What they need...
The January sales are almost upon us. Oliver Todd looks at where each Premier League team may look to strengthen during the transfer window.
By Oliver Todd
Last Updated: 29/12/12 9:30am
Arsene Wenger has taken a lot of criticism already this season for the quality of the sides he has built since Arsenal last picked up a trophy in 2005, and much of that comes down to his signings. With the Gunners struggling in the league, and knocked out of the Capital One Cup by Bradford, the Frenchman's use of transfer funds is more important than ever before if they want to end the season with silverware, or with what Arsenal consider a trophy - a top-four place.
First up, Arsenal need a striker. Summer signing Olivier Giroud seems to be finding his feet in the Premier League but is the only real option to lead the line, with Gervinho unimpressive and Theo Walcott generally being preferred in a wide role by Wenger. Newcastle's Demba Ba has been linked with a move and if Walcott's protracted contract saga fails to end with a positive solution, Wenger may need to dip into the market to pick up a replacement for the England international as well. Meanwhile the Wilfried Zaha rumours just will not go away. Finally, goalkeeper backup is needed for Wojciech Szczesny.
Paul Lambert is building a hungry young side at Villa with a host of academy players and little known signings proving their worth in the Premier League - not least in their 3-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield. Lambert has already stated his intentions to invest further after making nine purchases in the summer window at a net cost of £21.7million. The sale of out-in-the-cold Darren Bent should help to raise funds.
With a backlog of defensive injuries, Villa may be tempted to go in for a centre-back if an opportunity arises, particularly if they continue with their system that utilises three at the back which has been successful in recent weeks. A central midfielder is the most likely signing though - with Barry Bannan the only real consistently first-choice midfielder in the side. Brentford's 18-year-old Harry Forrester, who Villa sold just 18 months ago looks to be one option, whilst Lambert will surely have other targets running under the radar.
In no change from the norm, Chelsea have already experienced as up-and-down a season as you could get. Lauded for their attacking play at the start of the season with the creative talents of Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard wreaking havoc on defences, they find themselves at the mid-point of the season off the pace in the title race and out of the Champions League.
Rafa Benitez looks to have injected some life back into Fernando Torres but with only other option Daniel Sturridge looking set to leave, Chelsea will need another striker with Radamel Falcao, who has 20 goals in 16 games this season, still being rumoured. A defensive midfielder will be needed with Oriol Romeu's injury and John Obi Mikel's Africa absence in January - and Michael Essien could be recalled from loan to fill the role. Finally, the club still need decent backup for Petr Cech, although that will not be a priority for this window.
The Toffees have had an excellent start to the season 10 years into David Moyes' reign at the club. Marouane Fellaini has taken most of the plaudits for his fantastic form, but the likes of Leighton Baines and Leon Osman have also been excellent so far this season.
Moyes will again have to look for value in the market. Rumours of signings have not been forthcoming but Moyes could choose to dip in if funds are available - particularly if replacements will be needed for Fellaini and Baines if interest from Chelsea and Manchester United materialises.
Martin Jol has said that Fulham "must be inventive" if they are to pick up new players in this transfer window. The Cottagers have been struggling for form and consistency this season and will look for a player to bring an improvement to their side as Pavel Pogrebnyak did on loan last year. Jol's definition of 'inventive' is to "try to get the players who are not playing well or not fitting in at their other clubs".
Fulham are one of a number of clubs to be linked with Benfica attacking midfielder Nolito. Only four teams have conceded more than Fulham and former Manchester United target Maarten Stekelenburg has been mentioned as a replacement for Mark Schwarzer, having spent time with Jol at Ajax. Stekelenburg would jump at the opportunity to gain first-team playing time in a bid to keep his place in the national team, having been dropped by Roma. Blackburn's Paul Robinson is a cut-price alternative.
Despite Brendan Rogers' claims that Liverpool can finish in the top four, they have struggled at times in what is a transitional season at Anfield. Luis Suarez is their only available striker and has been in a fine vein of form, but the main positive for the Reds this season has been the impact of their young players - with the likes of Raheem Sterling and Suso securing themselves places in the first-team.
Liverpool's transfer targets have been relatively public for some time now, with Daniel Sturridge and Thomas Ince looking likely to come in as support and provide cover for Suarez. If Rodgers continues to harbour doubts over Pepe Reina's ability, he too may look to sign a new goalkeeper - Jack Butland is a reported target and would fit the push for young English talent.The priority for many Liverpool fans, however, will be getting rid of some of their highly-paid benchwarmers.
Out of the Champions League and behind in the title race - City have been here before but it is not looking great at the Etihad going into the winter schedule. However, they can easily turn their season around and another Premier League success over their bitter rivals would more than rescue their season.
With Mario Balotelli set to be given another chance by Roberto Mancini, a move for rumoured target Falcao looks unlikely. Despite the strength of their squad, City are likely to be linked with everyone and anyone this window. It's difficult to see where improvements could be made without huge spending that is unlikely in January - but something needs to be done to stop their rivals from across the city...
Top of the table and with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie on fire up front, it all looks good for United at the half-way point in the season. However, their defence has been as shaky as ever seen under Ferguson and that will need to change if they plan on knocking out Real Madrid in the Champions League last-16 tie.
Sir Alex Ferguson has reiterated how difficult it is to find value in the January market and therefore any movement is unlikely. Fans have been crying out for a new central midfielder and Celtic's Vincent Wanyama may fit the bill - although he is cup-tied in Europe. United have been thought to be looking at £9m-rated Mexico midfielder Hector Herrera, who inspired his country to Olympic victory, although a summer deal is more likely, whilst Wesley Sneijder rumours are again rife but a move is unlikely.
Struggling Newcastle could well find themselves without top scorer Demba Ba at the close of the January window if one of his many suitors choose to active his £7.5million release clause. The side that were so impressive last year now find themselves on the fringes of relegation, despite few changes. Alan Pardew has already recognised that not enough was done during the summer and he will be looking to make up for that in January. It could be a busy one for Newcastle.
Loic Remy has already been put forward as a potential replacement for Ba and the France international would certainly fit the bill if his rumoured £10million signing materialises. Strengthening is needed all-round, particularly in midfield where cover will be needed for Cheick Tiote when he departs to the African Cup of Nations. The main signing most Newcastle fans will want to see though is last season's Papiss Cisse. The Senagalese striker has been off-colour so far this season and the Magpies desperately need a return to form from the striker that was so successful in the second half of last season.
Norwich have been rapidly improving under Chris Hughton and are sitting pretty in the top half of the table. Wins against Manchester United and Arsenal have kept fans happy whilst the form of their settling side has seen Norwich pick up points from all angles. They went 10 Premier League games unbeaten after losing to Chelsea in October.
Big-money transfers look unlikely, with lower league bargains presenting a more welcome opportunity for the Canaries. Hughton may raid Brighton for Craig Mackail-Smith and Liam Bridcutt - Bridcutt is out of contract at the start of the season and Mackail-Smith was a target this summer, as Norwich look to secure their Premier League status for another year.
Queens Park Rangers
Harry Redknapp will be up to his usual 'wheeling and dealing' come the January window as QPR look to bring in the resources they need to survive. More importantly, the existing players need still need to gel. January was a big window for QPR, and such levels of upheaval again would arguably do more harm than good for the west London club.
Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka are purported to be topping Redknapp's January shopping list - and the position that Anelka will look to fill is a vital one. QPR are without a real goalscorer, with Bobby Zamora and Adel Taarabt, a midfielder, topping their charts on four goals each. Anelka would fit the bill, as would other rumoured targets Peter Crouch, Demba Ba or Loic Remy. A couple of defensive players to strengthen up at the back wouldn't go amiss either.
Reading are in deep trouble. Rooted to the bottom of the table and with the most goals conceded in the Premier League, Brian McDermott has a big job on his hands to keep the Royals up, and in order to do so, their transfer activity should reflect this.
With their poor defensive record, and lack of Premier League experience, expected Reading to move for well-established Premier League defenders and tough tackling and tracking midfielders - and they will be much needed. Young Zambian defender Stoppila Sunzu is a target and can play in both defence and midfield, whilst Tom Huddlestone may be a player that fits the bill in midfield for McDermott.
The Saints have improved from the side that were laughed at for their poor defending early on in the season. Defensive stability has finally been established and results are improving. However, strengthening can be easily undertaken throughout the side and may be needed to be sure of Premier League survival.
A goalkeeper is the priority, with neither Kelvin Davis, nor Paulo Gazzaniga looking convincing. Paul Robinson could be an option. Gary Hooper, coveted by a number of other Premier League sides, is thought to be a target to partner Rickie Lambert up front, whilst Saints will look to bring in anyone they feel could strengthen their side at good value.
Tony Pulis' men once again look very steady in the Premier League - particularly with their strong home form, where they have only conceded three goals all season. Pulis frequently looks to strengthen in January though and will do again. Expect Stoke to be one of the bigger movers in the market.
Darren Bent looks to be leaving Villa, and Pulis will always be interested in a consistently prolific Premier League striker such as Bent, particularly if he can get him on a cut-price deal. Ex-Birmingham striker Mauro Zarate has also been rumoured but it will most likely be a case of one or the other, and Bent will be the preferred option. A move for either will most likely exhaust the Potters' transfer funds.
Sunderland have had a tough first-half of the season. Poor starts to games, lack of support for top scorer Steven Fletcher and a general lack of goals sees Martin O'Neill's side uncharacteristically flirting with relegation. Sunderland will need to improve their attacking options to make sure they avoid a drop into the Championship for the first time since 2006-07.
Rumoured targets include Celtic's Gary Hooper and Man City's John Guidetti, whilst a Premier League loan return for Tim Cahill has been mooted. Sweden international defender Andreas Granqvist has been targeted by Martin O'Neill to sure up the Mackem's defence, but they will have to fight off a host of other Premier League sides to get him.
The Welsh side have looked strong under Michael Laudrup and sit comfortably in mid-table. Summer signing Michu has been widely hailed as one of the Premier League's most inspired buys, and the Dane will be looking to exploit the market for similar value in this window.
Whilst talk of Barcelona's David Villa joining on loan may be little more than a pipe dream, Swansea will be looking for a striker in the January window. Braga's Eder may be an option. The Portugese striker has caught the eye of Laudrup with seven goals in nine Primeira Liga starts. A striker is the key for Laudrup - Michu has, on occasion, had to play up front as a false nine, with little cover for Danny Graham.
Andre Villas-Boas has already stated that Tottenham will be carrying on as if the window was not happening. He will not be looking to strengthen his side, but equally is looking to hang on to the extraordinary talent of Gareth Bale. Spurs could do with more grit in midfield, but that should be provided by the return of Scott Parker.
A number of sides, most notably ex-manager Harry Redknapp's QPR, have stated an interest in out-of-favour Michael Dawson and England midfielder Parker, but Villas-Boas looks set to shun their advances and only a ridiculous bid would drag Bale from the club mid-way through the season.
West Bromwich Albion
Steve Clarke's West Brom side are performing above expectations already this season and he sees no reason to make changes. He has already stated that January is: "A month you can use if needed. I've got a really good squad of players here and if I'm left with that squad the other side of January, then I'll be happy."
His hand could be forced though if big bids come in for the likes of the impressive Shane Long, or if Chelsea recall Romelu Lukaku from his season-long loan. Regardless, if West Brom can keep their performances up, they should not have a problem with reaching their league targets for the season.
Sam Allardyce spoke this week of staying with the Hammers until at least 2015, and if he can keep up this form, they would be wise to keep hold of him. The promoted east London outfit are another side relatively comfortable in mid-table, whilst November's victory over Chelsea will have fans blowing bubbles for months to come.
Despite the relative successes, Allardyce is keen to add to his squad in January, particularly up front. Nicolas Anelka, Rickie Lambert and former-Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou have all been mooted as potential targets, and Big Sam has already stated an interest in making Yossi Benayoun's loan deal permanent. Injuries may also force his hand, whilst the Hammers will be determined to hang onto key player Mohamed Diame and loanee Andy Carroll.
Despite drawing plaudits for their performances this season, it may surprise many to notice that Wigan are again stuck in the relegation mire. January could be very important - although not as important as Wigan's traditional late charge away from the relegation zone. The Latics will also hope to hang onto their biggest stars given circulating transfer rumours concerning James McCarthy and Ali Al-Habsi.
Victor Moses' summer sale to Chelsea should release some funds for investment and Martinez will be looking to utilise as much of it as possible. He has already spoken of bringing in "two or three players" and first signing is already secured - Manchester United's Angelo Martinez, brought in on loan to strengthen attacking options. Salomon Kalou has also been mentioned, as has Christophe Berra, who is a £3million target after asking to leave Wolves. This could be one of Wigan's biggest spending windows.