With the January transfer window just one month away from opening, where do the teams near the summit of the table need to improve?
Below are listed certain players which could possibly strengthen each of the top four sides in key positions, whether it’s possible to make some of the signings a reality is another question. However, with such small margins at the top of the table this season, reinforcements could prove vital.
- Chelsea – Niklas Süle, Malang Sarr, Jesús Vallejo
Table toppers Chelsea have plenty of quality players in their ranks already, but Antonio Conte is said to be seeking out another centre back. An injury to any of their current back three of David Luiz, César Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill could be problematic. Kurt Zouma is out with a long-term injury and Branislav Ivanovic’s form of late has been nothing to write home about, so it would be wise to have more back up in store.
Hoffenheim’s Niklas Süle could be the man for the job. The 21-year-old German would provide ideal cover for Chelsea as he already plays in the same 3-4-3 formation Conte uses for his current club and has plenty of experience despite his young age.
Malang Sarr is certainly a player to watch for the future. The 17-year-old has played in all 15 of Nice’s Ligue 1 games this season and has contributed to the best defensive record in Europe’s top 5 leagues this season. The fact Sarr is showing such maturity and composure so early in his career has attracted the attention of scouts all over Europe.
Jesús Vallejo is another youngster performing outstandingly this season. The 19-year-old is part of another water tight three-man back line with Eintracht Frankfurt (on loan from Real Madrid), which has only conceded 10 Bundesliga goals so far this season.
- Liverpool – Christian Pulisic, Julian Brandt, Quincy Promes
The injury to Philippe Coutinho, which will see him ruled out until the new year, will surely have implications to the way Liverpool line up. With Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana still injured and Sadio Mané off to the African Cup of Nations in January, the speed with which his squad can become depleted has become a cause of concern for Jürgen Klopp. Another player with pace and a clever footballing mind would be a welcome addition to the side when the transfer window opens.
Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic was reportedly targeted in the summer with an £11 million bid, but an improved offer could be lined up by the reds. The American winger possesses all the attributes required to be a success in the Premier League.
Leverkusen’s Julian Brandt is another youngster plying his trade in the Bundesliga. Brandt is a real classy operator, capable of playing with both feet and has the knack of chipping in with goals and assists on regular basis. Lastly, Dutch winger
Quincy Promes is an exciting prospect plying his trade with Spartak Moscow in the Russian League. He’s fast, unpredictable and versatile, which would make him an ideal replacement for Mané when he leaves for international duty in January.
- Manchester City – Sergio Busquets, Diego Demme, Javi Martínez
While realistically City haven’t much chance of signing Busquets, he would be the perfect addition to their side. They lack a bit of control in the central midfield area, with Fernando often erratic, Fernandinho never entirely convincing and the returning Yaya Toure has always had a penchant for wandering out of position.
Busquets’ ability to metronomically pass the ball around the pitch and retain possession would be ideal for Guardiola’s side.
If someone of Busquet’s calibre isn’t available though, then RB Leipzig’s Diego Demme wouldn’t be a bad alternative. He has broken onto the scene this year with the newly promoted side going on an impressive charge to the summit of the Bundesliga, with Demme anchoring the midfield in an unorthodox 4-2-2-2 formation with Naby Keïta, often providing cover while his teammate roves forward.
Javi Martínez was once a huge prospect, but had become the forgotten man at Bayern Munich after a cruciate ligament tear. Upon his return, he’s still not reaching the levels he seemed capable of when he partnered Bastian Schweinsteiger in Bayern’s midfield a few years ago, but if anyone can bring him back to his former heights its Pep Guardiola. Martínez’s ability to play at both centre back and centre midfield would be ideal for City and the sort of style that Pep sets out to play.
- Arsenal – Timo Werner, Alassane Plea, Xabi Alonso
Timo Werner is already looking like the next big thing in German football. The 20-year-old has gotten 7 goals and 4 assists already this season in a fluid and high energy RB Leipzig team. Arsenal would surely find it next to impossible to pry him away from Die Rotten Bullen at such an early stage in his career, but Arsene Wenger is in dire need of an out and out striker to compliment the likes of Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil, so he would be delighted with such an addition.
If not Werner, Nice’s Alassane Pléa is probably a more realistic target. Much has been made of Mario Balotelli’s revival on the French south coast, but Pléa has been a real driving force in Nice’s table topping efforts. An impressive 8 goals in 15 games from the winger turned centre forward highlights a clinical goal scoring talent combined with a versatility to swap positions comfortably. Pléa would be more at home in Wenger’s team than the likes of Lucas Pérez, who has been demoted to a cup player and has often looked unsuited to Arsenal’s style.
Finally, Xabi Alonso would be a seamless fit into the Arsenal team. The chances of him completing a transfer to the Emirates are very unlikely but his experience and leadership skills could really be put to good use. For example, in last night’s 2-0 loss at home to Southampton, Arsenal could really have done with a more commanding presence in the deep lying midfield role than Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny.
The 35-year-old Alonso’s presence on the pitch just breeds a calmness and authority that was sorely lacking. With his contract running out in summer 2017, Bayern could be tempted to cash in rather than letting him go on a free transfer.
Michael Cole, Pundit Arena
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