As all good managers know, throwing new players into a squad halfway through a season is tantamount to sabotage. In that spirit, here’s a look at each club in the English Premier League, and which players would do the least amount of damage with their arrival:
The signing of Thierry Henry on a two-month loan could yet prove to be the most astute of the season, not least because the profligate, but immensely talented, wide man Gervinho will be on African Nations duty.
Still, Arsenal’s mid-season revival has come despite some glaring problems in defence. Good cover for the left-back position is badly needed. Given how partial they are to doing business with Arsenal, it’s a wonder Manchester City haven’t begged Arsene Wenger to take Wayne Bridge off their books. He could probably do an alright job – and even keep the wildcard Andre Santos out of the team.
Another club looking to pinch an old war horse on a 2-month loan deal from America (Robbie Keane, this time), Villa appear stuck in that awfully dull part of the table where the “too good to go down” clubs live.
They could liven things up for their fans with a bit of flair in midfield. A loan move for Niko Kranjcar, a talented player out of favour at Spurs, seems almost too obvious.
Blackburn don’t score enough goals and concede too many. But the club whose owners were talking about signing Ronaldinho this time last year appear to have set their sights a little lower (at around the height of Steve Kean).
With no money to spend, some sort of loan deal appears to make the most sense. Kranjcar is again an obvious target, but another player who might make an impact would be his team-mate Giovanni dos Santos. The outrageously talented Mexican has endured a torrid time at Spurs, but his consistently brilliant performances for his country suggest he has the ability to make a real difference. And Blackburn are desperate.
As above. If Gary Cahill is sold, around £7m will be freed up to spend on transfers, some of which would have to go on a replacement. Taking a central defender from a foreign league halfway through a season is always a huge risk (David Luiz, anyone?) and, with few players likely to want to risk a transfer to a club in the drop zone, their best bet could easily be in the Championship.
The return of Lee Chung-Yong will boost Bolton’s dour midfield, but a quick striker who guarantees goals is vital. Benfica, from whom Bolton loaned Rodrigo last season, have a handful who could be available on loan or on a cheap transfer – from the experienced Javier Saviola to Nelson Oliveira, one of Portuguese football’s hottest young properties.
Cahill would solve most of what is wrong with Chelsea at the moment. The Portuguese press, meanwhile, remains keen on a world record-breaking transfer for Hulk.
If the money is available for ‘The Incredible’, then he could well be the man to inject some life into Chelsea (though where he’d fit in the team would be interesting – he’s more of a wide forward than a central striker, and those are the areas in which Chelsea are particularly well-stocked).
Hulk’s Porto team-mate Joao Moutinho, however, is another option. Imagine Raul Meireles but much more technically gifted, and with a better haircut. A bit of guile in midfield would be great – but, again, that leaves Meireles and Lampard fighting for a spot on the bench. And before we get carried carried away, Moutinho is hardly the Messiah either – he can’t shoot.
With The End of Tim Cahill apparently nigh (his goalscoring form dipped dramatically over nine months ago), Everton need GOALS. These could come from Hugo Rodallega, whom Wigan risk losing for free at the end of the season; or they could just grin and bear it until the end of the season and try to sign Bobby Zamora.
Alternatively, the back-pass to Tim Howard could prove to be deadly if the wind lasts through to May.
Manager Martin Jol is gradually creating a team in his own image, which is lovely. It also means a series of ‘very disappointing’ draws until Jol’s utopian vision is transformed into ubiquitous Cottage glory.
Fulham don’t really ‘need’ anything as much as they need a slice of luck, and the public spat between Jol and Zamora to sort itself out, one way or another.
With Luis Suarez’s ban, Liverpool suddenly look a bit average – and not just up front, where Andy Carroll will have to step up.
A domineering centre-back to partner Skrtel (Chris Samba?) would be nice, but what seems most lacking is genuine width. Juve outcast Milos Krasic is a player with real talent, technically suited to English football; a less obvious choice would be PAOK’s Giorgios Georgiadis, whose terrific performance at White Hart Lane helped relieve Harry Redknapp of his Europa League burden.
What do you give the club that has all the players in the world?
In all seriousness, City do look short of defensive cover. Even if we accept that Stefan Savic hasn’t had a chance to impose himself yet, they could do with one more defender. An experienced, functional and versatile defender like Milan’s Kakha Kaladze could do the job on loan before a younger player can be blooded over summer.
Sir Alex Ferguson has rubbished speculation that he needs to spend halfway through the season, but...he does. Desperately short of defensive cover, United also need a dominant holding player to end years of mysterious defeats in the Champions’ League to teams with playmakers or deep-lying fowards.
Benfica’s Javi Garcia (who can also play as a makeshift centre-back) is an obvious, if unattainable, target. Tottenham’s Sandro, out of favour since the arrival of Scott Parker, has proven his worth in the Champions’ League and would be a great option to have for next season.
Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez is one of Europe’s most exciting young players. In the Busquets mould, he can play either in midfield or defence. He could, in theory, cover the defence more moving into midfield with the return of more senior defenders.
However, it’s likely that Ferguson’s vision of an Anderson-Cleverley partnership will endure through some patchy form in Winter, and there are too many quality defenders out injured to justify panic-buying.
The Premier League’s big overachievers probably need a few squad players to see them through the second half of a long season. When the likes of Fabio Coloccini are absent from defence, things do look very threadbare.
Liam Ridgewell at Birmingham City is an obvious target for most Premiership teams, and can play across the back four in an emergency. Sochaux’s Modibo Maiga and FC Twente’s Luuk de Jong are well-publicised targets in attack – but a more interesting option might be PSV Eindhoven’s young Moroccan starlet Zakaria Labyad – a pacey, versatile forward who can slot into a variety of positions and change games from the bench.
Spurs’ Kyle Naughton has provided the biggest transfer rumour so far, but it’s unlikely Paul Lambert will want to rock the boat too much with the club in such an unexpectedly good position.
James Tomkins of West Ham seems the most sensible option of all the rumours surrounding QPR’s transfer activity, but Birmingham’s Liam Ridgewell is a hardened Premier League survivor who would suit the club.
After an atrocious start, Stoke have steadied in the league and gone on a fantastic Europa league run – a club improving while the form of others dips shouldn’t normally need to make any drastic changes to its squad.
Junior Hoilett and Chris Samba are obvious signings – Blackburn’s style suits Stoke, and they would see a move as a step up, or at least a step out of the relegation zone. Rodallega could be another interesting option, if only to add a bit of guile up front.
Martin O’Neill wants to play like Barcelona, apparently. Unable, as they are, to exchange their entire squad over the course of a month, Sunderland may have to make do with just a handful of sensible, budgeted signings.
Out of favour at Porto, Fernando Belluschi is a clever little midfielder who would add a creative spark, while Levante’s Jose Barkero would be an interesting choice (though Martin O’Neill’s ‘Barcelona’ project might need to already be underway...).
As with Norwich, not rocking the boat should really be order of the day but a loan move for Chelsea’s Josh McEachran could well suit both parties. The Englishman’s passing is outstanding, perfectly suited to Swansea’s game. A loan would probably benefit Chelsea – the move would almost certainly improve McEachran’s game further.
Unless ‘Arry can wheel in Kaka, Tottenham don’t need to make many changes to the squad. The squad is much stronger than last season, where injuries took their toll and they had a Champions’ League campaign to contend with.
This season has been a little uncomfortable for Roy Hodgson compared with the consummate ease with which he picked them up from the bottom of the table last season. Peter Odemwingie’s big dip in form has not helped.
A bit of flair up front would certainly liven things up – there have been links with a loan for Sporting Gijon’s Nacho Novo, but an interesting option could well be a loan move for Spurs’ Giovanni dos Santos.
Just as Swansea could do with Josh McEachran because he compliments their style, so too could Wolves use the young Chelsea midfielder to inject some flair into what can often look a flat midfield.
Leicester’s Sean St Ledger is a good, young, local centre-back who would fit in well, and if you can imagine Mick McCarthy making an ‘unusual’ signing, Portugal winger Varela is out of favour with Porto and would relish a move to the Premier League...
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