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.

Advertisements

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.

Where will Raheem Sterling be playing next season?

The latest new reports on the situation involving young Liverpool star Raheem Sterling state that the main reason behind the players proposed move away from Merseyside is due to his desire to move back home to London where he grew up as a child, the Daily Star reports. Prior to his move to the UK, Sterling in fact grew up in the country of Jamaica leaving for London at the age of 7. Sterling was part of the youth set up at London football club Queens Park Rangers prior to a move to Liverpool under Rafa Benitez at the time in 2010 for an initial fee of £650,000, expected to have since moved up to the £5 million mark. Since then, Sterling has shone for the Reds making 91 appearances for the team and scoring 18 goals in all competitions in the past four seasons.

Although struggling this season for Liverpool, the youngster enjoyed the 2013/2014 season where Liverpool boss Brenden Rodgers introduced him into his Premier League starting XI towards the middle part of the season. With strong performances came a place for Sterling within Roy Hodgsons England set up and further guaranteed his seat on the flight to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup where he showed his promise as one of the teams only highlights in a dismal campaign on the world stage. In 2014 Sterling further claimed the prestigious ‘Golden Boy’ award, previously won by Lionel Messi in 2005, recognising him as the best under-21 player playing in Europe during that season. His natural rapid pace coupled with his all-round general play which has improved dramatically since moving to Merseyside, has meant that Raheem Sterling has become one of the emerging talents on the world footballing stage.

Will Liverpool sell one of their star assets this summer?
Will Liverpool sell one of their star assets this summer?

After Sterling’s agent Aidy Ward last week claimed ‘he’d even reject £900,000-a-week if Liverpool offered it’, it is almost certain that Sterling will not be a Liverpool player by the start of next season even though the club have stated that he is not for sale at any price. Therefore with news that Sterling wants to move back to London where could the young footballing star end up? Manchester City and Manchester United are now unlikely destinations for the England international with Chelsea and Arsenal now leading the race for his signature. It is further possible that Sterling too could in fact move abroad, maybe to reunite with Rafa Benitez at Real Madrid if the Spaniard completes a move to the Santiago Bernabéu. Barcelona star midfielder Xavi stated in November 2014 that Sterling was in fact good enough to play for the La Liga club, praising his physical and technical qualities.

It can be stated that after a disappointing season with Liverpool on the whole, Raheem Sterling will want to once again play in the Champions League this time around as the youngster looks to develop into one of the world’s best attacking footballers.

Latest odds on where Sterling will be playing next season – http://www.paddypower.com/bet/football-specials/transfer-specials/Raheem-Sterling%27s-Next-Permanent-Club-7740854.html?force_racing_css=N.

Can Arsenal be title contenders next season?

Three key signings that Arsene Wenger has to make this summer.

Ever since the unforgettable season of the ‘Invincibles’ in the Premier League campaign of 2003-2004 Arsenal have somewhat struggled to regain the golden years of football the North London club once had. An eight year barren run in the form of trophies was only halted last season with an extra-time win over Hull in the FA Cup final and since then Arsenal have improved but have not fully challenged for the title this time around once again. This season there have been many positives however and key players that have stood up to the plate for the London based team. Alexis Sanchez has particularly impressed since joining from Barcelona, netting 24 goals in 49 games, Olivier Giroud has had his best season for Arsenal arguably scoring 18 in 33 appearances and other players such as Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Danny Welbeck in particular have played consistently well for Arsenal especially in the second half of the season. This coupled with the experience of players such as Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky with the bright future and youth of the club performing well in the form of Hector Bellerin, whom has been outstanding this year for his young age, among other youngsters make for good reading for Arsenal fans everywhere.

Arsenal need a strong, ball playing central defensive midfielder who can shield the back four but who can also fit in with the teams passing set up and tactics. Certainly Francis Coquelin has been a solid player for Wenger this season when asked to play in this role; however he lacks the passing ability to back up his powerful presence in the heart of midfield. It can be said that the club have never been able to replace that man Patrick Vieira since his departure in 2005 as newer signings such as Alex Song failed to shine as brightly. There is one player currently in the Barclays Premier League whom could be the signing that Arsenal fans desire, Morgan Schneiderlin. The Southampton midfielder has long been linked with a move to the Emirates Stadium after enjoying another successful campaign at the South coast club despite been ruled out for the rest of the season from the 25th April. Although linked with rival club Tottenham, Arsenal is likely to be Schneiderlins preferred destination as the midfielder has stated a desire to play in the Champions League consistently, something Arsenal can offer. It is expected that in order to sign the French international Wenger will have to part with around £25 million as stated by various sources, http://goo.gl/xPiKdo.

Schneiderlin could make the move to Arsenal in the summer.
Schneiderlin could make the move to Arsenal in the summer.

Wenger needs to address the problem he has in net at the London club. Wojciech Szczesny has struggled massively this year as his replacement, David Ospina, has put in a better level of performance with the Polish stopper been linked to a summer move to Southampton. Reports suggest that Chelsea back up goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has made 332 appearances for the Blues in his career, could make the move across the capital for a fee expected to be around £10 million. Manchester United and PSG are both also interested in the Czech international. Asmir Begovic could further be a transfer target for the North London club.

Could Petr Cech be making the move across London?
Could Petr Cech be making the move across London?

Despite Olivier Giroud having a good goal scoring campaign for the Gunners and Alexis Sanchez chipping in a healthy supply of goals during the course of the season, some would argue that the club still need a prolific talisman to compete with the likes of the Manchester clubs and rivals Chelsea. Arsenal have long been linked with a move for Karim Benzema however the French international seems settled at Real Madrid so Wenger may instead turn towards a transfer for Napoli star Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentine international has been in fine form this season for the Italian club scoring an impressive 23 goals in 49 appearances however the money needed to complete a transfer here could prove to be a stumbling block for Arsene Wenger and the North London club. Another possible target could be Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon but he too would fetch a reasonable sum of money.

Gonzalo Higuain has hit form this season at Napoli.
Gonzalo Higuain has hit form this season at Napoli.

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger will make youthful signings as usual during the summer window too with The Metro already reporting that Arsenal have signed French 16-year-old Yassin Fortune from French side RC Lens for around the £3 million mark, http://goo.gl/B9kZPT. The talented young midfielder had attracted interest from other major European clubs including Manchester United, as he is considered to be a star for the future.