A January Transfer Target For Every EPL Contender

Football never sleeps. Yet with the January transfer window looming, teams across Europe can achieve a much-needed pit-stop and add extra reinforcements for the remainder of the season. 

While the likes of Luiz Suarez, Virgil Van Dijk, Bruno Fernandes and Nemanja Vidic were all picked up in January, it’s rare to reel in that big fish halfway through a season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the realistic players that the EPL’s primary contenders could snap up over the next month. 

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Manchester City - Patrik Schick

It’s the one position where the English champions have little to no depth. 

Manchester City took the brave move at the start of the season to go without a recognised number 9 for the season, opting to play a system that implements a false 9. 

Pep Guardiola has deployed countless players in that position over the season, and while they have often found success, many suggest they still need to add an out and out striker. Which is why Bayern Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick could be the prefect player for them.

Technically capable and highly intelligent, Schick has scored 16 goals in the Bundesliga so far this season. The 6 foot 1 striker is a very good presence in the air as well as having a good touch for a big man. He wouldn’t necessarily start every game for City, but he'd be more than a competent option off the bench should the going get tough at any stage. He provides unpredictability which is something that City desperately need as the bulk of their players attack in a relatively similar way. Should they net a world-class number 9, Schick would be the perfect option for this world-class Manchester City side. 

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Liverpool - Mikel Merino

The reds are winless in their last three EPL games, are 11 points adrift of City and it’s clearly evident they're lacking midfield depth. Liverpool hasn’t covered the loss of Gini Wijnaldum and his absence has been profoundly felt this season. 

The perfect signing this January would be Mikel Merino. 

Since shifting back to Spain after stints at both Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle, Merino has shone at Real Sociedad scoring a dozen goals from midfield over his 104 games while also earning 11 appearances for the Spanish national team. 

He’s the exact player Liverpool need. He can both defend and attack, has the stamina to play under Jurgen Klopp's high tempo style and by standing at 6 foot 2inches tall, he'd provide an incredible presence for opposition midfielders. 

His stats this season speak for themselves. His attacking threat can be exhibited by his 0.43 goal creating actions this year, ranking in the top 8% of Europe’s top 5 leagues. As well as his 2.74 tackles won per 90 shows his defensive ability. Despite playing in a two-man midfield in Spain, he has the physical and technical ability to slot in seamlessly into Liverpool’s 4-3-3 system. His stature also makes him a threat from set-pieces, which Liverpool have been superb at so far this season. More depth in the centre of midfield is the number one priority for Liverpool, as injuries and back luck has seen them be very depleted in recent weeks. 

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Chelsea - Lucas Digne

The over-reliance on the wingbacks in Thomas Tuchel’s side is borderline concerning. This has only become apparent since the injury of Ben Chilwell. Going down with a potentially season-ending knee injury, Chelsea’s form has slumped ever since, and they look a shadow of the side they were a matter of weeks ago. Marcos Alonso hasn’t cut since coming into the side and Chelsea desperately needs a short-term replacement.

Lucas Digne from Everton could be that guy. 

Falling out with new manager Rafa Benitez, Digne has requested to leave the Toffees in January and Chelsea are already linked. Despite never playing full-time as a wingback, the Frenchman has the attacking ability from full-back to slot into that position without any issues. 

Digne is technically capable and has the physical ability to play there without any dramas. What this signing brings is a lot more than just another option at left-back. It allows Tuchel to move to a back four in needed, as Alonso is not Premier League level in that role. It also allows Callum Hudson Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Saul Niguez to play in their natural position and develop continuity rather than being pushed over to an unnatural position where their development can be disrupted. 

Digne has averaged 2.40 shot-creating actions and 2.74 tackles won per 90, displaying his well-roundedness in both aspects of the game. 

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Arsenal - Kelechi Iheanacho 

After the recent upheaval in the Arsenal camp that has seen former captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ostracised from the first team and put on the transfer list for January, Arsenal needs a backup striker immediately. 

They should turn to Leicester and look at Kelehci Iheanacho. 

Despite not having the best season Iheanacho showed last year that he can play at a world-class level. With Paston Daka the natural replacement to Jamie Vardy, the Foxes might be willing to let him go for the right price. This move could give him a new lease on life and could help him re-find that form from last season. 

He offers something different to Alexandre Lacazette in that he is less of a target man and more of a modern number 9. He plays off the last shoulder and has the pace to get in behind the opposition defence. Adept at playing out-wide, he could be a fantastic option on the counterattack if Mikel Arteta opts for a more defensive system against a ‘bigger’ side. 

Despite having a poor season, his 2021 has been very good. Averaging 0.57 goals per game and 0.31 assists, showing his ability to both score and link-up play. He is a natural replacement for Aubameyang, whilst giving Eddie Nketiah enough time to develop his game to lead the line for Arsenal. 

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West Ham - Jonathan David  

Step aside Alphonso Davis, there may be a new Canadian number 1 football player.

 Jonathan David has announced his name on the world stage after a fantastic start of the season with Lille in France. 11 goals so far this season, the clinical striker has already been linked with a move to West Ham. This has come off the back of the perhaps slightly disappointing season that Michail Antonio is having. After having a fantastic season 2020/21, he has fallen off marginally this season scoring just goals in 16 appearances in the league. Turning 32 in March of 2022, West Ham needs to look forward, and who better than the 21-year-old Canadian. 

While the move may be a bit harder to sell than some other on this list, if it were to come off, he is the perfect striker for a David Moyes side. An unbelievable work ethic has led him to have 19.88 pressures per 90, ranking in the top 8% of strikers in Europe’s top 5 leagues. As well as being very clinical, ranking in the top 2% for goals per shot this year with 0.30. So, one in every three shots he takes is a goal, a very good ratio at any level.

If the Hammers can pull this off, then that would make them serious contenders for the top 4 this season. 

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Manchester United - Bruno Guimarães

This may be one of the more obscure picks on this list, but it’s a matter of time until Bruno Guimaraes announces himself on the world stage. 

The press-resistant defensive midfielder is currently playing out of his skin for Lyon this season. He is the ultimate hybrid between a destroyer and a playmaker. Considering the new lease of life that Ralf Rangnick has given Fred over the last month, Guimaraes would be the perfect stopgap who can then act as the secondary midfielder or a deputy for whoever takes over at the end of the season. 

The balance that he can provide will be critical for Untied to have any success for the rest of this season. He can play with or instead of Fred and has the legs to support Nemanja Matic should he be selected. With the news that Paul Pogba could leave in January, a midfielder is an absolute must for United and Guimaraes could be the perfect short-term replacement. They have a knack at finding gems in January and Guimaraes could be the next on that list. With his progressive carries and 3.61 tackles per 90, he could very well be another January coup for the Red Devils.

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Tottenham - Lisandro Martínez 

When Antonio Conte was brought in to replace the former gaffer, the switch to the back 3 was imminent even if there was skepticism as to who'd fit into that backline. 

Eric Dier has found a new lease on life, becoming a very good centre half in the space of a couple of weeks. Davinson Sanchez has found the form of his life which seemed very unlikely at the start of the season. The only weak spot in that defence is Ben Davis, who has struggled to adapt to that left-sided centre half position. A left-footed left-sided centre half should be of major importance for Spurs in January. 

And this is where Ajax's Lisandro Martinez might come into play. 

The soon-to-be 24-year old Argentinean is having another fantastic season with the Dutch giants and has been a pivotal cog in their ultra impressive season. He's the ideal modern-day centre half who's fantastic in a tackle, as his 1.42 tackles won testifies. He's also a brilliant reader of the ball, as his 2.42 interceptions display. A plus for Conte would be how comfortable Martinez is on the ball, this season registering 5.25 progressive passes and 4.92 progressive carries per90. 

He's the kind of player who could help Spurs sure up a top-4 spot, the likes of which seemed highly unlikely prior to Conte's return to London. 

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Ari Stamatakos

Ari Stamatakos is a first year Media and Communications student and is majoring in Sports Media and Media Industries. He's an aspiring writer and content producer. Ari's a passionate Carlton, Melbourne Victory and Chelsea Fan. He currently writes for the Carlton fan page BlueAbroad.com.au and is the founder and host of the 'Two Footed Podcast".
He tweets at @Ari_Y_Stama.

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