Who needs who in January: Part 2
Continuing on from part one, read more to find out who needs who before the transfer window slams shut on at midnight on February 1st.
The Magpies have been in excellent form this season and despite dropping off the pace of late, still find themselves in 7th place in the league. A substantial contribution goes down to summer arrival Demba Ba, the Senegalese hitman firing in 15 league goals already, over half of the clubs current total of 29. And this is where the initial problem arises. Ba is now set to miss the remainder of January and, potentially, a chunk of February, many are anticipating the goals to dry up. Having been linked with a move for Roman Pavlyuchenko, it is imperative either Alan Pardew brings in a new-striker, if only on loan, or Peter Lovenkrands, Leon Best and Shola Ameobi pick up the slack that will undoubtedly be left by his temporary departure and improve the seven goals they have scored between the three of them.
Like Ba, midfielder Cheik Tiote is also heading to the African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast and his loss will be tremendous to the Magpies. The combative midfielder has proved a revelation for the club in the past 18 months and his defensive capabilities will be sorely missed during the competition. Fortunately, Yoann Cabaye will still be available for Pardew but without his workhorse in the middle, Newcastle are likely to struggle. A short-term option may be viable but with Danny Guthrie expected to replace him in the middle, it may not be necessary, despite Guthrie’s lesser ability to the 25-year-old.
The Canaries are flying high in their first season back in the Premiership, and much of the credit has got to go to manager Paul Lambert. The former UEFA Champions League winner has guided Norwich City to consecutive promotions as they bounced back to the top tier of football in spectacular fashion. In the top half of the table at the halfway point, Norwich can do no wrong at the moment. Playing football worthy of any top flight side, it really is difficult to see where they could improve to sustain their Premier League status.
However, having conceded five more goals than they have scored, some proven defensive cover wouldn’t go amiss. Chelsea defender Alex, also wanted by QPR, could be an ideal incoming, provided he can be convinced to remain in England, while Sebastien Bassong looks to be on his way out of White Hart Lane and has the experience at the top level to really improve the back four at Carrow Road. Nevertheless, a couple of players with previous history in England, one or two fringe players, wouldn’t go amiss as they look to survive their first campaign in the Premiership since 2004.
Queens Park Rangers
The new QPR will be hoping to spend some on Tony Fernandes’ money this month with the club languishing just one point above the relegation zone, especially now that Neil Warnock has been sacked. The former Sheffield United boss has already secured the loan signing of Federico Macheda, made famous for that goal against Aston Villa in 2009, from Manchester United. And if they are to survive their return to the Premiership, they are certainly going to be hoping that the Italian can start putting away some goals for the R’s. The West Londoners have just 19 league goals to their name this year, a figure which remains the joint-second lowest in the league, and need to start scoring goals sooner rather than later.
Meanwhile, in defence QPR aren’t fairing much better having shipped 35 goals already this season, an average of almost two-goals-a-game. Warnock concedes it is a problem area and has been linked with moves for Alex of Chelsea and Tottenham’s Sebastien Bassong while a move for £5m bid for Christopher Samba of Blackburn Rovers was lodged this afternoon as they desperately look to shore up a leaky back-four. Any moves for defenders needs to be made as early as possible in order to minimise the risk of being dragged into the bottom three.
The Potters have, effectively, begun the season where they took off from their last one. Sitting 8th in the Premiership and looking stronger with each passing week, Tony Pulis has got his players well drilled as they continue to rise up the table. While some fans may not enjoy the brand of football they currently play at the Britannia stadium, they are undoubtedly reaping the rewards of the physical approach towards opponents. In Europe, it appears to be working wonders as well with the club through to the knockout stages of the Europa League in their maiden campaign in the competition.
However, for a team that prides themselves on an impressive defensive record, the Stoke back-four have been under-performing somewhat in the league. At the half-way point, they have already conceded 31 goals, 17 less than they did from the whole of last season having played 18 games less. Whether it is the fault of the defence is yet to be determined but it is a cause for concern for Pulis as he looks to improve on the clubs 13th placed finish from last year. But, with the FA Cup now beginning, the club are expected to perform across three fronts with the depth of the squad now set to be tested to its limits.
Again, another team in desperate need of a striker with the Black Cats only scoring 27 league goals this season. Granted, their form under Martin O’Neill has significantly improved since the Irishman’s arrival but with Stephane Sessegnon’s goal scoring record propelling them up the table and Sebastian Larsson’s set-pieces contributing heavily, the front-men are yet to chip in with their fair share of the goals. On-loan striker Nicklas Bendtner only has three goals to his name and will most likely be heading back to Arsenal at the end of campaign. O’Neill has clearly no faith with the forwards at his disposal, having started Sessegnon in the 2-0 FA Cup win over Peterborough.
Connor Wickham and Dong-Won Ji only have three goals between them and with Frazier Campbell out until the end of January; it may be worth Sunderland bringing in some new faces to freshen up a stagnant front-line. As of yet, the Premier League outfit haven’t been linked with any new signings, and are in fact forced to deny rumours looking key man Kieran Richardson with a move to Arsenal. However, if Sunderland are to continue their resurgent form, especially before the O’Neill factor wears off, a new striker must remain the priority over the next month.
The Swans became the first Welsh side to play in the Premier League when they won the third-placed play-off, defeating Reading 4-2 back in May. Many had expected them to struggle in the maiden campaign in England’s top tier but, kudos to Brendan Rogers who has got the club playing exciting football and find themselves cemented in 12th place. Despite taking a while to get going in the league, Swansea are only two points off Norwich City in 9th and a massive nine away from the relegation zone.
However, the first problem that could face Swansea will surely arise when the current season ends. Mainstay in the back-four Steven Caulker will return to parent club Tottenham Hotspur in the summer while Josh McEachran looks set to join for the remainder of the campaign. Yet, without doubting their quality, far from it in fact, but once the duo return to Spurs and Chelsea, respectively, there are two big gaps that will need filling. Until then, however, Rogers would do a lot worse than the players at his disposal. Maybe adding some proven Premiership quality wouldn’t go amiss to help the Jacks stave off the threat of relegation.
If December was anything to go by, it’s that Tottenham’s strength in depth isn’t all that strong. A few key injuries and the free-flowing football that Spurs fans have become accustomed to this season dries up quicker than water in the desert. The 1-0 win over Sunderland is a testament to that. Without Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale on the wings, they become much narrower and the natural width that the aforementioned duo bring to the game sees one of their genuine attacking threats diminish. The North London side have been linked with a move for Blackburn Rovers Junior Hoilett and as a youngster that can play on the left, right and in the centre behind the strikers, he fits the bill perfectly for a player who can make an impact from the bench or start should Lennon or Bale be sidelined through injury.
Defence is also proving a troublesome position for Spurs at the moment. Ledley King has suffered a hamstring injury; William Gallas is out with a calf problem leaving just Younes Kaboul, Michael Dawson and Sebastien Bassong as the clubs on fit centre-backs. However, Dawson has just recovered from a four-month stint out and Bassong looks set to leave this month. Hoilett’s team-mate Christopher Samba and Jan Vertonghen have been linked with January moves and Harry Redknapp could do a lot worse than sign either or both to bolster the back-four. A striker has also been mooted as back-up for Emmanuel Adebayor. With the Togolese giant the clubs recognised number one front-man, it is safe to say his place in the starting XI is secure. However, an injury to him will see either Jermain Defoe or Roman Pavlyuchenko called-upon and as good as the former is, despite being a completely different forward to Adebayor, the latter isn’t at all up to the standard of the on-loan man. A big, burly front-man to come in, whether it’s short-term or an up and coming prospect reportedly remains a priority for Redknapp.
West Bromwich Albion
Roy Hodgson has done a brilliant job since he replaced Roberto Di Matteo as manager of the Baggies a little over 12 months ago. Yo-yoing between the Premiership and the Championship, Hodgson has all but balanced the club as they look to firmly establish themselves as a Premier League club. Yet, one problem that faces the Midlands outfit is the lack of decent cover when a number of keys players are injured. Shane Long, Chris Brunt and Youssouf Mulumbu all missed last week’s defeat to Spurs and without the aforementioned trio, they looked a shadow of the team that can play football and, at times, mix it up with the best of league’s sides.
Without Brunt, Long and Mulumbu, the club have slipped to 15th in the Premiership and, unless their recent form improves, there is a genuine threat that the Baggies could be dragged into a relegation battle. Players of similar, or better, quality is needed to help support the injured players and when they return, to play alongside. Experience in England could prove pivotal but an injection of quality is a must for Hodgson this month.
For a team that has the worst goal difference in the league, it is brutally clear that something is wrong at both ends of the pitch for Wigan Athletic. With only 18 goals to their name, a new striker must be one of two priorities for manager Roberto Martinez, who after their shock exit in the FA Cup has admitted he is looking to strengthen this month. The only problem is who is going to join a club that appears to be moving backwards rather than forwards? A front-man who is performing in the lower leagues, Billy Sharp of Doncaster Rovers or Huddersfield Town’s Jordan Rhodes may be worth a gamble, despite a number of clubs higher in the league keeping their watchful eyes on the latter.
In defence, the Latics have shipped a mammoth 41 goals this year, only two goals less than bottom of the table Blackburn Rovers and 18th placed Bolton Wanderers. Again, like the strikers, they are going to struggle to bring in some recognised quality to help shore up the backline. Their best bet will be to go to a number of the Premier League’s big hitters and look to take on some of their up and coming youth teamers to help stop the rut at the back. Martinez palpably has the backing of chairman Dave Whelan and he needs to back the Spaniard this month otherwise their stay in England’s top tier could be coming to an end come May.
Wolves started off the season in excellent form but having only take three points from the last 18, it is no surprise to see them hovering perilously above the bottom three. Steven Fletcher’s contribution this season has been excellent and the first port of call for Mick McCarthy is to ward off any interest in the clubs top scorer. Secondly, a partner for Fletcher to ease the goalscoring burden. Kevin Doyle is excellent as a workhorse type of player but his goals-to-game ratio for the Black Country club is less than one-in-four. Should the Irishman find his scoring boots, then the two can form a deadly partnership for the club and one that could be enough to see them survive this season.
At the back, the players at McCarthy’s disposal should have seen them concede far less than the 36 goals that they have thus far. Roger Johnson was an inspired acquisition from Birmingham City over the summer, especially when the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool were interested in the English centre-back. Now McCarthy needs to bring in a similar player of Johnson’s stature while inspiring Wayne Hennessey to replicate the form he showed in the 1-1 draw with Arsenal on a weekly basis in order to plug the gap in the defence.
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