The festive grind of Premier League fixtures sometimes clouds the reopening of the January transfer window. As we enter 2018, though, two reported high-value deals have either been completed—or are close to completion—ensuring the spotlight is in place bright and early.
Virgil van Dijk has been unveiled as Liverpool's new No. 4, breaking the transfer record for a defender, while Cenk Tosun is on the verge of a £25 million move from Besiktas to Everton, per Mike McGrath of The Sun.
These two early moves have done a phenomenal job of whetting the appetite and have led us to this: Picking a January transfer target for each Premier League club, bearing in mind the weaknesses each squad possesses and who they might be able to attract.
Arsenal: Thomas Lemar, AM/Wing, Monaco
While the central-midfield situation at Arsenal remains brimming with question marks, the most urgent issue for manager Arsene Wenger to address this winter is the impending departure of Alexis Sanchez and possible loss of Mesut Ozil.
They're almost guaranteed to lose the former, so whether or not the latter stays, some planning must be done. Thomas Lemar is a player they pursued aggressively in the final throes of the summer transfer window and should still be interested in.
With Monaco's season tanking to an extent, it's possible the player is more amenable to a move to London now than before.
Bournemouth: Daley Sinkgraven, LB/CM, Ajax
Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe doesn't often look outside of British-based players in the transfer market, but then again he's struggled badly to incorporate most of his Premier League-era signings into his current playing template. Perhaps it's time for a change?
The Cherries feel a little needy at left-back (depth) and central midfield (ageing), so Daley Sinkgraven could be a player who can fill either role. The Dutchman isn't playing much for Ajax, and his career has stagnated badly, but he is still only 22 and could be a reclamation project Howe would relish.
Brighton & Hove Albion: Kevin Lasagna, ST, Udinese
Brighton & Hove Albion have got by on the strength of their defence so far, not their attacking prowess. Seventeen goals from 22 games is a poor tally in need of improvement, and the answer likely lies in finding a new striker.
Chris Hughton's club have shown a willingness to deviate from the beaten track in search for players, losing out on a deal for Raphael Dwamena last summer only due to a failed medical, while also seeing bids knocked back for Spartak Moscow's Ze Luis, per Steve Goodman of The Sun.
Finding a player with a different profile to both Tomer Hemed and Glenn Murray would be wise, and perhaps the red-hot Kevin Lasagna of Udinese fits the brief and falls within the price range.
Burnley: Robert Snodgrass, Wing, West Ham United (on loan at Aston Villa)
Sean Dyche's phenomenal coaching has elevated an average group of players' abilities to well above their stations at Burnley, and as long as he's in place, that will keep happening.
It's pretty amazing that the Clarets can continue to knock out results despite losing key men, and the manager's ability to extract a high level from backups is key to their continued run.
While that naturally means injuries won't concern Burnley too much, they do look a little light in the wing section following Robbie Brady's horrible knee injury. A depth option in this area could ease the load on Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Scott Arfield for the remainder of the season.
Following Dyche's regular blueprint of largely purchasing British or Irish-based players, the options are a little limited, but if Burnley asked West Ham United to terminate Robert Snodgrass' loan at Aston Villa so they could buy him, the London Stadium side might just acquiesce.
Chelsea: Alex Sandro, LB, Juventus
Chelsea lack numbers in just one area of the pitch—left wing-back—as a deputy or replacement for Marcos Alonso was not recruited during the 2017 summer window.
The dream target here is Juventus' Alex Sandro, and per Matt Law of the Telegraph, a move could be on the cards—despite the fact we see few of these blockbuster deals occur during the winter window.
Sandro is reportedly unhappy in Turin and his form has dropped off severely this season, with Kwadwo Asamoah impressing more from left-back. Could Chelsea "do a Liverpool" and get their man five months on?
Crystal Palace: Troy Deeney, ST, Watford
Troy Deeney's time at Watford looks to be coming to a natural close, but he's still got enough left in him to be effective in the Premier League.
Any striker-needy side in the division should look to him as a potential solution, and Crystal Palace might make good use of him as a relief mechanism.
When Christian Benteke's feeling confident he's exceptional, but when he's off the boil...well, it's best not to be relying on him in those patches.
Everton: Patrick van Aanholt, LB, Crystal Palace
With Leighton Baines now 33, it would be remiss of Everton not to begin planning for the future at left-back. The fact he's out injured and Cuco Martina is playing there should only expedite the process.
An immediate solution to their problems may well already lie inside the Premier League, in the form of Patrick van Aanholt. On the books at Crystal Palace but rarely used due to Roy Hodgson's preference for Jeffrey Schlupp, it was Sam Allardyce who signed the Dutchman at Selhurst Park having already worked successfully with him at Sunderland.
Why not make it a second reunion?
Huddersfield Town: Clement Grenier, CM/AM, Lyon
Head coach David Wagner will rightly be reluctant to mess with his own ecosystem, as the squad he has at his disposal right now has done superbly to get Huddersfield this far.
However, the German will realise the key to the club's success has been Aaron Mooy's midfield influence—he is Plan A, B and C when it comes to attacking—and an injury to him could derail everything.
Wagner would be wise to find someone who can play a semi-regular role and share the creative load where necessary, preferably a player with some experience and perhaps in need of a career reboot.
Leicester City: Mitchell Weiser, RB, Hertha Berlin
Claude Puel inherited a settled and talented Leicester City side, and there aren't many areas of concern. Any changes he's made have been subtle, such as including Demarai Gray more and rotating Ben Chilwell in for more minutes.
One area due some attention is right-back, though. A natural backup to Danny Simpson is non-existent—hence Aleksandar Dragovic making his Premier League debut out of position there on Boxing Day—and while the current incumbent is steady, the Foxes can improve there.
Mitchell Weiser's all-action, physical style makes for an exciting watch, and while you might think Leicester aren't capable of attracting such a player, you might have thought the same about Vicente Iborra and Kelechi Iheanacho last summer.
Liverpool: Asier Illarramendi, DM, Real Sociedad
The acquisition of Virgil van Dijk eases Liverpool's perceived defensive crisis somewhat, and it would be more interesting to see, say, Joe Gomez paired with him and Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back, rather than another centre-back bought.
Some fans will also point to the goalkeeping situation, but Loris Karius could turn out to be what's required (with a run of games), and the excellent Danny Ward is sat around waiting for his chance, too.
What this XI needs, and has done for about four seasons, is an element of stability sourced in midfield. Acquiring Asier Illarramendi's aggression and ball-winning ability to sit behind an unleashed Jordan Henderson could be a recipe for success while also building a framework ready for Naby Keita to slot into come the summer.
Manchester City: Benjamin Pavard, CB, Stuttgart
Manchester City are in the luxurious position of having effectively sealed the Premier League title already, so any January purchases can be made with a long-term vision.
That's important, as it takes a while for even the best players to grasp City manager Pep Guardiola's complex tactics. There's no shame in that; it just means, for the most part, new acquisitions shouldn't be relied upon from the get-go.
Perhaps City will use this pressure-free period to find a long-term centre-back option they like and can train. Vincent Kompany's failing fitness makes this the only real area of need, and Benjamin Pavard—who is impressing for Stuttgart and has already earned a couple of senior caps for France—might represent the young clay ready for Guardiola's moulding.
Manchester United: Zeca, LB, Santos
Perhaps a top-tier attacking midfielder or winger could be of use to Manchester United, but the sheer number of good or very good ones they already have makes this a less pressing need.
Cast your eyes a little further back in Jose Mourinho's formation, though, and left-back still sticks out as an unresolved issue.
None of Luke Shaw, Daley Blind or Matteo Darmian have convinced the United manager, and while Ashley Young might be enjoying a peculiar Indian-summer run in that position, he can't be Plan A moving forward.
The perfect Mourinho left-back is Faouzi Ghoulam, but his torn ACL rules him out of a winter move. Instead, the Red Devils could look to Zeca from Santos, who can play on either flank, pushes forward with aggression and passes superbly.
Newcastle United: Oumar Niasse, ST, Everton
Newcastle United feel a little light on goals. Joselu works hard, wins aerials but doesn't score, while it's clear Rafael Benitez doesn't fully trust Dwight Gayle and doesn't trust Aleksandar Mitrovic at all.
Benitez will be on the lookout for a forward who can plunder seven to 10 goals between now and May but who can also carry the load, work for the team and shoulder a huge amount of responsibility.
Jonathas of Hannover 96 would have been a perfect fit had he not suffered a rough injury in November, so why not look closer to home, and to Oumar Niasse? He ticks a number of Benitez boxes, scores a reasonable number of goals when given the chance and will never give up the cause.
Southampton: Derlis Gonzalez, Wing, Dynamo Kiev
Southampton have a multitude of problems to sort out in January, including goalkeeper and centre-back (now Virgil van Dijk has gone), but the most pressing of them is in creative midfield.
Oriol Romeu, Mario Lemina and Steven Davis are solid, dependable guys, but they don't create or score in spades; that leaves the onus on a vastly underperforming Nathan Redmond, an inconsistent Dusan Tadic, and James Ward-Prowse, whose impact is still somewhat limited to set pieces.
They have the strikers in place; they just need the support and the line of supply.
Stoke City: Santiago Arias, RB, PSV Eindhoven
Of all Premier League clubs, Stoke City feel the most beleaguered heading into the new year. They may not be bottom of the table, but the discontent in the fanbase over Mark Hughes' position as manager has reached an alarming level, and the squad is horrifically unbalanced.
The entire defence is struggling, but of particular note is the right-back/right wing-back position. Poor summer planning left them without a reliable set of shoulders to lean on there, with a combination of Geoff Cameron, Glen Johnson, Tom Edwards and Mame Biram Diouf splitting time in the role.
One-time Swansea City target Santiago Arias could be a wise acquisition. Per De Telegraaf (h/t Andrew Gwilym of the South Wales Evening Post), the Colombian defender admitted "it's time to leave PSV" in the summer and likely will still be eager for a Premier League move.
Swansea City: Davy Klaassen, CM/AM, Everton
Manager Carlos Carvalhal has two obvious areas of urgent need to address in January: right-back and creative midfield.
Kyle Naughton's form has concerned supporters for over a year now, and the club's failure to agree a fee for PSV Eindhoven's Santiago Arias in the summer has meant his struggle has continued.
However, bolstering the midfield is Swansea's most likely route to staying up, as the striking corps is OK, it's just the supply line post-Gylfi Sigurdsson that's broken.
They won't be purchasing from the top table, but someone in need of a fresh outlook—such as Everton's Davy Klaassen—either permanently or on loan, could link defence to attack nicely.
Tottenham Hotspur: Ross Barkley, CM/AM, Everton
Both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea pursued Ross Barkley last summer, only for the player to pull the plug on a move to Stamford Bridge at the last moment due to a hamstring injury.
In October, Matt Law of the Telegraph reported Spurs are still keen to get a deal done in the new year, and the move makes as much sense as it did then.
Recruiting another attacking body is crucial for Mauricio Pochettino in January, and Barkley can be that man.
He can also be moulded into a marauding, physical central midfielder, starting from a deeper position. He could turn out to be a short-term boost to the attacking corps and a long-term successor to the declining Mousa Dembele.
Watford: Islam Slimani, ST, Leicester City
Andre Gray felt like a smart signing for Watford last summer, but his form in front of goal has been worrying. The number of missed chances he and his colleagues are responsible for is a big part of the Hornets' rough run of results.
Darren Lewis of the Mirror reported the Hornets like the idea of Islam Slimani joining them in January, reuniting the towering Algerian with Marco Silva, who managed him at Sporting CP in Portugal.
He may not suit Watford's wide-open, fast-paced style, but he will give them an edge in the box they currently lack.
West Bromwich Albion: Danny Ings, ST, Liverpool
Once again, West Bromwich Albion will be on the hunt for a solution up top. By now, their shortlist should be refined and polished, as this has been an ongoing search for years now.
Per John Percy of the Telegraph, Alan Pardew wants to acquire Danny Ings, and that move makes a lot of sense on paper. The Liverpool forward has the Premier League pedigree many managers prioritise, and he will be hungry to reignite his career in a new setting.
The Baggies' attack has gone into hibernation after years under Tony Pulis' tutelage, and if Pardew can give them a fresh target to aim for, perhaps they'll come out of their shells.
West Ham United: Etienne Capoue, CM, Watford
West Ham will be on the lookout for a central midfielder this month—manager David Moyes has confirmed as much, per Sam Inkersole of football.london—and they need not look too far.
Despite injuries to Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes, Watford continue to play largely without Etienne Capoue on the pitch, and that should worry the Frenchman. A move back into London could bring him playing time and a renewed sense of importance.
All statistics via WhoScored.com