Premier League clubs' transfer window To Do list - Part I
The January transfer window is always an interesting spectacle and usually a slow burner, with clubs looking to get the best deals possible but invariably finding it hard to do so in the case of the buying party. The temptation to secure a quick fix can often lead to unnecessary splurging but in most cases reinforcements are deemed a requirement.
We've taken the time to look at each Premier League club in this three-parter to suggest where they may need to bolster in order for each team to fulfil their aspirations come the end of the season, starting from A to H.
The Gunners' need for fresh blood is perhaps most documented, which is not uncommon given the club's reluctance to address the real problem areas in their ranks in recent years. As per usual it's their defensive record that is letting Arsenal down but perhaps not so familiar is the guiltiest culprit.
Per Mertesacker, despite only being 30, is looking extremely leggy in more ways than one, with a rating of 6.92 from WhoScored.com the worst of all Arsenal outfielders with more than 7 league starts. While he has never been the most mobile the big German is a committed and organised defender at his best but looks far from it right now.
With team weaknesses of 'avoiding individual errors', 'defending against counter attacks' and 'stopping opponents from creating chances' the defence certainly needs more protection but being the bouncer for this backline, on current form, is a thankless task.
While Arsenal's issues obviously come at the back there is no clearer deficiency in any side right now then Villa's lack of goals, with a miserly 11 in 20 games. While support for Christian Benteke wouldn't go a miss, with the Belgian clearly not firing on all cylinders after a lengthy lay-off, it's the side's inability to create chances that is the real problem area, with no team mustering fewer shots per game (10.2).
Of players to have started at least 10 league games for the club the lowest rated three are N'Zogbia (6.27), Agbonlahor (6.47) and Weimann (6.59) and the trio have created just 29 chances between them all season. The side's need for a creative midfielder has been apparent since the departures of Young, Milner and Downing and failure to address the issue - no matter how significant the defensive improvements have been - will see Lambert's side toying with the drop once more.
After a dismal and seemingly helpless start to the campaign, Burnley have shown the sort of fighting spirit that manager Sean Dyche has insisted has never left his side. The Clarets boss has fielded an unchanged XI in 6 successive matches over a hectic Christmas period and disproved the theory that squad rotation is an absolute must in this day and age.
While it would be hard to suggest any of his players have let him down this season Scott Arfield (6.38), who scored the club's first goal back in the top-flight in their opener with Chelsea, is Burnley's lowest rated regular by some distance having not netted since. With 'keeping the ball' and 'defending against attacks down the wings' among the Clarets' weaknesses more quality in protecting both the ball and the full-backs from wide areas would certainly aid their bid for survival.
The Blues may be top at the start of the New Year, with a Jose Mourinho side never having lost a league title when leading at Christmas, but Chelsea's form of late, allowing Manchester City to join them at the top of the table, will be a concern. What's been most alarmingly is their tendency to concede both chances and indeed goals, deemed 'very weak' according to WhoScored when 'defending against through ball attacks'.
While John Terry has been solid for most of the season his partner at the back has been far less so, with Gary Cahill enduring one of his worst runs of form in a number of years. The England international has started every game for the club but no outfielder with more than 5 starts for Chelsea has a lower rating (6.94) and the lack of competition at centre-back since the departure of David Luiz, despite the arrival of youngster Kurt Zouma, may well be playing on Mourinho's mind this month.
Alan Pardew's mission, now that it has finally been confirmed that he has accepted it, is to replicate, to a lesser extent, the success of Tony Pulis. While the former Eagles boss' primary task was to fix a seemingly unfixable backline Pardew's main cause for concern will be a lack of goalscorer within his new ranks.
The Londoners have scored just twice in their last 7 league matches and though summer signing Fraizer Campbell has weighed in with 3 goals since his arrival Palace will struggle to pull themselves out of the bottom three without reinforcements. Only Hull and Villa have had fewer shots (212) this season but with the players at their disposal in wide areas it's really a case of getting someone on the end of what the likes of Bolasie and Puncheon can produce.
Perhaps among the sides most in need of fresh faces this January, Everton are clearly paying the price for an increase in competitive action due to their European commitments. The only new recruits at Goodison in the summer were Christian Atsu (effectively - or not so - replacing Deulefeu), Samuel Eto'o and Muhamed Besic - not including the permanent transfers of Lukaku and Barry. The Toffees are well and truly stuck in a rut and are the only team to lose all three of their matches since Christmas.
At the heart of their problems has been an inability to offer adequate protection to an ageing and increasingly less reliable rear guard. The age of some of last season's key players does seem an issue now they are playing more matches and Gareth Barry looks off the pace, with no outfield teammate to start more than 10 league games earning a lower rating (6.65). So impressive in Everton's excellent 2013/14 campaign, the England international is now perhaps doing more harm (particularly to opposition players) than good, committing more and more fouls and being caught out of position where last season his discipline in this regard was superb.
One of the busier sides in the previous transfer window, it's fair to say that Hull's summer dealings haven't exactly turned their fortunes around after faltering at the tail end of last season, despite reaching the FA Cup final. The Tigers' clawed themselves out of the relegation zone with a victory over Everton last time out but continue to struggle when it comes to creating chances.
Among Hull's lowest rated players this season are Sone Aluko (6.33), Tom Ince (6.33), Gaston Ramirez (6.47) and the now departed Hatem Ben Arfa (6.38) and Steve Bruce clearly hasn't identified a link between the midfield and attack that he feels suits his side. No team in England's top flight have had fewer shots at goal (204) this season and none of the aforementioned quartet have made more than 5 starts. While Mo Diame's return will be warmly welcomed it seems that Hull are still crying out for a creative force.