Manchester City took care of business on Saturday as they beat Fulham 2-0 at Craven Cottage to move back to the top of the Premier League table with seven games to go.
Bernardo Silva and Sergio Aguero scored early on to put City in a commanding position and Fulham never got going as Scott Parker‘s men made several costly mistakes. At times, it was a preseason game for City as their players passed the ball around and Fulham were scared to lose their defensive shape.
As for Pep Guardiola, his side now sit top of the table on 77 points although Liverpool can go back top with a win against Tottenham tomorrow. However, City do have a game in hand over Liverpool. Fulham remain in 19th place and could be as much as 16 points off safety by the end of the day on Saturday.
De Bruyne almost caught Rico out moments later as his curled effort from outside the box was pushed over. Gundogan then had a shot saved by Rico as Fulham couldn’t get out of their own half with Sterling and Silva both having shots blocked.
Fulham were caught out again before the break as Joe Bryan played the ball to Silva and he played in Aguero who lifted a wonderful finish over Rico and into the far top corner. 2-0. Gundogan went close to making it 3-0 before the break but flashed a shot just wide, while at the other end Bryan fizzed an effort just wide.
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.
Man United has won 21 of 23 home matches against Fulham
Fulham has won just once at Old Trafford in any competition
Fulham has lost six straight PL road games
Manchester United returns home a wounded animal as the Red Devils host Fulham on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).
The Red Devils have not won in Premier League play in over a month, without victory since a visit to Bournemouth in early November. They are set to take on an opponent they have had much success against in the past, having lost just once at home against Fulham in 23 matches.
With pressure heaped on Jose Mourinho – needing a vote of confidence via the boss’s own agent to quiet the noise – Fulham could do significant damage to the Portuguese manager should they achieve a rare result at Old Trafford. It would also be a significant boost to the Whites’ relegation battle, currently sitting bottom of the table with nine points, below Southampton and Burnley on goal differential.
Claudio Ranieri has come on board in place of the departed Slavisa Jokanovic and done well to steady the ship, earning four points in his first three matches in charge, instilling a greater defensive discipline within the squad. Still, the Whites have the league’s worst defensive record by a considerable margin, and could be just what the doctor ordered for a Manchester United team that has scored five goals over the four-match winless run.
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on Fulham: “The game is not eleven versus zero, it’s going to be eleven versus eleven, with good players on the other side, the position and points [total] don’t say much about [the] potential of the team. They have one of the two most important managers in Premier League history, they have the potential to come here and give us a difficult match.”
Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri on Jose Mourinho: “He was the first who sent me a message to say welcome back. He is a very friendly friend. I know him for a long time, when he came to Chelsea and in Italy, and he was very polite with me. He’s a great man, coach, manager.”
This is a tough one to predict, as many possibilities are in play. Manchester United could succumb to its most embarrassing defeat of the season if Ranieri can devise a plan to take advantage of a wounded squad, or the talent of the Red Devils could prove too much for a Fulham side that is only recently beginning to build confidence. The latter is more likely, and the young internationals at the head of the United attack will hold serve at home for a 2-1 victory and leave Fulham still with more work to do in the relegation battle.
Huddersfield Town got its first home goal in nearly 11 hours, and in the process pulled itself off the bottom of the table at the opponent’s expense.
The hosts were disciplined and clinical, and showed a level of desire the visitors couldn’t come close to matching as Huddersfield Town beat Fulham 1-0 at Kirklees Stadium to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table and send the Whites plunging to the basement in the process.
The early portion of the match was cagey as the teams felt each other out, but Fulham began to pick up the pace. Huddersfield capitalized on a sloppy mistake, winning the ball in the attacking half as Phillip Billing rattled the crossbar with a powerful long-range effort in the 16th minute.
The hosts had the better attacking mentality through the opening half-hour, dominating the midfield. Alex Pritchard forced Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico into a fine diving save in the 28th minute that he palmed over. On the ensuing corner, Huddersfield found the back of the net for the first time in front of the home fans in nearly 660 minutes. While the initial delivery was headed back out towards the corner flag, it was sent back in and found the head of Christopher Schindler who rose higher than Timothy Fosu-Mensah and buried the chance. It was later changed to a Fosu-Mensah own-goal after replay showed it clipped the Fulham defender.
While the Whites failed to show any sort of cohesion, Huddersfield saw out the rest of the first half. Fulham made a pair of changes at halftime as Kevin McDonald and Cyrus Christie came on after the break, and they immediately pressed the issue. Alexandar Mitrovic just missed the top corner with a header on 54 minutes.
Fulham showed some signs of desperation in the final 20 minutes, but struggled to get by the organized Huddersfield defense. Andre Schurrle put the ball in the back of the net in the 75th minute, but it was ruled out as Mitrovic was called for offside. Schurrle then had a two-on-two break in the 81st minute but was indecisive as he got closer to net and shanked his shot well wide.
The win moved Huddersfield off the bottom of the Premier League table, up to 18th on six points with the season’s first league victory. The Terriers are level on six points with 17th placed Newcastle but owners of a much worse goal differential. Fulham takes their place on the bottom, with just five points this season and a -17 goal differential due in large part to the leaky defense.
Slavisa Jokanovic could be at the end of his tenure in charge of Fulham, as a $128 million investment this summer has been nothing short of a disaster on the field. Jokanovic started Andre-Zambo Anguissa for the fifth time in the Premier League, but left expensive new arrival Alfie Mawson on the bench yet again, choosing Denis Odoi and Maxim Le Marchand as the preferred defensive partnership. He has been unable to mesh the Championship Playoff winning squad with the summer purchases, as the team has shipped 29 goals so far through the first 11 league matches, the most of any team in the Top 5 European leagues.
The Belgian midfielder is set to spend between five to six weeks on the sideline after suffering another knee injury, leaving Guardiola and Man City without its talisman for the November 11 home match against Manchester United. De Bruyne only just came back from two months on the sidelines with a knee injury, and was making his second start, first back in England since returning to full fitness. Man City confirmed that de Bruyne has ligament damage in his left knee, leaving him sidelined for more than a month.
De Bruyne suffered the injury after a collision with Fulham’s (on-loan from Manchester United) Timothy Fosu-Mensah, and immediately motioned to the bench that he needed to be substituted. De Bruyne was taken off in the 85th minute of Man City’s 2-0 league cup victory.
For de Bruyne, it’s the latest setback in what’s been a frustrating year after the highs of making the 2018 World Cup semifinals. Guardiola had just praised de Bruyne for making his return, and now the Belgian has to start the recovery process all over again. On the bright side, if there is one, de Bruyne should be relatively healthy for the late-December matches around the busy holiday season, and with more gas in the tank for crucial UEFA Champions League matches in March, April and May.
PEP: I think today @DeBruyneKev is back. The Kevin we know. He made a huge effort against Shakhtar, played a few minutes against Spurs in difficult conditions. Today he was involved in offence and defence, hopefully what happened in the last minute is not serious.