January transfer window improvements: Aston Villa and Chelsea.

The January transfer window is arguably the most important time of the Premier League season as teams are both strengthened and in some cases weakened for the rest of the season with make-or-break transfers being negotiated and completed before the 31st. As we roll into December it’s now time to look in-depth as to what crucial signings each Premier League side needs to complete over the transfer window period to improve in the second half of the season. Today we look at two struggling Premier League sides; Aston Villa and Chelsea.

Aston Villa

It’s no secret by now that Aston Villa are having another shocking season in the Premier League. The Birmingham based side are rock-bottom of the Premier League going into the Christmas period and have so far shown no real urgency to escape from the relegation places. Too many of their players this term aren’t giving 110% in every match and due to backroom changes and the sacking of Tim Sherwood, the team are really lacking key consistency in team selections among other aspects promising youngster and only bright spark so far this season Jack Grealish is easily distracted by off-field events and the team haven’t won a match since the opening day away at Bournemouth.

Jack Grealish could be a star for Villa if he sorts out his off-field antics.
Jack Grealish could be a star for Villa if he sorts out his off-field antics.

Other than that win on the opening day and impressive draws against Manchester City and Southampton, Aston Villa have shown no real reason as to why they will be a Premier League side next season as they seem completely resigned to relegation this season already at this early stage.

Where to improve?

Where do we even start in terms of improvement with Aston Villa? Quite literally every position at Villa this season could be improved so it’s a case of what positions need the more urgent investment if Villa are going to stay up this season. Flash back to a few years ago and Aston Villa were the surprise package of the 2009-2010 season as the side finished 6th in the league as well as getting to the League cup final and the semi-finals of the FA cup. This was down to one key reason in my opinion; Villa had a very strong midfield. In the middle of the park Aston Villa possessed depth with Stiliyan Petrov, James Milner, Fabian Delph and Steven Sidwell as well as having rapid, flying wingers that included in-form Ashley Young and Stewart Downing at the time. Fast forward five years and it’s clear to see that Villa have no real star quality in midfield, yes they have made signings like that of Adama Traore, Jordan Veretout and Carlos Gil but these players are 19, 22 and 23 and have no Premier League experience between them. There’s no leader in the centre of the park for Villa anymore and in a league like the Premier League, games are won in the midfield battle. For me, this is a major concern for the Midlands side that needs to be addressed in the January transfer window.

A lack of depth upfront is further very worrying. The captures of Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede were at first somewhat exciting but both have failed to adapt to Premier League life and unfortunately when you’re in a position like Villa who can’t afford for your forwards to not take chances on a regular basis. Again like I said about Bournemouth in my blog earlier in the week, Aston Villa need a clinical finisher with Premier League experience, a player who won’t give up on a loose pass and who will get the crowd behind the side because at the moment I just can’t see where Aston Villa’s next three points are coming from.

Chelsea

What has happened at Stamford Bridge? Chelsea are in absolute turmoil this season as players look uninterested to give it 100% week in week out for the club as the London sides fans become more and more frustrated at the events unfolding in south-west London. Did the Chelsea players come back as Champions and not expect to have to fight for the right to become Champions this following season? Or was it the foolish behaviour of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in regards to his comments made towards ex-club doctor Eva Carneiro which set the club off on the wrong path? A lack of transfer activity in the summer could also be pointed at in regards to why Chelsea have struggled so far as their big names keep failing to produce the magic of last season including Eden Hazard who has lacked confidence this term. Last weekend, the London clubs worst performance and result of the season came in the form of a 1-0 home loss to recently promoted side Bournemouth as things could soon escalate if they lose to Porto on Wednesday night which could see the club lose their place in this terms Champions League competition.

Where to improve?

I can’t see it taking a lot of signings to turn Chelsea’s season around. Regardless of recent results Chelsea still possess a world class squad, a squad that will come together eventually and turn a corner in their season. At most Chelsea should look to bring in two top quality signings to revitalise the scenario at Stamford Bridge. In my opinion the most important signing the Blues could make this January is that of a world class striker. It is being widely reported that Chelsea are ready to offer Zlatan Ibrahimovic a staggering £215k-a-week contract to bring him to Stamford Bridge as Chelsea look to replace Diego Costa whose attitude this season is becoming a worry for Jose Mourinho and fans alike.

Could Zlatan Ibrahimovich move to Stamford Bridge and salvage Chelsea's failing season?
Could Zlatan Ibrahimovich move to Stamford Bridge and salvage Chelsea’s failing season?

Other signings Chelsea could make this January include Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund’s forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Tottenham’s Harry Kane or surprise package Jamie Vardy of Leicester who is the Premier League top scorer thus far. In my opinion any of these options would be fantastic for Chelsea due to the fact that the team are making enough chances in matches this season but are failing to put vital opportunities away. Jamie Vardy would perhaps still be a risk though compared to the other names being touted to join Chelsea in January.

The transfer of a new centre back could further be crucial in helping to turn around Mourinho’s and Chelsea’s faltering season. For me, it is time for Jose to start considering bringing in a big footballing name at the back as with captain John Terry getting older, Chelsea need a leader at the back. A marquee signing in this department could help Chelsea massively as the team’s defence looks very shaky at the moment and is a worry going forward for Chelsea fans at the minute.

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Predicted Premier League positions for this season.

We take a look at what I believe the Premier League table will look like at the end of the 2015/2016 season including my predictions on which teams will win the two English domestic trophies during the course of the season as well.

1st – Chelsea
2nd –Arsenal
3rd – Manchester City
4th – Manchester United
5th – Liverpool
6th – Tottenham
7th – Southampton
8th – Everton
9th – Crystal Palace
10th – Stoke
11th – Swansea
12th – West Ham
13th – Newcastle
14th – Aston Villa
15th – West Bromwich Albion
16th – Bournemouth
17th – Sunderland
18th – Watford
19th – Leicester City
20th – Norwich

Capital One Cup winners – Liverpool
FA Cup winners – Manchester United

Transfer of Christian Benteke to Liverpool agreed.

It is been reported this morning that Aston Villa’s Belgian striker Christian Benteke is on the verge of signing for Premier League rivals Liverpool in a deal eventually worth £32.5 million. It is said that the Anfield based club have triggered the strikers release clause that was in his Aston Villa contract and that the forward is due to travel to Merseyside for a medical early next week, likely to be on Monday.

Christian Benteke is expected to join Liverpool early next week in a transfer worth around £32.5 million.
Christian Benteke is expected to join Liverpool early next week in a transfer worth around £32.5 million.

Ian Ayre, Liverpool’s chief executive, worked through into the early hours of Sunday morning in Australia, where Liverpool are on their pre-season tour, in discussions with Aston Villa chief executive Tom Fox in order to strike a deal for the forward and hand manager Brendan Rodgers the player he has coveted all summer and whom he has admired for more than 18 months. Liverpool’s club doctor Andy Massey will now fly back to Liverpool to oversee the tests in London and should all go according to plan, Christian Benteke will be able to start his new career with Liverpool at their Melwood training base.

It has been decided it would be asking too much to fly Benteke out to Malaysia to join Liverpool’s squad for the final game of their pre-season tour in Kuala Lumpur on Friday and instead he will work with Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho, who are due back at Melwood on Wednesday.

The Belgian striker has been a massive success at Aston Villa where he has managed to score 49 goals in 100 total appearances for the club. This represents a ratio of just under a goal in every two appearances at the Midlands side.

Christian Benteke in action last season for Aston Villa.
Christian Benteke in action last season for Aston Villa.

Although a massive transfer fee is being touted in order for Liverpool to sign the striker, it represents a great outlay of funds for the club. This is due to the fact that Liverpool need a big name striker to play alongside and fill in for the injury prone Daniel Sturridge who can bag plenty of goals during his stay at the club. Christian Benteke is already a proven Premier League striker and his conversion rate in front of goal  will only increase playing in front of star names such as Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson. Expect Benteke to make an impact at Anfield if this transfer is completed.

Transfers you should expect to see completed by the end of next week.

Yevhen Konoplyanka to Sevilla

The Ukrainian winger is now widely reported to be set to sign for La Liga club, Sevilla in the coming days. The forward, whose contract has now expired at Dnipro, is set to reject offers and interest from various Premier League clubs including Liverpool, Tottenham and Stoke.

Idrissa Gueye to Aston Villa

Although having a £9 million transfer offer accepted by Lille and the player flying over to Birmingham to complete a transfer to the Premier League side both Southampton and Marseille have made counter offers for Aston Villa target Idrissa Gueye. The Lille midfielder was poised to join Villa after Lille accepted a £9million offer but Saints and Marseille are understood to have made an eleventh hour bid of £10m for the Ligue 1 star.

Gueye

Asmir Begovic to Chelsea

It’s common knowledge by now that Premier League winners Chelsea are interested in Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic to play as back up to number one keeper Thibaut Courtois after losing Petr Cech earlier this week. However it’s been reported that Stoke chiefs have told Chelsea they want one of their fringe players on loan – on top of the Blues’ improved £8million offer for Asmir Begovic. Jose Mourinho wants the Bosnian keeper as back up to Thibaut Courtois to cover Petr Cech’s departure to Arsenal and Begovic wants to move to Stamford Bridge. But Stoke want winger Victor Moses, 24, forward Patrick Bamford, 21, or 19-year-old midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek on loan as part of a deal.

Manuel Lanzini to West Ham

According to varying reports West Ham have made a move for exciting Argentine playmaker Manuel Lanzini. The 22-year-old currently plays as a forward in the United Arab Emirates for club Al Jazira. The Hammers are seeking a loan deal for next season with an option to buy him if he impresses at Upton Park.

Lanzini

Dennis Praet to Aston Villa/Southampton

Aston Villa have joined the race to sign Dennis Praet, the highly rated Belgium international who is also attracting interest from Premier League rivals Southampton and Everton. Praet is set to leave Anderlecht this summer for a fee in the region of £10m and Aston Villa have made an inquiry about the possibility of making an offer for the young attacking midfielder.

Seamus Coleman to Manchester United

Manchester United will use Jonny Evans as bait in a bid to lure Everton star Seamus Coleman to Old Trafford according to various media outlets. The Toffees insist Coleman is not for sale and that United are wasting their time making a bid for the Republic of Ireland international however Manchester United bosses remain hopeful that the club can in fact land right-back Coleman and are set to tempt the Toffees with a cash offer plus Evans in a bid to secure a deal.Seamus_Coleman

Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli to Watford

It is widely been reported that Watford have now agreed fees with Tottenham to sign their French midfielders Etienne Capoue and Benjamin Stambouli. Capoue, 26, is understood to be close to agreeing to personal terms whilst negotiations are still also ongoing with Stambouli, although an agreement with the 24-year-old is still some way from being reached. Both midfielders have had limited opportunities at Spurs and a move to the Hornets could give them more playing time at the Premier League stage.

Other likely transfers to be completed in the next week include:

Fabian Delph to Manchester City

Aleksandar Mitrović to Tottenham

Lukas Podolski to Galatasaray

Antonio Rudiger to Wolfsburg

Morgan Schneiderlin to Manchester United

Adam Matthews to Sunderland

Yevhen Konoplyanka: A hidden gem?

Yevhen Konoplyanka  is a Ukrainian footballer who currently plays as a winger for FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Ukrainian Premier League however is due to leave the club when his current deal runs out this summer.

The talented Ukrainian winger has spent his entire professional career at FC Dnipro, making his debut in 2007 and has since featured in over 200 matches across all competitions for the Ukrainian based team. Konoplyanka has further featured as a full international for Ukraine since 2010 earning 45 caps for his country whilst scoring 10 international goals in the process.

Konoplyanka battles with Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy whilst on duty for the Ukrainian national team
Konoplyanka battles with Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy whilst on duty for the Ukrainian national team

Known for his rapid pace and agility in particular, the Ukrainian youngster, still only 25 years old, is wanted by a number of major European clubs. His most likely destination is rumoured to be Tottenham who are wanting a new winger incase they lose current player Andros Townsend whom is wanted by various other Premier League clubs including Midlands club Aston Villa. Liverpool, who were close to a transfer for the forward last season, could also make a move for Konoplyanka despite already buying Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino. Spanish club Sevilla have recently stated that their interest in the winger was now over.

Yevhen Konoplyanka would represent Mauricio Pochettino’s second major signing of the close season at the North London club, having already snapped up Cologne defender Kevin Wimmer.

What next for Liverpool F.C.?

What does life after Steven Gerrard mean for the Merseyside club?

To say that Liverpool have relied on their captain for 10-12+ years would be an understatement. Gerrard has stuck with the Merseyside club through thick and thin down the years and fully deserves his ‘legend’ title both within the North-Western city but also in the world of football in general. With his move to the L.A Galaxy in the rapidly developing MLS however, their once captain leaves a massive void within the club both on and off the pitch. Understandably in recent years, Gerrard has slowed down and made fewer appearances at the club but his presence will be sorely missed.

First of all, there doesn’t need to be a change in management. Brendan Rodgers will be the first to admit that his team have underwhelmed this season both in the league and the cup competitions but his young age and previous managerial record show that his knowledge within the sport is only going to grow further. It needs to be addressed too that Liverpool fans themselves need to understand that the club will not find another Steven Gerrard figure in this summer’s transfer market and need to possess patience in the near future.

This summer it will be the clubs new potential new signings that will have to do all the talking. First of all, Liverpool desperately need a new central defensive midfielder as Lucas Leiva has had a poor season. Emre Can could provide cover in that position but Rodgers seems to like the German international in a back three system. Liverpool need a defensive powerhouse that will shield the back two and give Henderson the freedom to move forward up the pitch. Victor Wanyama would fit perfectly within this role after having another fantastic season at Southampton and importantly he is tried and tested in the BPL. Yann M’Vila of Rubin Kazan, Axel Witsel of Zenit and Fernando from Shakhtar Donetsk could also fit this demanding role in front of the Kop next season.

Victor Wanyama in action for Southampton.
Victor Wanyama in action for Southampton.

It is not difficult to see that Liverpool have struggled massively in terms of goal scoring either this term as Gerrard himself is top scorer for the team with 12 goals in all competitions subject to this weekend’s final game of the season away at Stoke. Gonzalo Higuaín would cost too much for the club with transfers needed elsewhere on the team however both Aston Villa’s inform Christian Benteke, subject to very heavy rumours http://goo.gl/bvzQNB, and Lyon’s hometown hero Alexandre Lacazette could offer solutions for Rodgers, when Sturridge is out injured, for close to the £20 million mark.

Benteke could make the  move to Anfield this summer.
Benteke could make the move to Anfield this summer.

The Merseyside club further need to make a move for an attacking right-back to fit into Rodgers formation and tactics as Glen Johnson is phased out of the club. The front-runner according to various news articles, including Metro http://goo.gl/UaroqI, is Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal after the Spanish giants signing of Danilo from Porto for £23 million.

Carvajal is subject to strong rumours.
Carvajal is subject to strong rumours.

A new back up goalkeeper and centre back could be on the agenda too as the club look to drop unwanted contracts whilst bringing depth into the overall squad for next season. Peter Cech has been subject to heavy press rumours linking him with a move to Liverpool this summer as he plays second best to teammate Thibaut Courtois at rivals Chelsea however the Reds are more likely to revisit Fiorentina to pick up Brazilian stopper Neto for close to £2 million. At centre-back Rodgers needs strength in-depth. Skrtel has had his usual solid season but Lovren has struggled whilst Sakho has suffered various injury setbacks throughout the course of the year.

Other depth signings could include James Milner whom is sought after by Liverpool and Asier Illarreamendi for £15 million from Real Madrid.