FFP is a factor here. If we can’t count on the fitness of Thomas Partey, perhaps the Saudis can tempt him. I’m hoping we’re not forced to flog the homegrown likes of Emile Smith Rowe, but frankly, with everyone chasing a proven goalscorer, selling Fábio Vieira etc won’t make much of a dent in the fee demanded for Ivan Toney or Dominic Solanke. Elsewhere, Douglas Luiz won’t be the only Villa player coveted by plenty of clubs, but I just can’t see how we stump up £100m for him. Based on his impressive pre-season form, I’d settle for Jurriën Timber’s early recovery from the ACL injury he suffered in the opening game; he’ll feel like a new signing and might well energise our squad in the finishing straight.
Do we stick or twist? Does swinging the bat now risk overpaying and disrupting a harmonious dressing room, or is it irresponsible not to have a proper go when this might be our best chance of the Champions League – or even the title – for years? We have good cover in most positions apart from the hardest two to fill: reserve keeper and back-up centre-forward. Solanke is a great age, it would mean we could slightly adapt styles and he seems like a nice boy. But he’s not cheap and would he come to initially play second fiddle? Personally I’d play 13th fiddle for anyone if they doubled my wages, but anyway. Unai Emery will have lined up two or three fine Europeans I’ve never heard of, and of course the really good teams strengthen in areas where they’re already strong, so I won’t be overanalysing his logic, such is my unconditional faith in the man. I’ll be happy whatever he does.
Defensive cover at left-back and centre-half is still a must, especially if Lloyd Kelly departs. Patrick Dorgu is very highly rated at Lecce, or Bonke Innocent from Lorient could be an option. With Alex Scott and Tyler Adams on the way back the midfield depth is looking healthy, and out wide we have plenty of options. We might renew interest in Patson Daka at Leicester as potential cover for Solanke, or Morgan Gibbs-White from Forest, who may feel his face doesn’t fit in the post-Cooper era.
Jeff Hayward Back of the Net podcast; @afcbpodcast
With Bryan Mbeumo out till April and no date put on Kevin Schade’s return, I’m not expecting us to sell Toney this window unless a team (did someone say Chelsea?) pops up with a wheelbarrow filled with £100m in cash. But I do expect us to line up a striker to replace him in the summer. Meanwhile, Rico Henry’s injury has highlighted our longstanding lack of alternative left-back options. Whether we use this window to address that, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we delved into the loan market for some experience if our injury list doesn’t improve soon. We’re also chasing the winger Assane Diao from Real Betis, among others, so let’s see how that goes.
Tony Bloom never likes to spend in January so it will be interesting to see what happens as Roberto De Zerbi is reported to want a full-back and a winger. We are missing so many players through injury that even before Kaoru Mitoma, Joël Veltman and Simon Adingra were injured recently, De Zerbi wondered if Jason Steele could play full-back. Valentín Barco of Boca Juniors is said to be a target, but expect other clubs to jump in because we’re after him. Ansu Fati and Julio Enciso are likely to be fit well before our next Europa adventure, and it was great to see Pervis Estupiñán return for the second half and score a wonder goal against Spurs.
We need a left-back, a strong midfielder and a striker, but no more wingers. I think we’d need to find a way to improve in all three of those positions in January to give us any sort of hope of avoiding the drop. I’d like a tenacious Joey Barton-type for the centre of midfield, with strength, organisation and desire. Up front we’ve still not replaced Ashley Barnes; we’ve been linked with Southampton’s Ché Adams, though I’m not sure there’s much in that – I’d rather see a stronger player. And I’m certain we’ll make another attempt to bring Ian Maatsen back in from Chelsea to fill the gap at left-back.
Christopher Nkunku and Roméo Lavia still feel like new signings, but we do need another striker. Toney would be ideal as he knows the league and could hit the ground running – we don’t have time to bed in another newcomer to Premier League football. Goalkeeper is another position in focus: Robert Sánchez isn’t at the level for a top club. Aaron Ramsdale would be ideal, though it’s hard to imagine Arsenal nodding that through – but a wildcard option could be the vastly experienced David de Gea. Elsewhere, Reece James and Ben Chilwell’s persistent injuries are a concern, and I’m not convinced Marc Cucurella is a full-back, so cover remains an issue.
Paul Baker in memory of Trizia Fiorellino
A solid central midfielder has become essential given Cheick Doucouré’s long-term injury, and a striker of quality would make a difference – but it’s unclear if PSG’s Hugo Ekitike would solve that problem area. A right-back is also needed, but realistically I’d expect nothing more than a couple of incoming loans to fill the gaps. Kalvin Phillips would be ideal for us – but he will surely seek brighter lights than those in SE25.
Chris Waters @Clapham_Grand
Who will we sign? It’s impossible to predict until we know the status of the questionable 777 takeover. It’s likely to be a question of who we sell as we look to reduce costs further and raise cash, especially if, as expected, the takeover fails. It would be devastating to lose Jarrad Branthwaite – Manchester United and Tottenham have been linked – but Amadou Onana would be acceptable in the circumstances. At a push, a central midfielder and a right-back are priorities, though clearly the whole squad is wafer-thin.
Some media outlets seem to have a vested interest in João Palhinha leaving, such is their eagerness to link our under-contract midfielder with all and sundry. As for incoming deals, another combative midfielder – André of Fluminense – is reported to be on our radar. The former fan favourite Fábio Carvalho, currently on loan with Red Bull Leipzig from Liverpool, has been linked with a return. Like several other youngsters before him, Carvalho has found that the grass isn’t always greener. But it’s strikers that we need most – preferably of the “proven” variety. Greek forward Vangelis Pavlidis of Alkmaar is apparently a target (oo-er, shades of Mitroglou?). One other telling signature would be that of Tosin Adarabioyo. Our centre-back will be out of contract next summer and has starred recently.
David Lloyd @DMLTOOFIF
We’ve managed without Andy Robertson, but with Joël Matip out for the season we could be a bit light in defence – Joe Gomez and Ibrahima Konaté have had their own injury problems. Jürgen Klopp obviously believes in Jarell Quansah and the other kids coming through, but an experienced reinforcement might be on the cards. We’re maybe still missing a world-class holding midfielder – Aurélien Tchouaméni would be ace, he isn’t a regular at Real Madrid right now, and selling him would help their FFP obligations, assuming they have them. Likewise, Konaté’s international teammate Youssouf Fofana from Monaco could fit right in. Klopp’s not afraid of a January signing, so if we go for one or two I’m confident they’ll work out.
Our main priority has to be convincing Andros Townsend to sign an extension. Because of his injury record he was given only a short-term deal, but has really proved himself so far: real experience, graft and quality. Otherwise, realistically, this month is just about trying to add some depth to the squad to give ourselves the best chance in the next few months. Another centre-back would be really welcome: someone like Paddy McNair from Middlesbrough or Japhet Tanganga from Spurs would be a shrewd signing for us.
Dave Gregory Oh When The Town Podcast
We won’t do any serious business in January – I’m pretty confident of that. Pep Guardiola’s opinion of Kalvin Phillips is clearly so low that we will let him go without signing a replacement. Which (on paper) is madness given how small our squad is, but that’s how Pep rolls! It sounds like we may sign Valentín Barco, a 19-year-old left-back from Boca Juniors, but aside from those types of South American deals, I can’t see us doing anything of note, despite the fact we need a right winger (to replace Riyad Mahrez/Cole Palmer) and a creative midfielder. West Ham’s Lucas Paquetá would be perfect for our left-sided No 8 role. I’ve been super-impressed with him this season.
I can’t see us signing anyone. Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s funds won’t be available for a good while, and it can’t be forgotten that we were scratching around for loan players in the last week of the summer transfer window, where we also added a 35-year-old former player. Obviously we have to stay within FFP rules, so unless we manage to get rid of the players who don’t want to be here, such as Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial, I doubt we will see anyone arriving. And players who the manager didn’t fancy have since proved their worth so I can’t see him selling Harry Maguire or Scott McTominay, as has been suggested. We could possibly sign Mauro Icardi from Galatasaray on a loan deal, though – he would ease the burden on Rasmus Højlund.
Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy would be a good addition to our backroom staff if the USS Enterprise will sell – the injury list is immense. Essential buys in January include a midfielder to fill the gap left by Sandro Tonali and at least one more striker: Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak are shouldering one hell of a burden up front (and are frequently injured). If it wasn’t for FFP perhaps we could have persuaded Toney to return, or have swooped for Brighton’s Evan Ferguson, but a couple of loans seem more realistic. On a final note, Howe is gaining a reputation for nurturing talented young English players – so maybe Jobe Bellingham might fancy swapping Wearside for Tyneside? You never know …
David and Richard Holmes
Consensus from our podcast team is we need help in two areas. Tom says we “need a decent capable keeper and striker”, so that there can be a back-up plan when Taiwo Awoniyi is crocked – though Chris Wood’s Boxing Day hat-trick was encouraging, to say the least. Adam’s No 1 target is Jonas Wind of Wolfsburg who averages 2.4 shots per game, can score from nothing and gets teammates involved, which could help Callum Hudson-Odoi and Anthony Elanga find the net more often. Adam and Jamie also like Artem Dovbyk, who is doing just as well on goals and assists for Girona, and has solid passing ability as well as a killer finish. There’s also agreement here that we have two second-choice keepers in Matt Turner and Odysseas Vlachodimos, so a few supporters are hoping that the club will flutter their eyelashes at last season’s loan star Keylor Navas – with some even nostalgically pining for our former hero Brice Samba.
I’m expecting a pretty dull window, beyond – hopefully – tying down some of those who are out of contract in the summer but should form the core next season. Attempting to improve in the short term is probably futile but, prosaic as it is, we really could use a physical presence up top in the mould of Chris Wood or even Kieffer Moore, just to help us move up the pitch. At least the latter’s club will no longer see us as a possible threat, so no need for them to refuse to do business.
Ben Meakin @BladesPod – the Sheffield United Podcast
I can’t list the players we’d like. There’s no point. Most Spurs fans hadn’t seen Micky van de Ven play and decided he wasn’t good enough, while Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur were scoffed at by some. For the first time in a long time, I just trust our player acquisition data and targeting. But what of our execution? To echo Ange’s sentiment – the deals need to get done early. We need to solidify our squad to protect the momentum, with consideration for injuries and loss to international duty. A centre-back (the priority), a No 6 (due to the Africa Cup of Nations loss of Pape Sarr and Yves Bissouma) and a forward (with Son Heung-min at the Asia Cup for six weeks) would be ideal, but perhaps unlikely. The summer is the window where the real work gets done.
As ever, we could do with another striker to replace the ageing and currently injured Michail Antonio, and Mohammed Kudus while he’s in Africa. We won’t get him but I like the look of Brighton’s Ferguson, while Toney might be worth a punt too. David Moyes also likes Armando Broja of Chelsea so a loan deal could be a possibility. A midfield enforcer to cover for Edson Álvarez would be handy as we really miss him when he’s out. Moyesy also loves a centre-back so might want a replacement for the veteran Angelo Ogbonna, and a new left-back to compete with Emerson would be good, too.
Gary O’Neil says he wants a winger, but I think a centre-forward will also be on the list, with Fábio Silva and/or Sasa Kalajdzic likely to make way. The club upset the Salernitana chairman over their approach for his forward Boulaye Dia in the summer but that deal could still be resurrected. Armando Broja is a possible alternative if Chelsea are prepared to let him go, either temporarily or permanently. I’d also like to see a more defensive-minded full-back added. Marcos Acuña from Sevilla has been mentioned a few times – he could be a shrewd short-term pickup.