Premier League managers up and down the country are evaluating their hand, deciding whether to stick or twist. But the clock is ticking on the January transfer window, so which clubs need to strengthen and where?
Chelsea – defensive cover
Jose Mourinho is the envy of most managers in the Premier League, five points clear at the summit, favourites for the title, and a squad packed full of top international players – but if you scratch beneath the surface the picture doesn’t seem quite as rosy.
The issue for Mourinho and Chelsea is lack of depth, or more to the point, a lack of players he can trust to backup Fabregas and Matic. Meanwhile, they also look short in the centre of defence which has caused an over reliance on Gary Cahill and the ageing John Terry.
The 5-3 defeat against Spurs served as a reminder of the defensive frailties the club has, while the 4-2 FA Cup home reverse against League One Bradford highlighted the dangers of squad rotation at Stamford Bridge.
Nevertheless, with players like Ivanovic, Matic, Hazard, Fabregas, Oscar and Diego Costa, Chelsea should have enough about them to win the EPL and go deep into the Champions League.
Although, don’t rule out injuries, suspensions and the mounting fixture list derailing their chances of success on all fronts.
Manchester City – central midfielder
Much like their rivals for the title, Manchester City are lacking a central midfield destroyer to cover their first team regulars.
The African Cup of Nations has seen Yaya Toure, arguably the finest central midfield player in Europe, jet off to Equatorial Guinea and leave a glaringly big hole in the City midfield.
City haven’t won a game since Toure departed at the beginning of January – illustrating the lack of an understudy for the Ivorian. But it’s not just the defensive side of the game they miss; it’s unpicking the opposition’s defence too.
Toure, as well doing the dirty work in the City midfield, also contributes by scoring some vitally important goals. A reliable backup would prove invaluable for Pellegrini.
Like Chelsea, City will be fine in the big scheme of things but a player of Sami Khedira’s quality would surely be a welcome addition to this City squad.
Arsenal – defensive midfielder
The Gunners look to have answered their centre back shortage with the signing of Gabriel Paulista from Villarreal this week but they could still do with a midfield general in the centre of the park.
When fit, Mikael Arteta and Mathieu Flamini fill this role but neither look entirely comfortable playing the anchorman.
On one hand, Wenger might have the answer in front of him with Francis Coquelin who put in a masterful performance in the 2-0 over Manchester City but it remains to be seen if the 23 year-old Frenchman remains the long term answer.
Morgan Schneiderlin would be a great addition to Wenger’s side and would represent a calculated risk given the Saints midfielder’s experience in English football.
However, a transfer involving Schneiderlin in the next few days seems as remote as Arsenal fans actually being happy with their transfer business.
Manchester United – winger/forward
Louis Van Gaal’s side have really struggled when playing away from Old Trafford this season. Their away form would make Sir Alex and even David Moyes wince. Part of the reason is down to their lack of pace in the final third.
Their build up play can be so pedestrian and predictable it allows the opposition time to organize themselves. Modern football has moved on to the point where pace is essential if any club wants to achieve success.
For all of the millions spent on Juan Mata, Di Maria, Blind, Herrera and Falcao they are still lacking that pacey winger or striker whose acceleration and directness will bamboozle defenders and create panic.
Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie have scored eight league goals apiece and will win games on their own, but until United find that extra piece of quality up front then fourth place will be about par for the Red Devils this season.
Southampton – striker
The Southampton fans will be delighted with their current position in the Premier League but if they want to remain there until May they could do with another clinical striker to lessen the burden on Graziano Pelle.
Pelle has netted a very respectable eight league goals in 22 matches but six of those came in a seven game spell and the 29-year-old has struggled to recapture his early season form.
Fortunately, for Ronald Koeman, his side has the best defensive record in the league (conceding just 16 goals). While Mane, Tadic, Wanyama and Schneiderlin have chipped in with 13 goals between them.
However, it’s a big ask for this set of fairly inexperienced players to keep up their defensive heroics. With that in mind, they might find attack is the best form of defence.