The January transfer window closes on Friday evening, but before then we can expect some frantic transfer activity from all the Premier League's 20 clubs.
Transfer deadline day has increasingly become a day of frantic speculation and hyperbole but, like almost all events treated in such a way, there is always an underlying element of drama. Every six months we see clubs roped into making last-minute deals—some good, some terrifyingly bad—that affect their short-term futures.
With another such day coming up, we take a look at one target for each of the 20 clubs. Slides are arranged in reverse order of the Premier League table (as of midday on Wednesday).
So, first up, Cardiff...
New Cardiff manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has wasted no time in trying to improve his squad (the jury will remain out on whether or not he has actually done that), but it still seems the club could do with another central defender to partner with Steven Caulker.
Considering his modus operandi to date—returning for players he has previously worked with—a move for Molde defender Vegard Forren on deadline day could be a possibility.
Forren endured a horrendous spell at Southampton last season. His return to Norway does not seem to have been about homesickness, however, so another tilt at the Premier League (this time working for a manager he knows and trusts) might prove attractive.
Courtesy of Wales Online's Jon Doel, Cardiff have also been linked with Wigan centre-back Ivan Ramis, who might be a more likely arrival.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet has been busy this window trying to freshen up his squad, with striker Ignacio Scocco expected to join from Internacional in the next few days, as reported by the BBC.
The Black Cats’ final deal, however, may come from closer to home—with Poyet returning to former club Brighton for holding midfielder Liam Bridcutt according to Simon Jones and Colin Young of the Daily Mail.
Bridcutt, a tidy passer and clean tackler at the base of midfield, might help add a bit of composure and security to a wildly inconsistent Sunderland side, and at around £3 million, Poyet might not struggle too much to find the finance for the deal.
Sunderland have also been linked with Bridcutt’s Brighton team-mate Will Buckley by the Mirror's Alan Nixon.
It’s been clear all season where West Ham’s biggest weakness lies—up front, and their inability to score goals. Andy Carroll's return to fitness should help with that, and the loan arrival of Marco Borriello gives Sam Allardyce another option, but the club would clearly like to add further attacking options as they look to avoid the drop.
With that in mind, a move for Southampton’s unsettled striker Dani Osvaldo might happen on deadline day. The Saints may well be willing to offload the striker, seemingly with little future on the South Coast after a training-ground incident with defender Jose Fonte, on loan to a club willing to pay his wages (and, perhaps, a small loan fee).
Clubs in Italy are reportedly already lining up to offer Osvaldo a route home according to Sky Sports, which might make West Ham’s task tougher. But, especially considering the Italy international’s ability to play out wide or through the middle, his signing might be hard for Allardyce to resist.
If the Cottagers do see Adel Taarabt move to AC Milan, as reported by the BBC, then a return for Ravel Morrison would seem to make much sense.
Head coach Rene Meulensteen admitted at the start of the window that the club had seen an initial bid for Morrison rejected by West Ham, invoking the Hammers’ ire by subsequently claiming that the player himself wanted to make the move.
But nothing smooths over a dispute like the agreement of a transfer, and it would seem likely Fulham will return with a new bid before the window closes. With Sam Allardyce now needing to cover the wages of Antonio Nocerino and Marco Borriello for the remainder of this season, selling Morrison would likely cover the entirety of that with funds left over.
Stoke appear to have already done much of their business already, bringing in Peter Odemwingie and John Guidetti on loan. Nevertheless, you can never have too many attacking options, and the club appear keen to add players wherever possible.
Steven Fletcher seems to be somewhat on the periphery at the Stadium of Light, and he may be available for the right deal. Mark Hughes would likely jump at the chance to add the Scot.
West Brom head coach Pepe Mel desperately needs a forward to strengthen his options, especially after letting Shane Long leave for Hull City earlier in the window.
Jonas has a decent pedigree—scoring regularly last time Valencia were in the Champions League—but the Spanish club have been underperforming so far this season, and Mel might just be able to lure the forward to The Hawthorns for the right price and the right wages.
Tony Pulis has been desperate to add to his squad at Selhurst Park so far this summer, but he has been frustrated at almost every turn.
With that in mind, the most likely arrival is former Liverpool midfielder Momo Sissoko, who trained with the club last week. While hardly a star, he would give Pulis more options in midfield.
A central defender and a striker would likely also be on Pulis’ hit list, depending on whether the Palace owners loosen the purse strings before deadline day.
Hull appear to have decided to get their transfer window business done early, adding Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long earlier in the month for significant financial outlays.
In that light, and considering that the rest of the first XI is already reasonably well fitted out, it seems unlikely that Steve Bruce will be too active on deadline day. A loan deal for a talented prospect from one of the bigger clubs (Wilfried Zaha, perhaps, or someone like Jordon Ibe?) might be a possible, while the club reportedly remains in the Tom Ince sweepstakes according to the BBC.
But further activity at the KC Stadium appears set to be limited.
Norwich need to strengthen wherever possible, but it is with central defenders where most of the rumours have emanated from in recent weeks, including mention of a possible move for Blackburn's Scott Dann courtesy of the Daily Mail's Simon Jones.
With time beginning to work against Premier League managers, they might increasingly start to look closer to home—and Chris Hughton may see if he can get a deal done for Newcastle central defender Steven Taylor.
Taylor, as experienced as he is, appears to be on the fringes of matters at St James’ Park, with Alan Pardew seemingly willing to let him go in the transfer window. Hughton will know Taylor’s abilities from his time as Newcastle manager and may just believe him to be the man to help the Canaries’ bid to avoid relegation.
Paul Lambert needs to freshen up his Villa squad in some way, but it looks like he will be thwarted in his very public pursuit of Norwich attacking midfielder Wes Hoolahan.
That interest in his former player seems to have betrayed Lambert’s most pressing need—a creative midfielder. In that vein, and considering Lambert’s recent transfer track record, a move for 23-year-old Bournemouth midfielder Eunan O’Kane could well happen.
Villa scouts are reported to have watched O’Kane in recent weeks according to the Daily Mirror, and he would certainly give Lambert a few more midfield options to play with. But, considering the doubts about whether O’Kane could immediately come in and make an impact (and thus whether the deal really needs to be done now), a summer deal might be more viable.
Blackpool winger Tom Ince is out of contract in the summer and, prepared to walk away then, has thus been on a tour of Premier League clubs looking to sign him now (either on loan or on a permanent deal).
Swansea remain the most likely suitors and, from a purely selfish aspect, their attractive, winger-focused tactical style would arguably give Ince the best platform to showcase his talents ahead of his summer free agency.
Don’t be surprised if Ince ends up a Swan on Friday.
Southampton appear to have a reasonably settled, content squad—bar in attack, where Dani Osvaldo’s future remains hotly debated.
After a training ground bust-up with Jose Fonte saw him suspended, the Italian international looks likely to depart St Mary’s this month, most probably on loan. There appears to be no shortage of suitors.
If Osvaldo does leave, however, then Southampton need another striker; they cannot quite afford to rely solely on youngster Sam Gallagher to be Rickie Lambert’s understudy.
The solution may almost present itself, however. If, as has been speculated, Juventus are keen on Osvaldo and also allowing Mirko Vucinic to depart, as reported by Sky Sports' Simone Bargellini.
If Juventus push against the prospect of letting Vucinic go, then Fabio Quagliarella could be an alternative prospect.
The loss of Yohan Cabaye, as announced on the club's official website, clearly leaves a gaping hole in Newcastle’s midfield, with the Frenchman’s departure costing them especially dearly in terms of creativity.
To address that, then, Newcastle have been strongly linked with Montpellier’s playmaker Remy Cabella—although the Metro's Hannah Duncan reports that such a deal will only get completed in the summer.
The Toon have also shown an interest in Lyon’s Clement Grenier according to the Press Association (via the Guardian), which might just be a transfer with a greater chance of occurring this month. But Lyon are unlikely to be desperate to do a deal, and Grenier himself may believe he can hold on until the summer for more enticing offers—all making life harder for Newcastle.
If he does not leave for Tyneside, then Luuk de Jong’s loan arrival, reported by Newcastle's official website, might be Alan Pardew’s only piece of business.
Manchester United manager David Moyes has suggested this week that the club will not sign another player in January, which is somewhat unhelpful for lists such as this.
The £37 million spent on Juan Mata looks like being the extent of the club’s January expenditure, which will surely not be too much of a disappointment for most United fans.
There are still areas that need reinforcements—left-back, particularly, and central defence—but there are more likely to be addressed in January. Don’t rule out a move for Atletico Madrid left-back Filipe Luis or Villarreal centre-back Mateo Musacchio, however.
News that Romelu Lukaku’s injury is less serious than first thought, as reported by Press Association (via The Guardian) will have been a boost to Roberto Martinez, and it perhaps removed any need he might have had to buy a striker this month (in the summer, however, it might be a different matter).
Similarly, the news of Leighton Baines’ new contract last weekend removed Martinez’s need to look at alternative left-back options, although Bryan Oviedo’s long-term injury means they do lack some cover in that area.
In that vein, a move for 19-year-old Dundee United left-back Andrew Robertson might be an option. Everton have reportedly scouted the Tangerines extensively in recent months according to the Daily Mail's Stephen McGowan (for both Robertson and team-mate Ryan Gauld) and young, raw talents would appear to be the sort of profile of player the club is currently looking at.
Of course, with little chance of such players being thrown into the first team this season, it is arguable that they are not the sort of deals to do at 10 p.m. on transfer deadline day.
Spurs head coach Tim Sherwood has not given any indication he is looking to make any additions in the January transfer window, but with Jermain Defoe’s March move to Toronto set to leave him with just two first-choice strikers for his preferred 4-4-2 formation, it’s pretty clear where a signing might be needed.
If Sherwood does not want to spend some money (or if the Spurs board are simply not prepared to provide him with it at this point), then a loan move seems the most likely prospect.
Sporting director Franco Baldini has strong links in Italy, meaning a loan move for an experienced, unwanted Serie A striker might have potential. Juventus’ Fabio Quagliarella is available according to the Metro's Jamie Sanderson, as is team-mate Mirko Vucinic.
The Reds have recently had to get used to setting their sights on new transfer targets, having seen their initial objects of affection snapped up by rivals.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Willian and Mohamed Salah have all eluded Brendan Rodgers’ grasp according to the BBC, leading the Northern Irishman to turn his attention to the Ukrainian Yevhen Konoplyanka in the final days before the transfer window closes according to The Times' Tony Barrett (subscription required).
The deal surely depends on how much Liverpool have to spend this month. Some reports, such as James Pearce's in the Liverpool Echo, had suggested that Liverpool’s inability to tie up a deal for Salah was due to a lack of funds, yet Konoplyanka is likely to cost as much, if not more, than the Egyptian.
Nevertheless, Liverpool clearly believe they need another attacker and, after winning the recent Merseyside derby to keep themselves firmly in the Champions League conversation, surely it won’t take much for Rodgers to persuade the board to finance the transfer that might push the club over the threshold.
The sale of Juan Mata was clearly done with financial prudence in mind: the sacrifice of an inessential (but very, very good) player in order to provide the funds to strengthen more needy areas of the Stamford Bridge playing staff.
Having acquired Mohamed Salah as Mata’s “replacement,” more than £20 million remains to go toward another signing—and a striker remains the priority.
Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa’s links with Jose Mourinho—both men have the same agent, Jorge Mendes—have made the naturalised Spaniard the top name linked with the Blues, including this report from Jeremy Wilson of the Daily Telegraph, especially as he has a £32 million release clause.
With Atletico still competing in both the league and Champions League (for which Costa would be ineligible if he moved), however, a deal at this point in the season looks far less likely than one in the summer. But nothing is impossible.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini has consistently maintained that he is not looking to do business in the January transfer window, although he has occasionally left the door slightly ajar for the right big-money addition.
With arguably the most balanced squad in the Premier League, Pellegrini’s stance is not unsurprising. About the only area that might need strengthening in the short term is central defence—where Joleon Lescott is likely to leave the club in the summer and Matija Nastasic and Vincent Kompany are rarely without injury troubles.
With that in mind, on Wednesday, City were linked with a late swoop for Porto defender Eliaquim Mangala, who has long been a target for Chelsea, by Paul Clennam of Goal.com. But the Blues might just be saving their Juan Mata windfall to buy Diego Costa in the summer, leaving a window for Man City to swoop in.
It remains something of a mid-distance shot, however.
It seems, to all intents and purposes, that Arsene Wenger has opted not to pursue another striking option this month, having been turned away in his pursuit of Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata earlier in January.
Another body in that department is a requirement, but it is difficult to see where the Frenchman might find a player, ideally on loan, with the quality to come straight in and make an impact whenever called upon. There are plenty of players of that quality out there, but few who play for clubs who would be willing to let them go.
With that in mind, it seems that a blockbuster deal for Julian Draxler is the one transfer that might—might—be pushed through. Arsenal are clearly admirers of the German international and will likely go for him again in the summer if they cannot get him now, but with Schalke seemingly willing to negotiate a transfer according to Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph.