Chelsea continue to be linked with multiple strikers and midfielders as Maurizio Sarri aims to keep their top four challenge on track.
With Cesc Fabregas sold to Monaco, Alvaro Morata linked with a move away in January and Sarri is desperate need of a new presence in attack, The Star say that Bournemouth will accept offers of $95 million for star striker Callum Wilson. It was believed Chelsea are willing to pay up to $75 million for Wilson.
Wilson, 26, has recently broken into the England national team and has scored 10 times this season for the Cherries as his remarkable return to form after two major knee injuries has been wonderful to see. His ability to make clever runs in-behind and hold up the ball will no doubt suit Eden Hazard down to the ground, and it will give Sarri something he doesn’t have as Morata and Olivier Giroud are statuesque in comparison to Wilson.
West Ham and Wolves are also said to be in the hunt for Wilson, but Bournemouth will surely only sell him to Chelsea as Eddie Howe and the hierarchy at the club must accept the magnitude of this move for a player who battled his way through the lower leagues to the top of the game.
Chelsea have also been linked with a move for Zenit midfielder Leandro Paredes, with the Argentine causing quite a stir on social media.
He appeared to retweet a video saying ‘welcome to Chelsea’ before undoing that action, but Sarri has been clear he wants his club to sign a replacement for Fabregas and Paredes, 24, would fit the bill.
The Boca Juniors product is a playmaker in the Fabregas mold and although this may not be good news for Ross Barkley or Ruben Loftus-Cheek, it is believed Chelsea have made a $35 million bid for Paredes and the deal is moving forward. Nicolo Barella is another target but he is believed to want to stay at Cagliari, so all eyes are on Paredes who will give Chelsea an alternative to Jorginho as a deep-lying playmaker.
Staying in west London, Fulham appear to be closing in on a loan move for Dutch winger Ryan Babel.
The former Liverpool winger, now 32 years old, has had a resurgence in recent months and has found himself back in the Dutch national team as well as scoring 22 goals in 62 games for Turkish side Besiktas since he arrived in Istanbul in 2017.
Babel is a lively character and someone who will help to lift any gloom building at Fulham, but his nomadic career since he left Liverpool suggests this is a gamble. Given the situation the Cottagers are in, it is probably one worth taking.
Chelsea’s search for a new striker continues, as Alvaro Morata’s time at Stamford Bridge appears to be almost up.
A report from ESPN says that Morata’s agent, who flew to London today, will discuss the future of the Spanish striker with Chelsea’s hierarchy as Sevilla want to sign him on loan. Another report from Cope states that Atletico Madrid have also entered the race to sign Morata.
It is believed the deal for the 26-year-old would initially be a loan move for the rest of the season, with an option to buy.
Per the report Sevilla are extremely keen on signing Morata to boost their chances of a top four finish in La Liga, and it is quite clear that Maurizio Sarri isn’t a fan of the former Real Madrid and Juventus star as he’s played Eden Hazard up top as the false nine in recent matches. The report claims that Morata is also willing to take a pay cut to join Sevilla.
Morata’s time at Chelsea has been riddled with small injuries and a lack of confidence and form, with the Spanish international scoring 24 goals in 72 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Real Madrid for a fee of up to $89 million in the summer of 2017.
Who could replace Morata? Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is high on their list but he would cost over $70 million to buy in January, and Sarri is said to favor bringing in Gonzalo Higuain but he is embroiled in a complex deal between Juventus and AC Milan.
Mauro Icardi is said to be their top target but Inter Milan’s Argentine striker would not come cheap.
But his agent and wife, Wanda Nara, has said the following after stating that Icardi signing a new deal at Inter is a “very long way off” as things stand, as he has just just over two years left on his current contract.
“We have a very good relationship with the two biggest clubs in Spain, who are very interested in Mauro. As well as one in France and one in England.”
In non-Chelsea striker related news, Manchester United have once again been linked with a move for Ivan Perisic.
The Croatian winger has been linked with a move United time and time again over the past 12 months, and the 29-year-old was said to be a transfer target of Jose Mourinho.
According to Tuttosport in Italy, Inter Milan is said to be willing to part with Perisic in January so that they can get the funds together to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid in the summer. The 33-year-old reigning World Player of the Year has been long linked with a move to Italy’s Serie A.
As we creep towards the deadline at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, you just know so many deals will be done between now and then. But what are the key areas where each Premier League club should strengthen in, if they can, this month?
With that in mind, below is a look at the key transfer needs for each PL team in January.
Key transfer needs: Center back, CAM – Unai Emery has had so many injuries in this area, but aside from that fact, the quality needed to sustain a top four charge just isn’t there. Replacing Aaron Ramsey, long-term, would also be savvy and the arrival of Denis Suarez from Barcelona seems likely. The Spanish central midfielder play for Emery while he was on loan at Sevilla and he can add that extra bit of quality to supply the likes of Aubameyrang and Lacazette.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Key transfer need: Central midfield – Some extra depth in central midfield is all that is needed, as Chris Hughton has a strong squad and the quality of his starting XI doesn’t drop significantly when a regular is replaced. Having some extra nous in central midfield would be a good move.
Key transfer needs: Winger, attacking midfielder – Injuries to key players in attack have hampered Burnley for most of this season, and with their defense sorted out in recent weeks and Tom Heaton back in goal, they are shored up at the back. They could do with adding more creativity in the final third as the likes of Steven Defour just hasn’t recovered from his horrible injury.
Key transfer needs: Striker, winger, right back – Neil Warnock is already miffed after missing out on signing Clyne, but the Bluebirds have long been linked with Emiliano Sala and Youseff Msakni. However, both attackers are said to not be keen on a move to the Welsh capital despite Cardiff currently sitting just outside of the relegation zone. Work to do for Cardiff to seal some signings, but they do not have a big budget and will have to wait for the last minute. Will it be too late by then?
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud misfiring, Maurizio Sarri needs a new striker. Gonzalo Higuain has been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge, but it could be tough to sort out considering he is currently on loan from Juventus to AC Milan. With Cesc Fabregas on his way out, Sarri also wants a new central midfielder. Chelsea have been linked with a $55 million move for Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella, which would be another huge outlay after they bought Christian Pulisic for $73 million before loaning him back to Dortmund until the summer.
Key transfer needs: Striker, center back – The Toffees need a new center forward too, as Cenk Tosun‘s move just hasn’t worked out and Dominic Calvert-Lewin may not cut the mustard at the top level. Richarlison has had to play through the middle a lot this season and he is clearly better coming off the left. As for defense, Kurt Zouma, Michael Keane and Yerry Mina have had rollercoaster campaigns and getting them extra cover, especially in a 3-4-3 formation, is vital.
Key transfer needs: Center back, full backs – Claudio Ranieri has improved this Fulham defense significantly but this may be all he can do with his group of players. Gary Cahill has been linked with a loan move from Chelsea, while full back Timothy Fosu-Mensah has been told he can head back to parent club Manchester United. That suggests a new right back is on the way, and Ranieri could do with strengthening both full back positions and adding two new center backs. Going forward they look more than adequate, but there’s no real balance in this team.
Key transfer needs: Everywhere – It is quite simple, Huddersfield need to spend big in the transfer window or they are going to get relegated. After eight-straight defeats they are eight points from safety and scoring goals has been a huge problem all season. Jason Puncheon has arrived from Crystal Palace on loan and he is of course an experienced pro, but top quality in midfield and attack is needed. Losing Aaron Mooy and Danny Williams for a key part of the season was a blow, and the Terriers know they will have to act fast this month to give themselves a chance of staying up.
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfield – With Vicente Iborra sold to Villarreal, there is a hole in central midfield for Claude Puel to plug. Up top the likes of Shinji Okazaki and Kelechi Iheanacho continue to deliver lackluster displays and Jamie Vardy really needs some support. Bringing in a strong center forward who can link up with Vardy would be ideal.
Key transfer needs: Attacking midfielder, left back – Nabil Fekir has been linked with a move to Liverpool, again, as the Frenchman’s move to Anfield collapsed at the last minute this summer. In some of their big games they’ve lacked a calming presence in midfield, and Naby Keita just hasn’t settled down. Liverpool need a No.10 type who can slow the tempo down a little when they want to. Adam Lallana can be that man if he stays fit, but a new playmaker would give them a big push towards the title. Alberto Moreno is a decent back up option at left back to Andrew Robertson, but he is set to leave in the summer so adding a new left back would be ideal.
Key transfer needs: Left back, defensive midfielder – Benjamin Mendy‘s injury problems mean that left back is the main area needed to strengthen in. Pep Guardiola‘s plan to play Fabian Delph there worked last season, but not so much this season, while Oleksandr Zinchenko hasn’t settled in that role. Aymeric Laporte has plugged the gap for now, but a long-term left back to challenge Mendy is badly needed. A long-term replacement for Fernandinho is needed too, as the Brazilian is badly missed when he’s been out injured.
Key transfer needs: Center back, left back – Defensively United need some serious help, as their stable of center backs just isn’t good enough and are injured far too often. Luke Shaw is their only real option at left back, with Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Ashley Young able to play there out of position in a pinch.
Key transfer needs: Striker, central midfielder, winger – Now, it is very unlikely Rafael Benitez will be given money to spend in January, but he does need to strengthen in a few areas. Defensively they are solid enough and are all set there. But going forward he is woefully short of quality options. Extra quality off the wing, a No. 10 and a striker to partner Salomon Rondon is needed. Miguel Almiron from Atlanta United has been linked with a move to St James’ Park but the Magpies are baulking at the $35 million transfer fee.
Key transfer needs: Winger, striker, center back – Saints have a lot of center backs, but Ralph Hasenhuttl has pretty much hinted that Wesley Hoedt is available to leave and that will open a spot up for them to strengthen in. Bednarek, Yoshida and Vestergaard have played okay at times, but RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano has been linked with a move to St Mary’s. Up top there will be an almighty shake up as Manolo Gabbiadini is leaving, Shane Long is on his way out and with Danny Ings‘ injuries flaring up, Hasenhuttl needs reinforcements. His style of play is all about pace, so adding extra pace out wide and up top is the main aim this month. Saints have to sell before they buy, so that will be challenging. Roger Guedes, Yussuf Poulsen and Odio Ighalo have been a few names linked with Saints.
Key transfer needs: Central midfield, striker – Although Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he will not be looking to buy anyone in January due to the lack of funds available with the new stadium move almost complete, Spurs are likely to promote youngsters into their squad. But if they are going to be serious about mounting a title bid or going far in the Champions League, more help for Harry Kane (Fernando Llorente is fine for FA Cup games) is needed. Oliver Skipp has stepped in admirably in midfield, and given the fact that Mousa Dembele seems destined to leave, they could have some money to spend on a new midfielder.
Key transfer need: Center back – It is one of the areas which Watford have ignored for some time, but they always seem to get by. The likes of Cathcart and Kabasele could be upgraded quite easily, and Watford should aim to add extra quality in central defense as they’ve thrown away plenty of points this season. Going forward and in midfield they are littered with options for Javi Gracia. Sort out their defense ahead of the brilliant Ben Foster and they will push hard for European qualification.
West Ham United
Key transfer needs: Nowhere – The Hammers are pretty set and spent a lot of money in the summer. They have a plethora of options up top, in defense and especially in midfield. Consiering Jack Wilshere has hardly kicked a ball this season, Andriy Yarmolenko is out of the rest of the season and Manuel Lanzini is on his way back after a lengthy injury, they have plenty of quality in reserve too. Maybe some extra cover defensively could help, but apart from that Manuel Pellegrini has a very strong squad to choose from.
Key transfer need: Striker – Linked with a move for Tammy Abraham, who has spent the first half of the season on loan at Aston Villa, Wolves need help for Raul Jimenez. The Mexican striker has been far from prolific, but he creates so many chances yet doesn’t have a lot of support in games. Nuno Espirito Santo is well stocked elsewhere, but adding a new center back to work into their three-man defense would do wonders for that rotation.
Pulisic, 20, is now seen by many as the heir to Eden Hazard‘s Stamford Bridge throne, and despite many Chelsea fans being excited and intrigued to see how the USMNT star fares when he arrives in the summer, they will also be feeling a little dread that Hazard’s potential move to Real Madrid is edging closer.
Pro Soccer Talk understands that Pulisic has been told that some key attacking players at Chelsea will be moved on between now and this summer in order to allow him to become a key player for the west London club. It is likely that was a big factor in Pulisic not selecting to join the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich or Manchester United who were also in the running for his signature.
Chelsea host Southampton on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) at Stamford Bridge and our Premier League analysts will be breaking down Pulisic’s move.
Both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are surplus to requirements under Maurizio Sarri, and Hazard playing as the false nine doesn’t get the best out of his talents. If Hazard joins Real Madrid, Pulisic will be handed the keys to this Chelsea attack. He is young and hasn’t played in the Premier League before, but there’s no doubt he is one of those players that only gets better when playing with more talented players around him. The power and pace may take some time getting used to, but being fed by Jorginho, N'Golo Kante and others will surely be a dream for Pulisic to press high and use his trickery in the final third of the pitch.
But what about off the pitch?
Chelsea aren’t daft. They’ve just locked up the best player the U.S. has ever produced and will no doubt try and market Pulisic to boost their presence in the U.S. and North America as much as they can. Having Pulisic in their squad means that any time Chelsea will play on U.S. soil in the next few years, stadiums will be packed to see the kid in action. It is that simple. Chelsea will likely become the top supported PL team in the USA in the coming years if Pulisic is a star at Stamford Bridge during the prime of his career.
When it comes to the old shirt sales myth, the way these deals are structured means that Chelsea will not directly make back what they’re spending on Pulisic, but the player will no doubt gain huge value commercially by being one of the faces of the club. Whatever way you slice it up, Pulisic and Chelsea are good for one another from a business standpoint and the American player is being bought for more than his ability on the pitch. But that, crucially, seems to be the main factor here.
Sarri’s system of possession-based soccer and high-pressing suits Pulisic’s game well and now it is about him hitting the ground running in a Chelsea shirt in the summer. His arrival is exciting for Chelsea as they’ve beaten a number of rivals to sign Pulisic, but it also points to Sarri dismantling their current attacking lineup. If Hazard remains it will be a huge boost for everyone connected with Chelsea. If he goes, Pulisic will have plenty of pressure on his shoulders to emulate the Belgian magician.
Chelsea and Sarri are lining up the dominoes and Pulisic’s arrival will allow the others to start falling.
While the entire soccer world awaits the big one on Thursday — you know, Manchester City hosting Liverpool in top-of-the-table clash that could either signal the Premier League title race being back on or all but finished — Wednesday’s six-game schedule should hold us over for 24 hours…
Chelsea v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com
Heading into Wednesday’s showdown with Southampton at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea appear largely locked into a battle, with Arsenal, for fourth place. The Blues, however, could simply refuse to let the Gunners — who trail by two points after having already played on Tuesday — get too close to them and position themselves for a coup slightly higher in the PL table. A win would move Maurizio Sarri‘s side to within a point of third-place Manchester City and just two back of second-place Tottenham Hotspur. Sarri’s side is currently dealing something of a short-term injury crisis and could be handcuffed in making his team selection.
“In the last two days we were a bit unlucky. Yesterday in 10 minutes we had three injuries: (Cesc) Fabregas, (Ruben) Loftus-Cheek and (Danny) Drinkwater,” Sarri said this week. “Now today Giroud, and we were already without Pedro and (Callum) Hudson-Odoi, so now we are in trouble because in January we have to play every three days.”
Southampton, meanwhile, remain very much in the relegation scrap at the bottom of the table. Finally out of the bottom-three, Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side can now turn its focus to creating a bit of a cushion between themselves and 18th place. Back-to-back wins two weeks ago were Saints’ ticket out of the relegation zone, but back-to-back defeats in the interim have seen them slip back to an equal points tally with 18th-place Burnley.
Just two places — but a full eight points — below Chelsea in the table, you’ll find a suddenly resurgent Manchester United under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Since Jose Mourinho was sent packing, the Red Devils have won three straight games with the flair and goal-scoring prowess once associated with arguably the greatest club in English soccer history. No one has been more resurgent than Paul Pogba, whose four goals and three assists are the biggest reason Man United have outscored those three opponents by a margin of 12-3. Should the good times continue so loosely the rest of the season — especially when the quality of competition rises considerably — it would be hard to imagine Solskjaer not being a serious contender for the job on a permanent basis.
Newcastle United, on the other hand, know who’ll be their manager for as long as he’s willing to stick around and deal with the, shall we say, extenuating circumstances which make the job of keeping the Magpies in the PL far more difficult than it should be. Entering round no. 21 this week, Newcastle sit 15th in the table, just three points clear of the relegation zone. With a manager of Rafa Benitez‘s pedigree, and even a middling transfer and wage budget, Newcastle would comfortably be mid-table and two-thirds of their way to safety already. If not for the contributions of Salomon Rondon — five of Newcastle’s 15 goals this season — they would likely be two-thirds of their way to relegation, and Benitez two-thirds of his way back to sunny Spain, already.