It’s been just 16 days since our last check-in with the Premier League club power rankings, but three more matches have been played and the title race is open again (which technically means it was never closed, but whatever).
All this ahead of a weekend which could see big shake-ups at the bottom of the PL table and our power rankings, as Burnley hosts Fulham and Huddersfield Town heads to Cardiff City.
20. Huddersfield Town — Steve Mounie scored his first goal of the season in the 2-1 loss to Burnley, which is not good considering he’s their $15 million striker, had played almost 1000 minutes at that point, and the season started in August. Last week: 20 Season high: 16 Season low: 20
19. Fulham — Flunked its Arsenal test to the tune of 4-1 (it wasn’t that bad), but all will be forgiven with a win at Burnley. Last week: 19 Season high: 11 Season low: 20
18. Newcastle United — If owner Mike Ashley doesn’t give spend significant money this month, he’s going to lose Rafa Benitez and his spot in the Premier League. That’ll make a club’s price tag on the takeover market sink something fierce. Last week: 15 Season high: 13 Season low: 19
17. Burnley — Sean Dyche has his men bag above the red line, and will be looking to truly exhale by beating Fulham at Turf Moor. Last week: 18 Season high: 13 Season low: 20
16. Southampton — Getting a point at Leicester on Saturday would say something big about manager Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s Saints revolution. Last week: 16 Season high: 13 Season low: 20
15. Cardiff City — The Bluebirds can essentially vanquish a relegation rival from their rear view mirrors by handling miserable Huddersfield Town this weekend. Last week: 17 Season high: 15 Season low: 20
14. Bournemouth — Cherries versus the Top Six? 0-7, 0 points. Cherries versus everyone else? 8-3-3. This, perhaps, is why Eddie Howe is always linked with clubs that have a bigger budget; He doesn’t quite have the ponies to run with the best, even for 90 minutes. Last week: 12 Season high: 6 Season low: 14
13. Crystal Palace — Roy Hodgson‘s men are back in time for another second half run. This is what they do. Last week: 14 Season high: 6 Season low: 17
12. Everton — They’ll have to be addressed in a longer post, but I have serious questions about Marco Silva that I’d ask loudly if I wasn’t terrified for Evertonians sake that it would mean Big Sam or some other demon of bad football would be back. Richarlison needs to bail out his benefactor, and soon. Last week: 11 Season high: 5 Season low: 13
11. Watford — I kinda hate this team — not the club, Watford supporters — for clearly being capable of contending for the Top Seven but not putting in consistent performances. Just one win from its last three matches would’ve had them in seventh. Last week: 9 Season high: 4 Season low: 14
10. West Ham United — Manuel Pellegrini‘s men have hit a rough patch, but are showing heart and you wouldn’t bet against them getting something from Arsenal this weekend. Last week: 7
Season high: 6
Season low: 20
9. Brighton and Hove Albion — Unbeaten in three and a sexy pick to steal a point from Liverpool? Last week: 13 Season high: 9 Season low: 19
8. Wolves — Has there ever been a team to have a winning record against the Top Six but a losing record against the rest of the field? Their results are the Moussa Sissoko of results. That’s really unfair to Raul Jimenez, who runs his shorts off, but we’re talking about results not performances. Last week: 8 Season high: 5 Season low: 13
7. Leicester City — They’re doing it again, luring me into the belief that the Foxes are the clear favorite to finish seventh. This all but guarantees a weekend loss to Southampton at the King Power Stadium. Last week: 10 Season high: 7 Season low: 13
6. Arsenal — Just eh. A 4-1 win over Fulham flattered the Gunners, and the club’s clear focus on the future is healthy but uninspiring when it comes to the season. Last week: 4 Season high: 2 Season low: 9
5. Manchester United — Still haven’t played much of anyone in the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, but that changes this week with Spurs. Last week: 6 Season high: 4 Season low: 14
4. Chelsea — A new center forward or fully functioning Alvaro Morata could inspire a charge, but right now the Blues look an Eden Hazard injury from dropping out of the Top Four and needing to lean on the Europa League for UCL qualification. Last week: 5 Season high: 1 Season low: 5
3. Spurs — Tottenham still has all five of its Top Six rivals left on its schedule, with three of those away from Wembley/White Hart Lane. It will be difficult to rise above third. Last week: 3 Season high: 2 Season low: 8
2. Man City — More games like the 2-1 win over Liverpool please. Not because City won, but because it was so much fun. Now can they run through the final 17 matches without dropping more than a point or two? Last week: 2 Season high: 1 Season low: 3
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.
32-year-old Jason Puncheon has joined Huddersfield Town on loan from Crystal Palace for the remainder of the season, the clubs have announced.
Puncheon will join the 10th club of his career where he will hope to earn more than the eight Premier League minutes he has accumulated with Palace so far this season. Puncheon has been an unused substitute for Crystal Palace 11 times in Premier League play this season, with manager Roy Hodgson instead preferring holding midfielders Luka Milivojevic and Cheikhou Kouyate plus wingers Max Meyer and James McArthur.
“It is important that our additions in January have the ability to arrive and make an immediate impact in our team, which I’m sure Jason can,” Wagner said to the official club website. “He has played in this division for nearly a decade now and knows what it takes to be successful. As well as being a very good player, he is a great character. He has been the captain of Crystal Palace and is a real leader in the dressing room, which is something we wanted to add too.”
Huddersfield sit bottom of the Premier League with 10 points, four back of 19th-placed Fulham and eight back of safety.
Crystal Palace beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at Molinuex Wednesday as Jordan Ayew and Luka Milivojevic struck late on to give the Eagles another valuable three points.
Roy Hodgson‘s side looked the more dangerous throughout and their opener finally arrived as Ayew, who seemed to have strayed just offside, controlled and finished calmly late on. In stoppage time Milivojevic then scored a penalty kick to seal the victory.
With the win Palace are in 14th place on 22 points and six points above the relegation zone, while Wolves slip to ninth on 29 points.
Townsend then dribbled past several Wolves players and fired over, as Wolves barely got going in the first half but they did have the best chance to score. A corner from the left found Willy Boly completely unmarked but he didn’t get enough on his header and then Matt Doherty nodded over.
However, Palace then had a great chance to take the lead as a ball to the back post found Mamadou Sakho unmarked but he somehow completely missed the ball as he had a free header on goal.
As we continue our Best Of series on the final day of 2018, we look back on what was a wild ride in the English top flight. Between Manchester City’s dominance, Liverpool’s rise, Manchester United’s roller coaster ride, Tottenham’s slow evolution, and the rest of the league’s parity, we were gifted with some fabulous and entertaining results. Here are the ones that gave us the most enjoyment in what was a fantastic pool to choose from.
5) Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
In just a few days, one of these teams would secure one of the most dominant Premier League title runs in the history of the league. One of these teams would sack its manager before the calendar year was out. And yet, that is not how this game unfolded.
Needing a win to secure the Premier League title – a win they would get a few days later – City opened the game 2-0 in front by the half-hour mark. Vincent Kompany scored a thumping header – his first league goal since the final day of the previous season – and Ilkay Gundogan doubled the lead in the 30th minute on a fabulous spin. From there, City would completely lose its shooting boots, allowing their rivals to come back into the game. Gundogan hit the bar minutes after his goal, and Paul Pogba scored after the break to bring United within one. Pogba would find another moments later with a perfect header, and that would lead to Chris Smalling‘s winner in the 69th minute. David De Gea had to make a stunning save on Sergio Aguero’s header, and again on Raheem Sterling who had a tap-in but barely made contact. This Manchester derby was the stuff of legends, although the losers in this battle ultimately won the war.
4) Liverpool 2-2 Tottenham
Liverpool gave us goals upon goals upon goals in the 2017/18 season – and are continuing to do so in this campaign – so they rightly appear multiple times on this list. For this wonderful game from last season, three goals were scored in the final 10 minutes of regulation plus stoppage time as the teams split the points. Mohamed Salah scored just three minutes into the match thanks to a terrible mistake by Eric Dier, and 1-0 was the score all the way through until the final 10 minutes when game elevated to bonkers status.
In the 80th minute, Victory Wanyama scored an absolute missile into the top corner after Karius punched an earlier effort, a goal worthy to be the trigger to the wild portion of this game. With three minutes to go in regulation, Karius sliced down Harry Kane in the penalty area, but the ensuing spot-kick by Kane was right down the middle and Karius stood firm to keep it out. In the first minute of stoppage time, Salah grabbed his second weaving through traffic to send Jurgen Klopp flying down the sidelines, but with the absolute last kick of the game, Virgil Van Dijk hacked at Erik Lamela‘s leg and Kane could atone from the penalty spot, scoring to level the match.
3) Arsenal 4-2 Tottenham
What would this list be without a pulsating North London derby? With the chance to jump Spurs in the table, Arsenal won a back-and-forth game that saw the winning goal scored with 15 minutes remaining. While the Gunners jumped out to a 1-0 lead, Spurs went 2-1 up before halftime on a Harry Kane penalty after Rob Holding fouled Heung-Min Son in the area. After halftime, it was all Gunners as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leveled the score and Alexandre Lacazette came off the bench to put the hosts up for good. Lucas Torreira bagged his first Arsenal goal with 13 minutes remaining for the icing on the cake.
The game wasn’t without the usual vitriol, as Eric Dier equalized at 1-1 before celebrating in front of Arsenal fans, causing a small melee that saw Gunners substitutes get involved, as well as Spurs head coach Mauricio Pochettino who came running in to help break things up. Pochettino after the match blamed recent European play for Spurs’ second-half meltdown, and while Arsenal temporarily had control of the table for a short time, Spurs would eventually jump back ahead of them and remain in front by Christmas.
2) Manchester City 2-3 Crystal Palace
It’s absolutely incredible that Manchester City has proven so dominant of late, and yet they appear on this list three times – all losses. When you’re at the top, there’s a target on your back, and that has proven the case with City this season. Crystal Palace became the second team to take down the defending champions this campaign, and did so in come-from-behind fashion.
Ilkay Gundoguan put Man City ahead just before the half-hour mark, but the visitors at the Etihad would score the next three, including THAT goal from Andros Townsend, a strike that will be tough to beat for Goal of the Season. After the match, Roy Hodgson said Townsend had “one of those bonanza days,” and he couldn’t have picked a better stage to perform at such a level.
1) Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City
Last season’s match of the year has yet to be beaten, a thrilling January match between two heavyweights that set the stage for the coming calendar year. It was the first loss of the entire league season for Man City, coming in Liverpool’s first game without Philippe Coutinho (remember him?). It provided the blueprint for beating Manchester City, as Pep Guardiola lost just five Premier League matches the entire 2018 calendar year, and three of them appear on this list.
With the teams even at 1-1 at the break thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Leroy Sane, the Reds pounced on either side of the hour mark. Roberto Firmino bagged the first, and Sadio Mane scored the goal of the game with a blast into the top corner on a break. Ederson made a rare mistake to gift Liverpool a fourth, which proved to be decisive as City scored two goals in the final six minutes to give the Reds a scare. It was a scintillating match, and one that we’ll remember as the best of the year.