The January Transfer window can be a pivotal point in the season for any club with title aspirations. It gives clubs the chance to fix weaknesses in the squad and bolster their depth ahead of the important months that lie ahead.
Although the January window is always quieter than that in the summer, some very big names have made the winter switch in the past. Former examples include Luis Suarez, Virgil van Dijk, Bruno Guimaraes and Bruno Fernandes. If a title-challenging side can pick up a player of similar quality this time around, what a difference that could make come May.
So, let us take an overview of who this season’s title challengers are hoping to buy and how likely they are to get the deals done.
Man City were fast to act this January window as it looks like they all but completed a deal to sign Argentinian youngster Claudio Echeverri. The River Plate midfielder has only made five senior appearances though and it is expected that he will stay in Argentina on loan before making the permanent switch to England.
As for more experienced options, there may not be much activity for City who have traditionally spent very little in January. Across the last three January windows, the reigning Premier League champions have only forked out £24m on two players, Julian Alvarez and Maximo Perrone.
Given the absence of reliable speculation linking City with a more senior name, it would be no big surprise if Pep Guardiola sticks with what he has for the remainder of the season. Even if Kalvin Phillips departs, which appears likely, his lack of game time means a replacement would not be a necessity.
With Man City not at their very best so far this season (not yet least), Jurgen Klopp will be thinking seriously about a second Premier League title. To help bolster his team’s chances, a fresh face within the ranks certainly would not hurt. In the last two January windows, the Reds have picked up Cody Gakpo (£44m) and Luis Diaz (£50m), and the funds for another notable signing may be made available for the right player.
Klopp does not seem confident of finding this ‘right player’ though. The long-term injury to Joel Matip, who is out of contract in the summer, means the Reds could do with another centre back but viable options appear limited. Responding to this himself Klopp said, “Tell me a club who wants to sell a top, top centre-half who could play for Liverpool? … Other clubs don’t put them under the Christmas tree for us and say, ‘Take it and use it as long as you need it’.”
While picking up a defender appears unlikely, should Liverpool make a move for someone, perhaps following a major injury to Van Dijk, Konate or Quansah, Sporting Lisbon’s Goncalo Inacio may well offer appeal. The highly-rated defender has a release clause of £52m and given his age of 22, he would be seen as a long-term investment and potentially a long-term Van Dijk successor.
Arsenal may have spent Christmas on top of the Premier League table but there is a sense they have a greater need to strengthen than the teams around them. One major issue for the Gunners this season has been their attacking threat. Following the 2-1 loss at Fulham, their top goalscorer in the league was Bukayo Saka who has just six goals, two of which were penalties.
A top-class out-an-out number nine could just be what the Gunners need but such players are a rarity at the moment. Ivan Toney, with his proven PL track record is one option but Brentford’s struggles may make them more reluctant to sell until the summer. Other possibilities include Dominic Solanke and Victor Boniface but in both cases, their current clubs have very little desire to accept bids.
There has also been talk of Mikel Arteta wishing to strengthen his midfield and defence, particularly the latter. The Spaniard said himself that his squad is “really short at the back”, in part due to the season-long injury suffered by Jurrien Timber. To help alleviate this problem, Arsenal appear to be keen on Jorrel Hato of Ajax. The 17-year-old has excelled for the Dutch giants this season and would provide some much-needed cover.
In midfield, any possible deal may be contingent on offloading players as the north Londoners spent big in the summer. Pedro Neto remains firmly on the Gunners’ radar, as does Martin Zubimendi of Real Sociedad. Even if the funds become available though, deals for either are more realistic for the summer window.
A better-than-expected first half to the season sees Villa within touching distance of the top of the table. Although Unai Emery will not be getting carried away, he will still want to bolster his squad and secure Champions League football for next season at the very least. Villa have been relatively busy in recent January windows and they should have some money to burn without risking an FFP breach.
Reports suggest the Villa are considering a right back to provide Matty Cash with some natural competition. The West Midlands clubs are also keen on picking up an additional wide player to ensure Ollie Watkins does not run out of service. Jeremie Frimpong of Bayer Leverkusen, a natural right back by trade but adept at playing further up, would tick both these boxes. The only problem is he would cost a considerable sum, likely more than Villa would be willing to pay.
#AVFC are in the market for a right-back and have been linked to Jeremie Frimpong, who has a release clause of £35m this summer.
Jhon Duran could depart if Villa can sign a striker capable of improving the squad, but that’s difficult to achieve in January. Lots of moving parts.
— John Townley (@johntownley11) January 4, 2024
For a natural attacking wide player, Villarreal’s Alex Baena is someone Unai Emery is familiar with from his time at the club. The Spaniard would likely be available for less than Frimpong making him a more realistic target but there have been no serious talks so far. Emery is also still keen on Sevilla’s Marcos Acuna who would offer a real attacking threat from left-back. Given that Villa have two solid options already in the position though, one would need to leave before the Argentine could join.
Tottenham have no major financial constraints coming into this window but even though the money is available, Ange Postecoglou warned that “nothing magical is going to happen”. Despite this relatively pessimistic remark, expect the north Londoners to do some business this winter. Personal terms have already been agreed with Genoa’s Radu Dragusin according to trusted sources but the clubs are still a little way apart on their valuations.
BREAKING: Tottenham have stepped up their interest in Genoa centre back Radu Dragusin.
Dragusin is seen as a more attainable January target than Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo.
– talkSPORT sources understand
🚨 More on our website ☞ https://t.co/PVsrFYa8AU pic.twitter.com/uhhmVc67FL
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) December 30, 2023
Although the difference is relatively minor, Napoli are also sniffing around the centre half so it is possible the move may be hijacked. Should the transfer break down Tottenham, who desperately need another centre half, may return to former target Jean-Clair Tobido. Another defender from Serie A is possibly more likely though given Tottenham’s success recruiting from the Italian top flight of late.
A deal for Conor Gallagher is also not out of the question for Spurs. Although Chelsea have not sold a player directly to Spurs since Gus Poyet in 2001, they have new owners now and are in need of cash. Despite some strong performances this season, Gallagher is one name the Chelsea hierarchy are considering selling as his transfer fee is pure profit, something that would help ease their FFP situation.
Postecoglou is reportedly keen on the hard-working midfielder and he would be favoured over Pierre-Emile Højbjerg who would likely make way. One reliable source though has indicated that should any move materialise, it will likely be later in the window as Spurs are not in a desperate rush to bolster their midfield.
Who Will be the Most Active in January?
The January transfer window does not look set to be extremely busy for any of this season’s current Premier League title challengers. It seems very plausible that both Liverpool and Man City will avoid making any major signing while Villa are unlikely to secure more than one. Tottenham should acquire a new centre back at the very least, and perhaps another body in midfield. North London rivals Arsenal will surely see some activity too but the extent of that will depend on how well they can offload unwanted players.