Thursday, 2 January 2014

The players that the Premier League contenders must sign in January

Diego Costa
We've passed the half-way point in what looks like being the closest Premier League title race in years - and with the transfer window open, all the top teams have a chance to dip into market for a player who could make or break their challenge.
But who should the top contenders go for? I'm taking a look at the top seven teams in the table - and pick out the player I believe each one should make their priority in the January transfer window.
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It's pretty straightforward for Arsenal, isn't it? They need a striker. A proper striker.
We all know they have the money, and now is the time to go out and spend it - because Olivier Giroud will not win them the title. They need someone on the level of Diego Costa (pictured above)of Atletico Madrid - he would be my top choice if I were Arsene Wenger.
There are other strikers out there, of course, but Costa looks like the one to me: he's big, strong and fast, and looks like he'd fit straight in to the Premier League.
Gonzalo Higuain has been mentioned as well, but I just don't think he would work out: he doesn't seem like he'd be up for English football. Argentine players have a patchy history in the Premier League: Sergio Aguero is doing brilliantly, but we all remember the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron as well.
Of course, the Gunners will probably be regretting not pushing themselves to £60 million over the summer for Luis Suarez. That may come back to haunt them as it wouldn't be anything like enough to buy him now, but Costa's a player who could make that decision fade into insignificance.
Manchester City

City clearly need a new centre-half. Manuel Pellegrini isn't a fan of Joleon Lescott for whatever reason, and as far as I'm concerned Martin Demichelis is an accident waiting to happen. He's a reckless defender - exactly what City don’t need when their only real problem is the occasional lapse at the back.
The problem for City is that top class centre-halves are very hard to come by - there's a real dearth of them at the moment.
But if I was Pellegrini, I'd be banging on Southampton's door to enquire about Croatian international Dejan Lovren. He's been absolutely excellent this season, and I've no doubt that he's a man who could play for a top club. And the best thing is that you've no worries about him adapting to the Premier League: he's only been here for six months, but he's already shown that he's adapted perfectly to the English game.
Radamel Falcao
Like Arsenal, Chelsea need a striker - perhaps even more so, because there have been plenty of times this season that they've looked like they're playing with 10 men.
Elsewhere the team is looking great: I've been really impressed with the way the players are starting to click under Mourinho's guidance, so if they can fix the problem up front they'll look formidable.
With the way they play, however, I'd see a slightly different striker fitting the bill for the Blues: Radamel Falcao.
He doesn't seem at all happy after his move to Monaco in the summer, and that hasn't surprised me at all. It was a move a bit like Samuel Eto'o going to Russia a few years ago - you just wonder what on earth is going on.
Some people might have thought that he'd go to France and bang goals in for fun, but it doesn't work like that: he's a big player, and needs to be in a big team playing big matches. Monaco might have the money, but it's not really top football; and I think the club would be happy to sell him on again if they got their £50 million back.
Given their recent losses and the Financial Fair Play rules, that sort of outlay might be tough for Chelsea - but if they need to clear the decks to get a new striker in, then so be it. Demba Ba, Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and maybe even David Luiz could all be offloaded - the Blues have to do everything they can to get a proper striker.

In the last few years we've got used to pigeon-holing midfielders: this player's an attacking midfielder, that one's a holding midfielder. But there's really no reason why they shouldn't do it all - and that's exactly what Liverpool need: an all-action midfielder.
It's time for them to start getting ready for Steven Gerrard's eventual retirement - and they need a central man who can pull the strings for the whole team.
And I believe there's a player who fits the bill perfectly: Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender.
He's 24, he's already been around for several years, he's broken into the German national team - and best of all, I see him as a player who is on the verge of making major improvements.
I think we'll see him get 20-25 per cent better in the next six to 12 months - and if he ends up being one of the stars of the World Cup, his price would at least double. Liverpool need to make a move now.

What can you say about Everton? Of course they need better players in several positions if they want to keep up their momentum, but the truth is that they can't afford them.
Having said that, the one area they could really improve is at the back - and a new centre-half could make a big difference. I think they really missed a trick when they sat on the sidelines and let Steven Caulker go to Cardiff - he's exactly the sort of player they should have been in for.
Caulker is not an option any more, but Bruno Martins Indi of Feyenoord would be. He's Portuguese-born but has been based in the Netherlands for years, and has now broken into the Dutch national team as well. He'd be a great addition for the Toffees.

I think Spurs are well-equipped to be honest, especially in midfield. The one place they need bolstering is up front.
Roberto Soldado has started looking a bit better of late, but he's still not really convincing. It's one thing for Southampton to have someone like Jay Rodriguez with eight or nine goals as their top scorer, but Spurs have big ambitions - and they need more.
Ironically enough, having said that, I actually think Rodriguez could be just the thing Tottenham are missing. He's good, but I see a huge amount of potential for improvement in him - he's a player who hasn't reached his level yet.
You might wonder whether he'd want to leave Southampton, of course. It's a club that clearly has a fantastic atmosphere and a great buzz right now, and walking away from that to a club where he'd fear sitting on the bench every week might not appeal to him.
But the reality is that clubs like Southampton will always struggle to hold on to their best players. Rodriguez, Adam Lallana and several others will have to move if they want to reach their potential - and moving to a big, well-established club will always make sense for them in the long run.
Manchester United

Honestly, where do you start? I mean, United do okay when they're on the ball - but they just aren't good enough off it. Spurs just ran away from them on New Year's Day.
Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez don't look up to the job of filling in when Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie aren't available - that's a problem - but even when Rooney or RVP play, they're tasked with lifting the whole team.
That shouldn't be their job: it should be down to a big man in midfield, inspiring and lifting the team. And that's what United need above all else: a midfield general to follow in the footsteps of Eric Cantona and Roy Keane.
I was baffled this summer when United showed no interest in Fernandinho, for example - he was exactly the sort of man I thought they needed, and it's been no surprise to me how well he's done at City.
United have had this problem for a long time, though. I was on TV a few years ago talking about Bastian Schweinsteiger, and I said at the time that United absolutely had to buy him before Bayern Munich became the best team in the world - because once they were, they'd have no chance of bringing him in.
It's too late for that, yet despite United's woes they still have a big name and plenty of money - and they will be able to attract someone.
The trouble is finding someone good enough for what is a very difficult job to do. Xabi Alonso seems unhappy at Real Madrid, and I do believe that he could still do a job for United - though of course he's not a long-term option.
So the man I think they should go for is Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan - an absolutely super player.
The obvious question is why would he leave? And it's a fair point since Dortmund is one of the most exciting clubs in Europe right now.
But the fact is that players do want to move on; and every club has its breaking point.
United know all about both those things - and they have the money and prestige to take advantage of them as well. Given that their future success is on the line - even if this season is probably a write-off already - they absolutely have to spend the money to get the right person in.

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