Affordable options for Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and more

A switch during the January transfer window is not out of the question – Manchester United only acquired Bruno Fernandez from Sporting CP last year. Still, this is a fairly rare occurrence. January is often a time to move and quit, as teams prepare to spend a lot more money in a few months.

But there are gaps to be filled, and that is especially true in the Premier League, where the leaders have just 80 points to their name and more than half the league is still potentially in the race for the Champions League.

With this in mind, we propose some measures. Let’s dig up some potentially interesting elements for each of the top 10 teams in the Premier League (well, the top 9 plus Arsenal), mostly within budget.

– Preview January: Alaba on the move? Upamecano at CFL ?
– Key free agents 2021: Messi, Alaba, Özil, Aguero etc.
– Supervision of transfers: All transactions are evaluated here

Important Notice : This is not a list of transfer targets. The opposite is true.

If any of these moves actually happened, I would immediately declare myself a football woj. But it’s a fun way to highlight the needs of a team in a crowded Premier League and some exciting and underrated players who are doing very well at the moment.

Jump in: Arsenal | Aston Villa | Chelsea | Everton | Leicester City | Liverpool | Man City | Man United | Southampton | Tottenham

11. Place, 23 points

The biggest question Creativity

Mikel Arteta has been playing with buttons all season. Early on, Arsenal tried to play with extreme patience, which led to good ball possession but embarrassingly low shots. The Gunners have stepped up their offensive urgency a bit lately and have lost some shooting quality and defensive intensity in return.

After winning just one league game in ten attempts, they won three in a row over the festive period, including a 3-1 triumph over Chelsea. But they could always use another creative force. Only one Gunners player has created more than 20 chances this season (defender Kieran Tierney, who is 21st and 25th in the league). Injuries and reshuffles didn’t help, but no Arsenal midfielder created more than 16 chances and no one in any position had more than three assists.

– ESPN FC Daily feeds on ESPN+ (US only)

Therefore, they were linked with Julian Brandt of Borussia Dortmund. The 24-year-old midfielder created 18 chances in 589 minutes for BVB and is nearing his sporting peak. But with Axel Witsel’s long-term hamstring injury, Brandt is likely to play a much bigger role at BVB and the club are unlikely to sell him.

Chairman Ilias may be part of the struggling team, but he has been their sole creative force and can surely bring some of that intensity and zeal to a team at Arsenal that needs to hone its skills. Chloe Knott – Denhouse/Getty Images.

What about President Ilias’ QPR? QPR, to put it mildly, now operates in the English second division. They are 18th in the league and have scored just 22 goals in 23 games. Even in the lower leagues, they struggle to create chances.

Imagine what they would have been like without the chair. The 23-year-old Belgian not only leads in terms of chances created (45, 21 more than the runner-up) and expected attendance (4.5, 2.2 more than the runner-up), but also in goals scored (5) and penalties taken (14). He has already surpassed his numbers from last year in all of these departments and can excel at center, attacking left-leg positions and central midfield. His market value is currently just $4.4 million, according to TransferMarkt, but it’s rising quickly.

Ninth place, 26 points

Larger demand: Playing in midfield

That you have a team that has everything… and yet not very good? Chelsea are fifth in the league in goal difference and fourth in goal difference. They generate quality and quantity of solid plans, and they are above average when they allow these things on the other side. They are in possession of the ball, as befits a club, and have easily progressed to the preliminary rounds of the Champions League.

They have also won just one of their last six league games and have fallen into a funk of poor bounces and sometimes mediocre performances. Frank Lampard’s job security is not very good, but Les Bleus are not wrong.

– Ollie: Are summer signings responsible for Chelsea’s misfortune?

They could use some reinforcement in midfield though. Mount Mason is a star, but N’Golo Kante seems to have lost a step, Kai Havertz is a square peg in a round hole and Mateo Kovacic’s performances are gone : After averaging 1.2 lucky and 7.6 clumsy recoveries on 90 last year, it now stands at 0.8 and 5.0 respectively.

Tej Savannier would not be a long-term player for the Blues, but he could strengthen the core of the midfield and provide a platform to impress Chelsea’s young stars. Sylvain Lefebvre/Getty Images

And the Savannier Tegee Montpellier? I had almost suggested Arturo Vidal from Inter, as cuts are not what Chelsea are aiming for, but he will bring the maturity, the ability to capture the ball and the calculated overall ruthlessness that can benefit a team lacking in energy. But it’s not a given, so we turn to the late Savannier, who spent most of his playing days in the French Championship, but exploded for Nimes in 2018-19 and won a switch to Montpellier.

Like Vidal, the 29-year-old often binds himself too fiercely – but he has 8.5 ball recaptures and 2.1 chances created for 90 and an average of 0.51 xA+xG/90 at Montpellier this season. It’s not palatable, but Claude Makelele wasn’t palatable either when Chelsea signed the midfielder as a 30-year-old transformational midfielder. And in a club full of big money, Savanier would love to do the dirty work.

Eighth place, 26 points

Larger demand: Wear

Dean Smith’s Claret & Blues has gone through three distinct phases so far this season: They won their first four games (including a classic 7-2 win over Liverpool) to climb to the top of the standings, but then lost four of their five games to fall behind again. However, they remained unbeaten in December and despite their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United on New Year’s Eve, they still scored more than 65 points this year; that would be their highest number of points since their second place finish in the 1992/93 season with 74 points.

– Marcotti: Seven principles to follow in the transfer window

Villa are one of the most direct teams in the league, and that’s fine, but the incipient stagnation on the field, combined with the tight rotation Smith champions – nine players have played more than 1,100 minutes in the league, five of whom have played every minute so far (including left-back Matt Targett and star left-back Jack Grealish) – might cause the legs to tire quickly.

Lucas Olaza is dynamic and able to bolster the team’s attack from the left side. Villa needs a little depth. Diego Souto/Sports quality images/Purchase of images

What about Lucas Olaza of Celta Vigo? The 26-year-old Uruguayan left-back (on loan from Boca Juniors) has been one of the team’s most consistent players over the past two seasons and can play further forward if needed.

According to the DAVIES player rankings compiled by American analysts Sam Goldberg and Mike Imburgio, he was one of the Big Five’s most productive defenders (especially on offense) last season and improved both his pass percentage and two-way success rate in 2020-21. He can write Targett and make sure Grealish always has a creative and durable drumbeat, and TransferMarket currently lists his market value at a fairly affordable $6.6 million.

Seventh place, 29 points

Main issue: crime in the strict sense

Southampton have been one of the strongest teams in the Premier League since the summer reset, with 47 points from 26 games in that period, putting them fourth in the league. They’ve found a way to score consistently this season while relieving defensive pressure. They’re still allowing 10.9 passes per defense, which ranks them third in the league, but that’s down from last season’s 9.9, and they’re starting just 7.5% of their lineups at the third attack position (down from 8.9%).

Defensively they are well organized, but the release of pressure has led to a weak attack: They rank 16th in the league in moves per possession and 17th in xG per move. They scored 26 goals on just 18.7 xG (James Ward-Prowse and Yannick Westergaard have seven goals on just 1.89 xG), and that will likely result in some regression on the average. Whatever their goals are this season, they could use an extra boost of creativity if they want to achieve them.

Zakaria Labyad (right) is versatile and can play in various positions in the penalty area – exactly what the Saints need to keep pace with their best opponents. ANP Sports via Getty Images

How about Labiada Zakaria Ajax? Ajax does know a thing or two about creating shots and goals: Their 22 league goals are the best of any major European league (in this case, the Big 5 plus Portugal, Netherlands and Russia). They have an overstaffed midfield and in Labiada a player who can play in both the front line and central midfield and could be available for Southampton (his market value before transfers: $4.4 million). He scored 15 goals and nine assists for Utrecht in the 2017-18 season. This season he scored five goals on 29 shots on 23 goals in less than 800 minutes.

The swallow is not in much of a hurry, but she is doing well.

Sixth place, 30 points

Largest production Plan B

As I wrote last week, the double of Heung-min Son and Harry Kane in 2020-21 was incredible, but the lack of a plan B caught up with Jose Mourinho at times. While Sohn and Kane scored 23 goals and 16 assists, all other team members finished with seven and nine goals respectively. The current right wing line-up – a combination of Steven Bergwijn, Lucas Moura, Eric Lamela and the oft-injured Gareth Bale – combined for two goals and no assists. A little compensation would be great.

– Estimated transfers: Assessment of each January major train
– Dark: Unknown heroes for the 20 clubs of the Premier League

The answer may already be internal. Carlos Vinicius, on loan from Benfica, is yet to gain Mourinho’s confidence in the league, but has already scored six goals in six FA Cup or Europa League games (it is true that three goals were scored against Marina, who had eight players). Moreover, the 23-year-old Bergwein was unlucky – he scored 2.1 xG and xA combined, but no goals or assists – and could be eliminated at any time. Although Spurs have made mostly defensive acquisitions this season, they could use some reinforcement offensively.

Jordan Morris is known for returning to the MLS from Europe, but after some excellent seasons at Seattle and Tottenham, he would be perfect for a team hoping to win trophies under Mourinho. Emily Chinn/Getty Images

And Jordan Morris from Seattle? YEAH, THAT’S WHAT I SAID. These days everyone is looking for young MLS contenders, but the Spurs don’t necessarily need a young regular, they need a proven game changer. How can we prove it? Over the past four seasons, Morris has averaged 10 goals and 6 assists in 31 games for the Seattle Sounders. He wins aerial duels and duels, he can play on the right, left or centre, he has excellent height (5’10”) and the pace of an athlete – seven of his eleven goals last season came from the kind of fastbreaks Mourinho loves.

It’s a better game than you think, and thanks to players like Casey Keller and Clint Dempsey, the Spurs know how to use the USMNT to find talent.

Fifth place, 32 points

Largest production Number of shots fired

Like Villa, Everton can’t match his form from the start of the season, but he continues to pick up points. In the last two months they have averaged 2.11 points per game, which is only surpassed by the two clubs from Manchester. After seven wins, they looked to have sold out, but since then they have won five of six and are closer to first than eighth.

They have no problem counting shots in Southampton, though. They occupy 14th place in the Championship with 0.12 shots per ball possession and, although their shots are excellent (fourth best xG per shot), they could attract another midfielder, who could be 31-year-old Gylfi Sigurdsson and 28-year-old Abdoulaye Dukur : The two combined for over 2300 minutes, but only four visitors so far.

Teun Koopmeiners is a creative player with a deep position who can better enable Everton to build attacks and create better chances to score. Perry van de Leuvert/BSR Agency/Getty Images

What about Teun Kupmainer’s AZ? The Eredivisie’s offensive statistics may not always translate perfectly to the top divisions, but it’s hard not to appreciate Kopmeiner’s potential: This year, in 18 league and Champions League games, he scored 12 goals and created 20 chances, which amounts to almost 9 goals per game. He is primarily a central defender, but like Frankie de Jong, for example, he can also play as a defensive midfielder or central defender and still create chances; during his Eredivisie career, he averaged 0.38 xG+xA for 90 as a midfielder and 0.32 as a defender. It’s versatile and super-active.

Fourth place, 32 points

Largest production Balance sheet

After back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Fulham at the end of November, Leicester dropped back to bonus four with 14 points from seven games. During this period, the young core that had been built up over the years began to shine. Ten players have been on the pitch for at least 400 minutes – four of them 33 years or older (striker Jamie Vardy, goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, defender Jonny Evans, striker Mark Albrighton) and six of them 24 years or younger. James Maddison (24), James Justin (22) and Harvey Barnes (23) are increasingly used in attack, while Wilfred Ndidi (24) and Yuri Thielemans (23) are key to the defensive pressure.

We still don’t know what will happen after Vardy, but he is an exciting and optimistic young core, and will continue to be so if Leicester sell the star for eight figures.

Still, you’d want them to play in the Champions League, and for that to happen Leicester would need a bit more help at the start. Actually, front to left. Of the 69 chances converted in these seven games, 62 came from mid- or right-field, but only seven came from left-field.

Ali Golizadeh, in white, is an aggressive and proactive winger who can help Leicester become stronger and more varied in the way they attack. Peter de Wucht / Photo News via Getty Images

What about Ali Golizadeh Charleroi? The 24-year-old Iranian Gholizadeh is potentially the best left-footed player in the Belgian first division. He’s scored five goals and five assists in 20 games, has a physical presence and is willing to run fouls and be run. His presence will potentially allow Barnes to go even further where he is a chance machine. (He’s good where he is, but potentially better as a left midfielder).

Third place, 32 points

Greater demand: turning xGs into real targets

Pep Guardiola and City may be in fifth gear. They have lost just once in the league since September, collected 17 points in their last seven games, while easily qualifying for the EFL Cup final after beating their Champions League group.

– Ogden : Why Maine City is a real team to keep an eye on.

But you can do better than that. In their eight games unbeaten in the league, they generated 18.0 xG, but scored only 10 goals. Strikers Sergio Aguero, Ferran Torres and Gabriel Jesus scored just once in that period. Both Aguero and Jesus have proven themselves over time and are both coming back from injury, but Aguero is 32 years old and City may have been looking for a long-term solution from the start.

Boulaye Dia is 24 years old and has already been linked with the Premier League, but Man City could make him a primary candidate if they find Dortmund’s Haland price too unreasonable. PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images

What about Boulez Dia Reims? We know that a player from City and every other megaclub in the world is being watched at the moment: The absurdity of Borussia Dortmund Erling Haaland. The 20-year-old Norwegian has scored 41 goals (27.8 xG) in his 41 Champions League and Bundesliga career games. It is the most reliable of the lot, but (a) it will be very expensive when available, and (b) it is not yet available. At the same time, the Dia would likely only cost the city about $15 to $20 million.

In this season’s European Championship Big 5, only Haaland, Romelu Lukaku, Son, Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski have scored more goals than Dia. Quite a high-profile company. Another latecomer (with a great past), Dia arrived at Reims in 2018, and he’s pretty much the whole team at the club. Despite questionable assists, he scored 12 goals on 8.7 xG and created 10 chances in the win. He’s probably overworked – 49% of his shots this year have been in goal, which is probably not sustainable – but he’s proven he can be a goal in the penalty box and create these things himself.

The number of Boulaye Dia who scored a double against Lens and with it his 8️⃣ème goal of the season! #RCLSDR #TeamSDR

– Reims Stadium (@StadeDeRheims) November 9, 2020

Clubs like West Ham United are on their heels, but City can obviously outbid anyone if they want to see what they have to offer.

Second place, 33 points

Biggest Problem: Absence of central defenders with two healthy legs

You already know the story. Liverpool have lost their two usual central defenders (the world’s best hope Virgil van Dijk and the indestructible Joe Gomez) due to months of injury. Manager Jurgen Klopp took the opportunity to try his luck and put the midfielders back in defence. All in all, everything is going well – the Reds have lost just twice this year and are in second place after Christmas, despite a mediocre performance. But the realignments have led to inconsistencies, not to mention problems in the midfield. Spending money on a central defender was probably not in the plans in August, but it is now.

– Panic Index: Should Liverpool be worried about his disappearance?

The club have been linked with some short-term ideas – such as a loan from Arsenal’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos or perhaps Real Madrid’s Eder Militao – and, hey, maybe that’s enough. But they may also try to replace Van Dyke eventually.

Ben Cabango could be one of England’s best defenders in Ligue 2, and as Liverpool’s experience with another league defender, Joe Gomez, has shown, he could be a good long-term option for the Reds. Athena Pictures/Getty Images

What about Ben Cabango from Swansea? The 6-foot-8 Welshman has played a key role for the Swans in the last two seasons and made his national team debut in September. He wins over 50% of his duels in the air and is a vital link in a Swansea team that is rock solid in transition defence and has conceded the fewest goals per game (0.6) in the Championship. Swansea are a candidate for promotion, but his transfer market value is currently just $4.95 million.

Liverpool have mastered the age curve over the past two seasons by bringing together a selection of players who have reached their peak age at the same time. But this team will need to be reshuffled in the coming years, and in Cabango they can count on a player who can help the Reds both in the present and be a cornerstone for the future.

First place, 36 points

Biggest question: …something special?

Few could have guessed in early November that United would be on the table in just over two months. The Red Devils started the league season with three defeats in six games. Although they beat heavyweights PSG and RB Leipzig in their first two Champions League games, they also narrowly lost to Istanbul Basaksehir. They’ve been inconsistent and frustrating, and the defense, which has been well-organized for most of 2019-20, has all sorts of breakdowns.

– Marcotti: Why it’s so important that Man United, Solskjaer are in the top.

Since then: largely problem-free. United allows about one goal per game, while scoring 2.3 goals. They scored 29 points in 11 games and, although a bit lucky – they averaged 2.5 points in games where the score was decided 1-0, and their goal difference (+1.3) is much greater than their xG difference (0.9) – it’s a good starting point for this difficult season.

The fact that they all did it without a right-back – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer juggled Mason Greenwood, Daniel James, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford in this hole, and none of them were particularly productive – suggests that the position could be in desperate need. But United have just brought teenager Amad Diallo to Atalanta and, like Sporting’s Pedro Goncalves, he could be good for a big goal.

Timothy Pembele, right, is another young talent doing well at PSG. John Berry/Getty Images

With Luke Shaw’s rearguard playing brilliantly lately, we’re going to add Next Pogba … and/or Next Shaw. Two in one. We don’t know what the future holds for Pogba – his agent said some time ago that he would be leaving United in the near future, but who the hell knows what’s true when agents say something? But let’s take a player who has huge potential and can play in six different positions.

What about Timothy Pembele of PSG? The only thing Paris Saint-Germain do better than creating exciting young talent is getting rid of it, and this 18-year-old is stunning. This season, according to the DAVIES model, his performances are comparable to Barcelona’s Miralem Pjanic or Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Lars Stindl in a matter of minutes; he has played everywhere from left-back to right-back in his short career. He excelled at the 2019 U-17 World Cup. This year he scored a goal and created numerous chances in just 376 minutes in Ligue 1.

Rennes’ Eduardo Kamawinga is currently the top price among Ligue 1 teenagers, but if PSG finally decide to keep their young talent, Pembele could do the same for a much lower price.

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