Happy New Year to all Big Match Centre readers and many thanks to you for coming back! Well, as another decade passes and we head into the New Year, the January Sales gossip begins its yearly ritual. Who will your club buy or recruit on-loan during the half-season? Here's our guide to who we think might spend and on whom:
Many pundits thought the loss of Van Persie would deal a crucial blow to Arsenal's hopes but the Gunners have played some scintillating football and scored some wonderful goals in the process. Still light upfront, it is likely that Wenger will spend money on a big striker with Marouanne Chamakh the more likely target. Other possibilites (but less likely) are Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Andre-Pierre Gignac, the Toulouse striker.
After two defeats and very little in the wayu of creativity against Arsenal and Liverpool it is clear where the Villains problem lies. Heskey has proven himself to be a nuisance up front when playing but, has also proven that he will never score enough goals. Carew has been useful but is injury-prone, so a more clinical target-man seems the likely choice. There has been talk of Kenwyne Jones but this would be, in our opinion, another step sideways: Jones does not score enough goals. Other options Milan Jovanovic of Standard Liege and Jay Bothroyd of Cardiff City.
With a reported £40million to spend from new owner Carson Yeung, it seems likely Alex Mcleish will not spend big but will instead buy "functional team players" instead of big-money "individual" signings. Defensively, Birmingham are solid but their real problem lies in a lack of creativity in midfield and a regular goalscoring striker. Ryan Babel has been mentioned and with him not getting a game at Liverpool this could be a good move, especially with his World Cup place in jeopardy. Other targets include Kevin Kuranyi or Schalke 04 and Kris Boyd of Rangers.
Rovers' big problem is scoring goals with James Beattie touted as a possible target that suits Big Sam's style of player: big, strong and a nuisance up front. The only problem for Big Sam is a lack of transfer funds so selling before buying is a must. Benni McCarthy is a possible exile as is Morten Gamst Pederson whose sales might just raise the funds for the purchase of Beattie. Most likely though is that there will be no signings for Rovers during January.
Bolton's priority is a new manager before any new signings can be made! Peter Reid and Owen Coyle seem to be the favourites for the post but Coyle appears committed to Burnley so it is unlikely that Bolton will get their man. Expect the new man to give the present charges the chance to impress before the end of the season before stamping his own authority on the playing staff.
Another club that will have to sell before buying even though they have a reported £5million transfer kitty, but no victory in nine games means they may have to strengthen in more than one area to avoid relegation. Probable areas to strengthen are central defence and a creative midfielder with Sean St Ledger from Preston North End and a loan deal for Arsenal's Jack Wilshire likely deals.
Even though Carlo Ancelotti has promised to run through the training ground naked if any signings are made, this has not stopped the rumour mill. Sergio Aguerro is a long-admired target but would be pricey with Atletico Madrid holding out for the full 60million euros, a fee Abramovich has balked at. Other targets include Frank Ribery and David Villa both of whom will cost well above £40million as their respective clubs either do not want to sell (Bayern) or are in so much debt that they have to get as much for their star player as possible (Valencia) so if Chelsea do sign any players, it is going to be an expensive January for Abramovich.
Cash-strapped Everton may have to look for loan signings again with Landon Donovan a definite on a two-and-a-half month deal. Adam Johnson has been touted as a possible but Middlesborough would be unwilling to let their star player go for anything less than a substantial fee. Expect this to be another frustrating month for David Moyes.
Fulham are a tough team to beat this season under Roy Hodgson and will look to strengthen in attack and possibly midfield, although cover may be needed for John Pantsil who will either be going to Africa for the Cup of Nations or will be injured. Stefano Okaka has been linked as a striking option and Roy Hodgson has reportedly confirmed his interest. Others include DeMarcus Beasley and Raheem Sterling of QPR.
Hull City could probably do with a miracle as opposed to merely new players but, since miracles are probably not going to happen, with the priority being in defence. Sol Campbell has been linked and this could be a good move for both parties if his wage demands are not too high. Man City's Benjani has also been linked with a loan move but Hull are reportedly not keen on the idea of paying his full wages. Expect to see a lot of reported bids but little in the way of substance from Hull.
Poor old Liverpool: no money and in desperate need of strengthening in midfield and in attack. No cover for the mercurial Torres and a little lightweight on the bench, Ruud Van Nistelrooy is a possible on a loan deal as is Emile Heskey, but with Heskey's poor record in front of goal the Dutchman seems the safer bet. Strong indications are that Liverpool will bid successfully for Palace's Victor Moses but Liverpool could really do with some better options out wide as Babel has failed to prove his undoubted talent. Hamburg's Eljero Elia is reportedly bneing targeted by the Anfield club but expect a surprise from Benitez during the January sales.
Roberto Mancini has had a little time to assess his playing options and seems certain to strengthen the defence. He is reportedly not keen on Micah Richards so will probably look to Maicon as his replacement with Giorgio Chiellini also a strongly reported target.
Looking surprisingly light in defence for an Alex Ferguson side, Utd need to bolster their defence, Palermo's Simon Kjaer a possible target Bruno Alves and Everton's Jack Rodwell.
..and the rest: Sunderland want Alan Hutton and Adam Johnson; Portsmout need a right-winger and a striker; Stoke could possibly get Newcastle's Andy Carroll.