offered a new five-year deal this week certainly raised eyebrows. The Belgian didn’t help his cause by shipping three against Arsenal on Wednesday night, two of which he could feasibly have done better with. The Reds have a long-standing problem with goalkeeper issues, with Adam Bogdan’s Liverpool career in tatters following a shambolic showing at Exeter City in the FA Cup to worsen their issues.
The Merseysiders have been credited with an interest in Barcelona shot-stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who is struggling to force his way ahead of Claudio Bravo in the Camp Nou ranks. While the German is Luis Enrique’s Champions League goalkeeper, the 23-year-old needs regular game time if he is to realise his immense potential. Only Fernando Muslera and Gianluigi Buffon (both 54) have made more saves in the Champions League than Ter Stegen (50) since the start of last season, further accentuating his capability.
Since signing for Liverpool, no player has made more errors that have led to a Premier League goal than Mignolet (8), highlighting a lack of concentration when it comes to denying the opposition. Convincing Barcelona to sell Ter Stegen, however, will be easier said than done and while it would be cheaper to extend Mignolet’s contract, in the long run the club are likely to benefit more from the arrival of a new number one.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with the new free-to-download WhoScored iOS app.