The focus of Arsenal’s January transfer activity will, undoubtedly, be between the goal posts. Strongly linked with Fulham’s Mark Schwarzer in the summer, it is unlikely Wenger will try to lure the Australian to the Emirates for a second window running. The veteran shot-stopper has recently put pen to paper on a contract extension at Craven Cottage. The North Londoners have also been linked with Manchester City’s Shay Given. The Irishman is likely to leave Eastlands in January, but a move to a top four-rival would be surprising. If Wenger attempts to buy a new keeper he will have to look abroad. Ajax’s Maarten Steklenburg and Schalke’s Manuel Neuer have been rumoured. Both players currently hold the number one shirt for their respective countries, and would come at a cost. This could be a problem as Wenger is notoriously careful with the purse strings. The most likely scenario is Wenger will stick to his guns, and yet again, put faith in the keepers already at his disposal; Lucas Fabianski will be Wenger‘s first choice while Fabianski’s fellow Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny will appear in the FA Cup. With Vito Mannone due to return to Arsenal in January after a brief loan spell at Hull City, there is a strong possibility Wenger will allow Manuel Almunia to depart, if the Spaniard returns to fitness in time.
The Gunners have already been active in the transfer market in preparation for the opening of the window. 17-year old Brazilian winger Wellington Silva and 18-year old Japanese midfielder Ryo Miyaichi will join Arsenal in January, with Silva likely to be loaned out straight away. Werder Bremen centre-half Per Mertesacker and Lille’s Belgian prodigy Eden Hazard have also been rumoured with a move to North London. The likelihood of either moving to the Emirates will, again, be dependent on Wenger’s willingness to spend.
A positive for the Arsenal faithful is the lack of rumours linking big players to the exit door. The Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona rumour will no doubt regain pace in the summer, but for this window, Arsenal’s captain is staying put. Gael Clichy, the only current Arsenal player with a Premier League winners medal on his mantel piece, has been linked with a move to Serie A or La Liga. If this happens, it will be at the end of the season. Brazilian midfielder Denilson is reportedly the subject of a £12 million offer from Steve McClaren’s Wolfsburg. Wenger may take the former England number one up on his offer, with a fit-again Aaron Ramsey returning from a loan spell at Nottingham Forest. Nicklas Bendtner might move to Juventus. If Robin Van Persie can stay fit, then the Dane will be surplus to requirements. Carlos Vela may be loaned to a La Liga for the remainder of the season.
Villa Park, along with Anfield and Eastlands, looks set to be one of the busiest grounds during the opening of the window. Gerard Houllier has already confirmed Stephen Ireland will be leaving in January, with Everton and Celtic strongly linked with the Irishman’s signature.
Villa have obviously had injury problems this season, with the middle of the park being the area most affected. Niko Kranjcar has been rumoured with a move to the second city, and could prove to be a quality acquisition for Houllier. Villa are still reeling from the loss of James Milner to Manchester City. One of Milner’s current team-mates, Shaun Wright-Phillips, could move in the opposite direction. If so, expect Stewart Downing or Ashley Young to follow in Milner’s footsteps from the flank to the centre of midfield.
Several strikers have also been linked to Villa Park. Roque Santa Cruz, Robbie Keane, Michael Owen and Djibril Cisse are o thef few names rumoured. The latter two may relish the chance to work with Houllier for a second time. John Carew might depart, reportedly Carew and Houllier are not on good terms. Depending on which forwards arrive and/or leave, Nathan Delfouneso could be loaned out to a Championship side to gain first team experience. If Houllier was enjoying a fully fit squad, other youngsters would no doubt be loaned out as well. However, this is not a pleasure the Frenchmen has. The likes of Barry Bannan, Shane Lowry, Jonathan Hogg and Chris Herd will stay at Villa Park for the remainder of the season.
This is the fourth window of Carson Yeung‘s tenure as Birmingham‘s owner, and already the money has dried up. On one hand this may not concern Alex McLeish. Summer arrivals Alex Helb, Nikola Zigic and Matt Derbyshire have not been at their best, and have rarely been in the Blues’ starting eleven.
What will concern McLeish is Birmingham’s lack of fire-power up front. Last January’s big signing, Craig Gardner, is the Blues’ top scorer so far this season with four league goals. As mentioned, Zigic has not prospered, and Cameron Jerome has never been a prolific goal scorer.
McLeish has turned Scott Dann and Roger Johnson from Championship defenders into quality Premier League centre backs. Due to the lack of money at St. Andrews McLeish may have to raid the Championship again, but this time for a striker. McLeish was reportedly interested in Kris Boyd last summer, but missed out to Middlesborough. Boyd is likely to leave the Riverside in January, so McLeish may reignite his interest in the Scottish forward. A loan move for Burnley’s Chris Eagles has also been rumoured, but like Jerome, Eagles has never been a prolific goal scorer.
One player linked with a move away from Birmingham is Sebastian Larsson. Stoke City are interested in the former Arsenal winger, but Birmingham dismissed the rumour immediately. It is unlikely any first players will leave during this window, but the Blues would find it difficult to refuse a big money offer for one of their top players, I.E. Scott Dann.
Blackburn’s top priority is obviously a new manager. However, Rovers new Indian owners, Venkys, are not rushing to appoint Sam Allardyce’s replacement. Steve Kean has been handed first team responsibilities for the remainder of the season. This could be a wise move. The best Blackburn can hope for this season is mid-table mediocrity, and they have the players to achieve that. To bring in a new manager during this window, and expect that manager to bring in new players who can achieve more than mid-table mediocrity would be too much to ask.
One player definitely on his way out of Ewood Park is Pascal Chimbonda. The French full back has failed to repeat the form he showed at Wigan after two spells at Tottenham Hotspur, a brief stint at Sunderland and now at Blackburn. Chimbonda is likely to move to a Ligue 1 side.
In a strange twist of fate the injury sustained by Phil Jones could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Rovers. The young English centre half is Blackburn’s prize asset, gaining interest from the likes of Manchester United. His injury will ensure he stays at Ewood Park until the end of the season at least.
Players who could come in for Blackburn are ex-favourites Roque Santa Cruz and David Bentley. Both players have not enjoyed life away from Lancashire. They have been used sparingly at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. If either arrived in January, it will be on loan. Rovers have also been linked with Blackpool midfielder Charlie Adam. While Adam is not flavour of the month at Bloomfield Road, due to a issue with bonus payments, it is unlikely the Seasiders will sell their star midfielder this season.
The Tangerines are enjoying an incredible start to life in England’s top flight. Manger Ian Holloway has two priorities in January. Firstly, the out-spoken West Countryman needs to keep hold of vice-captain and midfielder Charlie Adam. The Scotsman has been linked with a move to Blackburn Rovers, after a dispute over bonus payments with the Seasiders. Holloway’s second job is to secure the services of Luke Varney. Varney is on a season long loan from Derby County, and his form this season has received a lot of attention. If Holloway does not move for Varney in this window, there is a strong possibility he will attract interest from elsewhere come the summer.
In terms of signing new players, Holloway will have to look toward the lower divisions, due to financial constraints at Bloomfield Road. This is not necessarily a problem for Holloway, as he has proven he can get the best out of lower league players, such as the aforementioned Luke Varney and striker DJ Campbell. Holloway purchased Campbell from his previous club Leicester City, and he may turned his attention to the Walkers Stadium again for the services of Matt Fryatt – had Hull City not gotten there before him in a deal worth £1.2million. Swindon Town’s Charlie Austin has also been linked with a move to Lancashire. Holloway may also turn his attention to the South Coast, for Portsmouth’s David Nugent, or Cardiff for Michael Chopra.
Blackpool’s only real hope of signing a current Premier League player will be with a loan deal until the end of the season. One of Arsenal’s young starlets, such as Jay Emannuel-Thomas, or Liverpool’s Daniel Pacheco would provide Holloway with some extra impetus up front.
Look out for part two of our team by team lowdown to the January transfer window in the coming days.