The January transfer market, who needs it?
The sides who should throw a Hail Mary or stick with what they've got19:39 Saturday 30 December 2017, 19:39 30 Dec 2017
Ah the January transfer market, a time to link every player under the sun with a move so extra papers can be sold, bigger contracts re-signed at other sides, and higher agent fees to be doled out when a player does eventually move for a ridiculously inflated price.
It may be January, but it's far from bargain sales we'll be looking at over the next month, and in some cases you'll even see some teams paying more for the players they wanted in summer that don't look half as good anymore.
With all that in mind, it's worth asking whether clubs and managers actually need to invest or not, or should managers stick to what they've got and try to improve their squad by, well, managing it.
Here are some of the sides that do and don't need to enter the mid-season madness, and either keep their wallet closed, or open it up to agents in the hope of getting a gem in return that saves this season and keeps them in a job for the next one.
At the time of writing City are 13 points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand of second place Chelsea. Obviously considering their free-spending nature in recent transfer windows, their name will be spoken in the same breath as a multitude of players.
Bernardo Silva barely playing this season is proof enough that they don't need any more attacking talent, as links to an early move for Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez have all but died out, with City seeming content to wait six months for the Chilean they almost signed on the final day of the summer window.
There's no obvious weaknesses in the side, though cover for central defence remains the main position being mooted for improvement. Skipper Vincent Kompany, injured this week, is set to be back for the next set of fixtures according to Pep Guardiola, while John Stones is already back in training. This leaves them having to make do with the £60million pairing of Argentinian and French internationals Otamendi and Mangala.
"Oh, but they need to strengthen the squad to compete in the Champions League". If Johnny Evans is the answer to the Champions League, you're asking the wrong question.
Similar to Man City in many ways, though playing style and funding are not some of those, Burnley aren't really in a need to change much about their squad.
The current side have put them where they are, and signing players to come into the first 11 not only runs the risk of upsetting the rhythm they have going, but could easily cause problems within the dressing room from those being dropped, and the squad members who fall even further down the pecking order.
Burnley are also in this because of the other side of the transfer market, what they need to keep hold of. While manager Sean Dyche will continue to be linked with more high profile moves away as long as he remains English, a proper football man, and in charge of a side in the top 10, they need to make sure they ward of advances for the likes of James Tarkowski. They can find suitable replacements for the eventual wantaway stars in the summer, and they won't have to disrupt their season or pay over the odds for them then either.
There's something going wrong at Watford. Having started the season off in a similar vein to Burnley, exceeding even the wildest of expectations, they've hit a bump in the road that's seen them lose five of their last six, and pick up just four points out of 21 on offer in December.
The side has proven it's capable of mixing it with the league's best already. If Marco Silva is the calibre of manager people were saying he was back in November then surely he can get this side going again without dropping more money in the market. If he's not, then do you back him to spend big to try and sort these problems?
Whatever your opinion on the matter, Watford are another side that should worry about outs more than the ins, with links already surfacing for stars like Richarlison and Doucoure, who have been fundamental in the positive things they've already done this season.
Granted, there are a number of sides down around the relegation zone that need to buy players, but these sides have needed an improvement for a while and aren't don't simply fit into the "throw money at it" strategy the bottom placed sides are likely to invoke.
They needed better players in the summer, Raphael Benitez was adamant about it, but owner Mike Ashley didn't seem keen on gambling in the market to improve the squad of a club he's seemingly been trying to sell for a while now.
They have a manager who's been doing relatively impressive things considering the large majority of his squad wouldn't look out of place in the Championship. That's not to be disrespectful, but the side is full of players who were part of the team that got them relegated two seasons ago. Add in a few more who were bought to get them promoted but look like getting them relegated once more, and it's fair to say they need some fresh faces around St. James's Park.
Bereft of a player who get on the end of the final ball(two of their top five scorers are centre-backs), starting with a someone who could offer more than three goals in half a season would be a good start.
It seems like the Londoners have been in these sort of lists for a long time now, but with a number of key players leaving in the summer, and the team not exactly firing on all cylinders even with them in the side, it's probably time to start the rebuild now.
The term deadwood has labelled many of the Gunners' fringe players since the middle of the 00's, but January would be a good time to replace those eating up space in the squad.
It's doubtful that January is a time they'll be able to replace those linked with free transfers away from the side in summer, notably Ozil and Sanchez, but it's a good opportunity build the foundations of the team so they only have to add that star quality come the summer, and not attempt a complete overhaul at once.
The saints actually tie in pretty well with Arsenal here, as rumours linking Theo Walcott to his former side have surfaced already.
Southampton are in need of pace up front, as they've missed the direct speed of Sadio Mane since his sale to Liverpool, and with the Van Dijk money burning a hole in their pocket it might be a move they see as a solution, even if sentimentality can cloud judgement in situations like this, it's clear they need to add something up top.
While £75million used to go a lot further in the market, there's enough money there for the Saints to sign some proven talent and put them back in the position of Europa League hopefuls and not relegation contenders.
They'll pay more than what they should have to for that talent, but if they've been this bad with Van Dijk in the side for the first half of the season, they can't afford to not invest that money now that they'll have to do without their captain for the remainder of the campaign.
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