Search icon


02nd Jan 2018

Where each of the ‘Big 6’ should look to strengthen this January

Let the panic buys begin

Reuben Pinder

Let the panic buys begin.

Happy New Year! 2018 has arrived, and with it the chance to join the gym, go vegan and for clubs to pay over the odds for players they should have bought last summer. Unfortunately we won’t get to see Harry Redknapp leaning out of his car window this time around but there will still be some wheelin’ and dealin’ going on.

Unlike every other sector of the commercial world. bargains are hard to come by in the January transfer window, as selling clubs smell desperation and hike the prices up. Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres moving for £35m and £50m respectively in January 2011 still stick out as two of the biggest January rip-offs since the birth of the Premier League.

Nevertheless, each of the Big 6 could do with reinforcements as they fight over those four sacred Champions League spots. And this is where each of them need to strengthen.

Manchester City

Despite a wobble against Crystal Palace on New Year’s Eve, when they failed to score for the first time this season and almost lost their first league game of the season, they enter 2018 12 points clear, having played one match less than Manchester United in second. They’re running away with the title, but with the injury to Gabriel Jesus sustained in that Palace game, their only fit striker is Sergio Agüero. This could accelerate their pursuit of Alexis Sánchez  as they look for a versatile forward to deputise for the Argentine as well as provide an option to rotate with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané on the wings.

City could also do with a centre-back. It came as a surprise that they did not sign one in the summer, but Guardiola has shown his faith in Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones and been vindicated, as both have looked much improved following last season when City were very fragile defensively. However, Stones’ injury and the frequency with which Vincent Kompany is sidelined have left City with just Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala, who it’s safe to say is not exactly suited to Guardiola’s style of football. Although, their apparent lack of interest in Virgil van Dijk would indicate that Pep feels he has enough and will wait until the summer when there is more value.

Manchester United

You can never take what he says at face value, but José Mourinho has both stated that spending £300m since his arrival is not enough, as well as stating that United probably won’t make any January signings. Nobody knows what his intentions are this January but what is clear is that the squad could do with one or two arrivals. It might be time for Ed Woodward to get his chequebook out. Again.

United sit second, with very little chance of catching City, but slipping out of the top four looks a real possibility if more draws are not turned into wins. Injury to Antonio Valencia has forced José Mourinho into playing Victor Lindelöf  out of position at right-back, so a recall for Timothy Fosu-Mensah could be on the cards. On the other side of defence, Luke Shaw has started to play more often after a turbulent first year under Mourinho, but doubts remain over his long-term future. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see United go after Danny Rose this January.

Another central midfielder wouldn’t go amiss either. Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have not shown sufficient quality to warrant a starting position this season, but 4-3-3 is the formation that would allow Paul Pogba to flourish. Andre Gomes, perhaps?


N’Golo Kanté plays like he has a third lung, but he still needs to play around quality. Selling Nemanja Matić was a strange move, and has not exactly worked out, with Tiémoué Bakayoko struggling to find form. Cesc Fàbregas doesn’t have the legs to play in a midfield duo. Danny Drinkwater is a functional central midfielder and has of course won a league title alongside Kanté but a more creative, dynamic player could breathe new life into Chelsea’s midfield. He changed his mind at the last minute in the summer, but Ross Barkley could be the answer. Albeit more of a number 10, he possesses the qualities to play in Chelsea’s midfield. A few weeks of Antonio Conte’s positional drills and he could prove to be a very good addition. That’s if Spurs don’t get him first…

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs could also do with a midfielder in the mould of Ross Barkley. We should bear in mind that he hasn’t played for Everton yet this season due to a hamstring injury but upon returning to fitness, he will be looking for the right club to give himself the best chance of breaking into the England World Cup squad. With the gradual deterioration of Mousa Dembélé’s fitness, Spurs are lacking penetrative, line-breaking runs, which just so happen to be Barkley’s biggest strength. If Pochettino can teach him to look up more and release the ball at the right times, there is a gem of a player in there.

Erik Lamela’s return to fitness after a year out has solved their winger issue for now, although it’s been reported that the North London club are chasing Bordeaux’s Malcom, who would give Spurs the fast, wide player they have been looking for.


The Gunners arguably need Malcom more than Spurs do. A fast winger who can dribble past people should be high up on their list of priorities, after the departure of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain late in the summer. Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott both possess useful attributes, but neither are of the necessary quality to start for Arsenal. A player like Wilfried Zaha would be a perfect addition to The Gunners’ Arsenal, but good luck getting him this January.


With the arrival of Virgil van Dijk for an astronomical £75m, Jurgen Klopp has got the important business done early. The rest of the squad seems pretty set. Klopp has rotated well during the winter to keep players as fresh as possible. The return of Adam Lallana has also given the midfield a boost. When or if Coutinho leaves remains to be seen, but they might already have the perfect replacement in Naby Keita, who will arrive from RB Leipzig in the summer. With the likely departures of Danny Ings and Daniel Sturridge, as well as Dominic Solanke’s slow start, if Liverpool were to sign another player this window, it should be a centre-forward to rotate with Roberto Firmino. The Brazilian complements the side’s wingers excellently but can’t be expected to play every game in such a physically demanding system.