Most of us are relaxing into our evenings after a fun filled Christmas day, Premier League teams are preparing themselves for a potentially busy January. We analyse who the teams may take given the opportunity in the latest transfer window and discuss what they want for Christmas.
The Christmas period looms large and with it, the season comes to its halfway point. Teams have a feel for how their season is going and with January just around the corner, there is a chance to make some changes. This is not to say they will make any changes; teams are notorious for being very careful of transfers in January. That being said Luis Suarez, Nemanja Vidic and Virgil Van Dijk are key examples of players who can completely change a team and all three were bought in the mid-season window.
With that in mind, I plan to explore the Christmas lists of all 20 clubs in the premier league. What is the strategy for the transfer window, and will we see much movement in the cheque books of the clubs of the biggest and best league in the world? These players will be from the positions that the team needs. They may not strictly fit the team’s philosophy but will be the positions I feel the team needs the most.
So, without further ado, we explore the biggest needs for each club, and who has a chance to fill that vacancy to take the club to the next level. Whether that means helping to secure survival, consolidating themselves in mid table, fighting for the European places or challenging for a title, we ask the question.
All I want for Christmas is… Jack Grealish
Arsenal completely lack creativity; without a doubt they look like a team without direction. They do not have anyone willing to actually put the defence on the back foot. Whenever they launch an attack, they seem to be scared to actually push themselves and lack any semblance of inventiveness. They need something to push themselves to a level where teams fear them again, where are the Arsenal of old and why can they no longer play football?
Their best player, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has all but given up since he got his big contract in the summer. Alexandre Lacazette is a shell of what he was when he was Lyon’s star striker. Willian is their most creative player in one of his worst statistical seasons and Nicolas Pepe does not understand what a disciplined performance is.
So why Jack Grealish? Well, he is premier league and premier league ready. Some will say that he has not proven this at a big club, which is true however Aston Villa sit in 9th right now and Arsenal in 15th therefore this would not exactly ring true at the moment. He is driven and he refuses to rest on his laurels, he does not let anyone surpass him and he is always trying to improve. He is a natural leader and is the reason for Villa’s success this year in the league. The whole is performing to a much higher standard and Grealish is leading the charge.
All I want for Christmas is… David Brooks
Staying up last year was improbable but it somehow happened and surprisingly they have managed to consolidate their position. They are currently in a very relaxed position sat comfortably in 9th which is 12 points above the relegation zone. Knowing they are 4 wins above the drop zone and only 6 wins away from the magic 40-point mark, Villa are in a position of growth and should be pushing themselves to the next level.
David Brooks would be an excellent addition to Aston Villa for the present but also for the future. Brooks brings creativity and drive to add to a team already playing better than expected. Grealish is leading this team into the future and with a resurgent Ross Barkley Villa look threatening whenever they are set free. They have been competitive all year, and although they have beaten the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Wolves, they have lost against Leeds, Brighton and West Ham, not to mention Stoke in the cup.
With an extra creative outlet, they would avoid the situations where Grealish is marked out the game, because he is main source of presence in their games. Brooks would give a legitimate alternative outlet on the other side of the field. With teams unable to game plan just one player, the sky is the limit for a vastly improved Aston Villa.
Brighton and Hove Albion
All I want for Christmas is… Ivan Toney
Prolific goal scorer, if you google what is a prolific goal scorer this season, you immediately find a picture of Ivan Toney. In 20 games for Brentford this season, he already has 16 goals for the Bees which is nearly a goal a game. In the second tier of English football, he is on fire and he is lethal in front of goal. He showed this potential for Peterborough in the third tier, but many thought he would drop off against better competition. With increased service however he seems to be only getting better.
Brighton have a problem in front of goal, they cannot seem to put the stamp on the game and finish teams off. They have drawn 6 times already this season, and lost by only 1 goal 3 times, and a clinical striker could have changed the tide here. When the team is firing and Maupay is on form, Brighton are extremely competitive. Maupay cannot shoulder this weight the whole season and with only 2 wins all season, they will run into issues if they do not improve.
Bringing in an alternative striking option is absolutely necessary, as the season is long, and Brighton will run into trouble down the stretch if they do not look to improve their goalscoring situation
All I want for Christmas is… Max Aarons
Burnley Football Club are known for their ability to defend, especially at home. In years gone by they could beat anyone at home and it was because they played a game that was based on home results. They faced many a rival at Turf Moor but because they could control the pitch dimensions, the speed of the pitch and with a ferocious crowd behind them, Burnley were a test for even the biggest sides. Without the fans the mystique has faltered somewhat, however Sean Dyche, in recent weeks, seems to have them back on track.
They are old at Right Back with players who do not have long left in their career, they need to get younger and who better but a player like Max Aarons. He did not have much of an opportunity last year playing for a bad Norwich team, but with teammates such as Ben Godfrey and Jamal Lewis moving to bigger clubs and playing well it is a wonder Aarons has not had his chance.
His price will likely be the reason for this, he is one of the more expensive players in the Norwich setup as a combination of being young, English and having a lot of untapped potential. Offensively Aarons would give Burnley something they have been lacking, which is plan B in games, working alongside someone like Dwight McNeil, Burnley start to implement a more varied game plan.
The thing that Max Aarons’ critics have always put forward is his lack of defensive ability, he is seen as a great attacking Fullback, with very limited defensive capabilities at the highest level. In steps Sean Dyche, one of the best coaches in the Premier League having managed to get so much out of a distinctly average Burnley squad. Under a coach like Dyche, Aarons would have a chance to work on his weaknesses and maximise his strengths.
All I want for Christmas is… Diego Carlos
Diego Carlos is growing as a defender; he is slowly becoming one of the better Centre Backs in La Liga and really starting to carve out a reputation in Spain. Now Chelsea are one of the deepest teams in the league, but when you look at their depth the biggest need seems to be an upgrade at Centre Back. What Diego Carlos would give them would be a definitive number one player to pair the with the others in the team. Stability is key for a title challenge, and with a player like Carlos you get someone who is the first name on the team sheet.
Chelsea has a lot of depth all over their team but analysing the depth at Centre Back does put forward some questions. Is Fikayo Tomori going to realise his lofty potential? Is Thiago Silva the same player he was in Paris? Do Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have what it takes to truly lead Chelsea to the next level? Is Kurt Zouma ever going to get any real level of consistency? Honestly, I struggle to answer any of these questions with a confident yes.
Chelsea have players who are definitely serviceable at Centre Back and when rotated enough they do not make too many mistakes. If a team have ambitions to chase down the Liverpool’s of the league and consistently overturn them, they need players who can win games on their own. Diego Carlos gives them this type of player. The team spent big in summer on their attack, January should be used for defence if they want to chase down Liverpool this season.
All I want for Christmas is… James Tarkowski
Crystal Palace have a dynamic attack, pure and simple, Wilfried Zaha is an excellent attacker and creatively Eberechi Eze is a very special player. While this could have easily been a striker because Palace lack a true number one at the position, Zaha and Eze help to remedy that somewhat with the ability to make even the worst strikers look okay and grab goals. For proof of these, just take a look at Christian Benteke.
When the Palace attack falters in a game however, their defence cannot handle the pressure it ends up under. Their most recent match was a destruction at the hands of Liverpool conceding 7 and a recent draw with Tottenham was only able to happen due to an inspired performance from Goalkeeper Vicente Guatia. Their defence is not even close to good enough and there are so poor, they currently have a converted Central Defensive Midfielder filling in.
Enter James Tarkowski, a player high on a lot of teams lists as a player with a high ceiling. He plays in a very good defensive system and has shown he can step up when called upon. The most important trait he possesses though is he determination in games. He is always willing to get involved and lead from Centre of defence. He is a no-nonsense player who would give the Palace defence the bite it needs to compete when their attack is struggling.
All I want for Christmas is… Nacho Fernandez
Everton have gone through a significant overhaul recently, and under the tutelage of head coach Carlo Ancelotti they look like a team that is ready to start competing. With the summer additions of Allan and James Rodriguez they showed real intention that they were no longer happy to be an also ran. They improved their attack and got some serious production out of their breakout star in the making Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
They must then be ready to compete with the top 6 then, with such additions to go with the always lively Richarlison. Well not exactly, as I am not sure anyone can compete with Michael Keane and Yerry Mina at Centre Back. They started fast this year, the attack being so potent that the defence were shielded from needing to step up. They had a small stumble; however, they seem to be back on track coming into January.
A team coming back into form, to compete with Mina and Keane, they added Ben Godfrey in summer. He is a talented player, but needs time to develop, Everton however want to compete now. So how do they do this? They go after a player on the fringe at his club, but who is a significant upgrade on what they currently have.
Nacho Fernandez is a marquee signing, a big name, from an enormous club that signifies Everton are here to stay. Fernandez is behind the ageless Sergio Ramos, the World Cup winner Raphael Varane and the enormous potential of Eder Militao. Fernandez therefore feels like the outcast, and with his former coach looking to him to lead him to a Premier League title, can he really pass up the chance.
All I want for Christmas is… Ruben Loftus-Cheek
Okay, so before you say it, yes, this one is a bit of a cop out, because technically Fulham already have Loftus-Cheek, however my argument here is that they should make him permanent. He is a forgotten man at Chelsea; however, he possesses a massive amount of potential. He can become what Fulham miss in their midfield, a player similar to their manager Scott Parker.
Fulham have struggled for consistency since their promotion 2 years ago, going straight back down and straight back up. They clearly have ability and seem to be too good for the Championship, but do not seem to be able to translate that back to the Premier League. Therefore, taking a player like Ruben Loftus-Cheek and handing him the reins to the Midfield makes total sense.
Learning from a very good Midfielder who shares your position whilst consistently getting games is going to do wonders for the Chelsea Loanee’s confidence. If they can start to build around him and get some kind of stability, then they have a chance at staying up this season. This chance starts with securing the signing of Loftus-Cheek and building around him going forward.
All I want for Christmas is… John Stones
Leeds United a difficult one to analyse, when they are firing on all cylinders, they have shown they can hang with anybody, just look at their opening week 4-3 loss to Liverpool or 5-2 victory over Newcastle. They also can sometimes look completely out of their depth in monumental losses to Manchester United and Crystal Palace losing by a combined 10-3. They have not struggled for goals scoring 24 so far this season, however they have conceded 30 and lost 7 games already.
They could always look to improve, and that improvement could come in the out of favour yet experienced John Stones. This is someone who understands the league and how it works, he also boosts a resume of being a two-time Premier League champion too. Stones has only played in 5 games in the league this year, and with Manchester City investing in Nathan Ake this offseason, it seems he may have lost his place.
He can come into the Leeds United dressing room ready to start and will immediately help to solidify the defence. Having played under Pep Guardiola, he is competent with the ball at his feet and it would be a good idea for him to get a new start. At the age of only 26 too he could easily become a regular in a Leeds United team desperate to reclaim their chair at the Premier League for good.
All I want for Christmas is… Joshua King
The Foxes have a long season ahead of them, they currently reside in second place and look like a legitimate contender for the title. They are into the Round of 32 in the Europa League and although they are out of the Carabao Cup, the FA cup begins soon, which they will want to chase. They therefore understand that they will need a big squad to take on the task of competing on three fronts all season.
Jamie Vardy is on fire this season; he already has 11 goals in 13 games and looks like he is just getting started. He is however 33 years old, and whilst he is currently in form, if he hits a dry spell or suffers an injury, Leicester City are very thin at backup. Kelechi Iheanacho and Islam Slimani back him up and they have unfortunately shown no reason for Leicester to be confident they could help if called upon.
Joshua King is a man who wants out of Bournemouth, without a doubt he is done there, claiming ‘injuries’ and being left out of the squad. Bournemouth will want to make money on him, so if he is so often injured why would Leicester look at him? Well, when he is playing well, he is an extremely vibrant player. He can turn a game on its head and backing up a superstar like Jamie Vardy will free him up to express himself. Using him as an interchangeable part with Vardy will make Leicester a huge threat whenever they venture forward.
All I want for Christmas is… Nordi Mukiele
What do you get for the man who has everything? You get him a very good defender who has the potential to become world class. We all know that Liverpool have always been somewhat patchwork in their back four and this season more any exposed this. Without Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool look like a very different team, nowhere near as dominant and the weakness is very evident.
If Van Dijk comes back the same player, they still have the best Centre Back in the world, however his partner in that back four is ever changing. Joe Gomez has a lot of potential; however, he is injury prone. Joel Matip is similar to Gomez, but older and more prone to injury. Finally, Fabinho while used as a Centre Back is definitely more effective in Midfield. Why Mukiele then? For his versatility.
Nordi Mukiele can play both Centre Back and Right Back and in both he is extremely effective. A move to a top side like Liverpool could benefit both teams equally. It would help to solidify two positions for Liverpool with the injuries Trent Alexander-Arnold has suffered this season too. For Mukiele he is on the cusp of the French National team but is still a lesser name especially in Germany. At Liverpool he would be at one of the biggest clubs in the world, playing alongside the best Centre Back in the world. If he plays well, he is pretty much guaranteed to start for France.
All I want for Christmas is… Alex Grimaldo
Back to Benfica for Manchester City, and signing a new player in the form of Alex Grimaldo. Manchester City have had problems at Left Back for a long time now, and they do not see to have a solution for this. They have Benjamin Mendy who spends more time injured than playing and a very unconvincing Oleksandr Zinchenko playing back up to him.
Enter Grimaldo, a player with high potential and someone who is waiting for his move to the next level. He could play all the positions that Guardiola would ask of him and he may be better than City’s current alternatives already. This is all without even realising the Benfica connection to Ruben Dias someone he has excelled playing alongside and someone who he could re-establish a winning partnership with.
Manchester City have struggled with consistency this season, and currently sit in 8th place. While they have only lost twice, they have already drawn 5 games. They therefore either need to score more or concede less. They have some superb attackers who can rival anyone in the league, attackers who always seem to improve as the season goes on. A signing like Grimaldo would help to plug their defence with a player ready to play now and someone who can help them succeed.
All I want for Christmas is… Marquinhos
Paris Saint Germain are in what seems like a crisis, without a coach right now and in third. This seems crazy to call it a crisis as they are only in third by 1 point, however watching their coach get fired for telling the German media he was no longer seen as a coach is asking serious questions. Manchester United therefore may want to strike when the opportunity arises and go after a seriously talented player.
Manchester United do not have a settled back four, and they lack quality at Centre Back. They talk about wanting to compete at the top level, but with the oft injured Eric Bailly, the mistake prone Victor Lindelof and the regression of Harry Maguire, they are not in a position to do this. A player like Marquinhos would not only be a huge signing, but it would be a serious sign of intent.
With players such as Fred and the recent addition of Alex Telles, there is a Brazilian contingent building in Manchester. Marquinhos will see this as a huge opportunity and although he plays for a huge club in France, United have both the money and the history to turn his head. Knowing he is crucial to helping turn Manchester United back into the superpower it once was, Marquinhos could turn himself into a footballing legend.
All I want for Christmas is… Jefferson Lerma
Newcastle it seems enjoys a shopping spree in Bournemouth, with players such a Matt Ritchie, Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser making the switch to Tyneside. Jefferson Lerma could be the next player to make this move. He has a connection with a couple of players he has played with and would immediately add some strength to a Midfield that sometimes seems completely out of games.
Newcastle this year have been consistent, if you call as many wins as losses consistent and seem to struggle against the stronger Midfields. They have an attack that is scoring and have managed to drag themselves back into a couple of games, but in some part due to injury, they are losing the battle in the middle of the part. They are also incredibly thin at Centre Midfield having played 5 wingers in a game this season due to this lack of depth.
Jefferson Lerma is solid, can strike a ball really well, and is what they need to solidify this midfield. He has the ability to play as a box-to-box Midfielder, whilst also possessing all the skills to sit in front of a back four and play Defensive Midfield. He is not afraid to tackle hard and show the opposition they are in for a game. If Newcastle want to move to the next level, they need a player in this mould.
All I want for Christmas is… Ismaila Sarr
Sheffield United are desperate for anything to help turn their season around, they currently sit on two points and are potentially already down and it is not even January. They are not completely out of games, however a few mistakes and a few last gasp losses put them rock bottom of the table with a difficult route out.
They need a lot, more than I can write about, but when thinking about this, I concluded that they need someone who can do it on their own. They do not have much in the way of players who seem to have the answers to their problems, and Chris Wilder looks like he is running out of ideas.
Ismaila Sarr is a problem, he is superb with the ball at his feet and watching dismantle the eventual Premier League champions last year shows that he thrives when presented with a big challenge. Watford were competitive in games last year in the most part because we did not know what he would do next. He would have an opportunity here to really show the Premier League how good he is and at only 22 could seriously up his stock by dragging Sheffield back into the fight.
All I want for Christmas is… Michail Antonio
This season Southampton look like the real deal, with players stepping up all over the field, but what happens when the falter and their star man in Danny Ings inevitably gets injured. At the moment Che Adams is in form but he has half a season under his belt playing at this elevated level. If Southampton plan to keep up this challenge, they may need more experienced players with a more proven record.
Enter Michail Antonio, a man who week in and week out looks better than the team he is part of. He is singlehandedly the spark for West Ham at times, leading their attack and dragging them back into games they may otherwise lose. He is a competitor and always seems to rise to the occasion, something that is very evident when West Ham perform better than expectations.
For Southampton Antonio would give them that little something extra, the plan B in games when plan A is not working. Combining Danny Ings, Che Adams, Michael Obafemi and Michail Antonio would give Saints a lethal attack full of pace that can exploit slower players and push Southampton to the next level.
All I want for Christmas is… Samuel Umtiti
Tottenham needs depth at Centre Back that is very clear, especially with the way that Jose Mourinho seems to be using the players, with Eric Dier filling in at the position and Toby Alderweireld struggling with full fitness. Jose seems to be reluctant to call upon the man once seen as the future at Spurs with Davidson Sanchez often relegated to the bench. Joe Rodan is another option but with the lack experience at the top level, it would not be surprising to see Tottenham going shopping.
With many saying that anything short of a title being a disappointment this year for Tottenham, they need to solidify at the back. With one of the most powerful attacking forces in the league, it is defensive errors that is costing them in close fought games. Three times this year Spurs have drawn games from dominant winning positions, which must have Jose looking at his back four.
Samuel Umtiti has fallen out of favour at Barcelona, but he is still a world class player. More importantly for the inexperience of the Spurs squad though is that he is a winner. Tottenham have been accused of not having winnings in their squad as most of their players lack domestic success on their resume. Umtiti has proven he can do this with Barcelona and might be the experienced head that can turn draws to wins.
West Bromwich Albion
All I want for Christmas is… Ashley Barnes
Recent changes at manager have changed this pick as previously under Slaven Bilic we would be looking at a creative young player to come in and help West Brom. The board however decided that the man to take them forward would-be Big Sam Allardyce. A manager with an excellent record of staying up in the Premier League that is not known for his expansive and exciting football. Route one football is the name of the game with Big Sam; therefore, they need players to embody that philosophy.
Ashley Barnes is the type of player who can play this type of football. The ability to break up the play is something that Barnes thrives upon and his penchant for aggressive no-nonsense football means he would fit in well under the new management. He is not a prolific goal scorer but what he does do is pop up with extremely important goals.
West Brom struggle to score anyway so while bringing in a new proven goal scorer should be top of their list. The management style of Big Sam however dictates that he would instead want a target man who can play long ball football. Barnes fits better than a more energetic player in the system that Allardyce will employ to try to save West Brom.
West Ham United
All I want for Christmas is… Ainsley Maitland-Niles
West Ham are consistently inconsistent, they currently sit in 10th place this year and while they have had some solid results drawing with Spurs and putting together an unbeaten November. They are currently performing above expectations, however the cracks are showing, even if they do keep sneaking results.
A player like Ainsley Maitland-Niles would add a level of versatility that they do not currently have. He can play all over the Defence as well as all over the Midfield too. He is the definition of versatility in the sense he cannot be boxed into one position. He has big game experience too from his time with Arsenal, even if they are currently struggling for any kind of form in the league.
West Ham have a decent squad but lack that natural quality in their team. Maitland-Niles would give them this as he would challenge a multitude of players for their positions and make the whole team play harder to keep their place. This in turn would improve the team quality across the park.
All I want for Christmas is… Lewis Cook
Where are the Wolves of last season? The team that only lost 9 games all season and had back-to-back 7th place finishes in the Premier League. This season Wolves are inconsistent and have already lost as many as they have won. In the last 5 games they have won 2 and lost 3 and they do not seem able to put a run of form together.
Wolves still have a quality team with some really good depth, and although they love a Portuguese player for this purchase, they should go closer to home. Lewis Cook would fit their ethos of having creative Midfielders and he is a natural replacement to an aging Joao Moutinho. Cook could help keep the Midfield creative and understands the league so can be a plug in and play type player.
Losing a very creative player in the form of Diogo Jota has seen Wolves free flowing attack stifled this season. Moving into a more creative Midfield and relinquishing some of that attacking prowess will slow down the team in the short term, but should help to have a longer term, sustained success.