Here, theScore runs through New Year’s resolutions each club should try to keep in 2019.
It turns out the 4-2 defeat of archrivals Tottenham Hotspur wasn’t the early realization of a fruitful period for Arsenal – there’s still work to be done. The defense was a shambles in Saturday’s 5-1 loss at Liverpool and the Gunners have just one more point than they did at this time last season. But there are enough positives in Unai Emery’s early months at the helm to allow him two or three transfer windows to showcase his vision. The early successes of summer signings Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi point to a promising future.
Sign more depth
Injuries to Simon Francis and Adam Smith have left Bournemouth short at right-back, while much of the roaming creativity is left to David Brooks with Lewis Cook sidelined. Eddie Howe’s minnows continue to surpass expectations with entertaining, flowing football. But to ensure their progress doesn’t hit a closed door – namely, the one leading to the treatment room – they must scour the transfer market and bulk up the roster.
Brighton & Hove Albion
I’ll have what Murray’s drinking
Glenn Murray’s late-career heroics have been a great watch – especially after a cruciate ligament injury, off-the-field issues, and the fact he clawed his way into English football’s top rung from non-league. His Brighton & Hove Albion colleagues should take tips on diet and longevity from the 35-year-old striker. Perhaps from his manager, too, as 60-year-old Chris Hughton looks like he could still do the odd shift at left-back. There’s something in the water in Sussex.
Move an England goalkeeper
Sean Dyche’s ranks looked like the Burnley of old in Sunday’s 2-0 win over West Ham United, and one key to that victory was the inclusion of Tom Heaton. He may have won his No. 1 slot back and fellow English international Nick Pope is almost back to full fitness. If they’re Dyche’s preferred two, it may already be time to somehow offload Joe Hart. With the ex-Manchester City shot-stopper off the payroll, Burnley could finance deals to strengthen their susceptible backline.
No more stop-gaps and gambles up front
Callum Paterson, thanks for the hard work. The Scottish full-back has done an admirable job as an ersatz striker for Neil Warnock’s lot but it’s time to get a natural in attack – and not players like Danny Ward or Bobby Reid, neither of whom will ever be better than Championship quality. Cardiff City are battling against relegation and would look much likelier to avoid the drop with an experienced Premier League campaigner spearheading their frontline.
Keep Hazard at all costs
Olivier Giroud was forced off Sunday’s 1-0 win at Crystal Palace with an injury, further exposing an already threadbare part of Maurizio Sarri’s XI. But while a striker would be a fine addition – the Blues are eyeing Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson – there’s no bigger piece of business than tying Real Madrid target Eden Hazard to a long-term contract. The Belgian has been this season’s standout player alongside Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk, and Hazard is relied upon to drag his team over the line while Willian and Pedro aren’t at their best. Without him, Chelsea would struggle to break the top six.
Deploy players in their right positions
Max Meyer playing out wide. Wilfried Zaha playing in a front two with Andros Townsend. The Eagles’ approach is confused and often futile. Roy Hodgson needs to find a system that fields his best players in their strongest positions, and one to provide their barely fit or off-color strikers enough service to score every now and then. On paper, Crystal Palace should not be relegation candidates. In reality, Hodgson is shackling his talented squad and has them uncomfortably close to the bottom three.
You need a striker, Marco
“It is not right to be always talking about the same position in the squad,” manager Marco Silva said recently, warding off another volley of questions regarding striker recruitment. The truth is Everton could do with more firepower. Richarlison’s nine goals are a fine haul but his preference to drift wide doesn’t make him a quintessential No. 9. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, 21, should be no more than backup and Cenk Tosun is an increasingly forgotten man. What a statement it would be to lay down a wad of cash for Bournemouth artilleryman Wilson.
Keep Ranieri away from sharp objects
Aboubakar Kamara wears No. 47 as a nod to the Soviet Union’s favorite assault rifle, but he should watch his back in the coming weeks. “I wanted to kill him,” Fulham handler Claudio Ranieri uncharacteristically said Saturday after the French attacker snatched the ball off designated penalty taker Aleksandar Mitrovic and missed the subsequent spot kick. Thankfully, Mitrovic scored a late winner against Huddersfield Town, but similar antics from AK-47 during Fulham’s relegation battle could see him sleeping with the fishes.
Look for more inventiveness
Like many Premier League supporters, Huddersfield Town fans would love to see a striker purchased in the winter window. But that’s not necessarily the most pressing problem in West Yorkshire. The league-worst goal count of 12 may be due to a startling lack of creativity. Aaron Mooy is out injured until at least February and the Terriers have played fewer short-range key passes than long-ball merchants Cardiff City this season. A midfielder with vision in front of Jonathan Hogg and Philip Billing would be a huge addition; chairman Dean Hoyle’s promise not to let Huddersfield “sleepwalk into relegation” indicates the club is prepared to spend in January.
Give Vardy some proper competition
Jamie Vardy turns 32 in January yet there’s no striker challenging his place in Claude Puel’s starting lineup. Kelechi Iheanacho’s questionable technical ability has been hugely detrimental to his bid for regular minutes at Leicester City, and 32-year-old Shinji Okazaki has started one Premier League match all season. The wanting creativity from midfield is a concern and weighs heavily on James Maddison’s shoulders, but the top priority should be a young, unpredictable frontman to lift the dressing room and excite the Foxes’ fans.
Don’t slip up
On current form, it’s difficult to pick holes in Jurgen Klopp’s regime at Liverpool. He has intelligently bulked up his squad, steadily introduced new signings to the lineup and, most impressively, turned his previously vulnerable backline into the most stubborn in England’s professional pyramid. The key for the Reds is to not believe the hype: ignore the league table and refer to the well-worn football cliche of “taking each game as it comes.”
Get a new deep-lying midfielder
Finding a player who can adequately fill Fernandinho’s boots may be tricky in January, but it’s the most important job before the beginning of the 2019-20 season. Fred and Jorginho previously interested Manchester City but they signed for Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively. It’s time to step up the pursuit of a deep-lying midfielder. Frenkie de Jong of Ajax and Lyon duo Tanguy Ndombele and Houssem Aouar could fit the bill for the Premier League holders.
Make sure the fun lasts
Jose Mourinho used to plant three gargantuan oak trees in the middle of the park and call it his midfield. Romelu Lukaku was marooned in attack, his intelligence and physical capabilities wasted as he idled around and picked daisies. The defenders were afraid to make mistakes, so that’s exactly what they did. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is bringing fun back to Old Trafford in his interim spell and the Manchester United brass must ensure his full-time successor continues that. Football is an entertainment business, but it didn’t feel like it under Mourinho.
Find somebody – anybody – to buy the club
Mike Ashley’s outright refusal to sufficiently invest in Rafa Benitez’s squad leaves Newcastle United relying on Salomon Rondon and Joselu for goals, while Paul Dummett is relatively untroubled at left-back. It’s not the best scenario when the Magpies are circling the plughole. Benitez said “it will be another miracle” if Newcastle stay up again. Without some transfer expenditure in January, it’s hard to disagree. Someone please release this club and city from Ashley’s clutches.
Never hire someone like Hughes again
Southampton lost their way a little with the Mark Hughes appointment. Desperate to maintain their top-flight status, the Saints sought out a firefighter in March instead of staying true to their blueprint on the south coast: specifically promoting players from the youth team and playing an attacking brand of football. That may have returned since former RB Leipzig overseer Ralph Hasenhuttl replaced Hughes in December. Southampton should no longer make panicked hires, but commit to the philosophy that made them one of the more attractive clubs in the division.
Promise less, deliver more
It’s a mantra that should be recited by floor managers of retail stores across the globe, but Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy must learn to promise less and deliver more. The repeated assertions that the new stadium would be ready soon have been quashed by constant revisions to the opening date. Those same assertions were effectively mocked when Spurs hosted Manchester City in October on a Wembley pitch pockmarked by the studs of the Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars. Tottenham fans have grown sick of their temporary tenancy at Wembley, and the regular setbacks in their new home’s unveiling have only made it worse. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Levy.
Sign more cast-offs
Watford seem to have stumbled on some stability following the January appointment of Javi Gracia, but there’s something pleasing about the nomadic nature of those who make up his squad. Roberto Pereyra, Gerard Deulofeu, Jose Holebas, Nathaniel Chalobah, Stefano Okaka, Miguel Britos, Adalberto Penaranda, and Adam Masina all endured largely unremarkable Serie A stays. But the Hornets’ tendency to gamble on these kinds of players has at times made them a thrilling watch in the Premier League. More of the same, please.
West Ham United
Solve the injury crisis
Manuel Pellegrini’s first act in the January transfer window was to address West Ham United’s injury crisis, bringing aboard his former midfielder at Manchester City in Samir Nasri. But the Frenchman isn’t exactly a poster boy for elite levels of fitness. The Irons’ medical team has been working overtime during the holidays as a host of players, including Andriy Yarmolenko and Javier Hernandez, are trying to return to first-team contention. Clear up this problem and Pellegrini has a talented squad that – with a few tweaks – could harbor ambitions of Europa League qualification.
A Bull-ish approach to training
Steve Bull dragged Wolverhampton Wanderers from their lowest ebb with extraordinary graft and a knack for finding the back of the net from anywhere. If only Adama Traore could manage the latter. The Barcelona graduate has all the physical gifts a player could want but the complete absence of an end product is startling. Bull wrang out every last drop of his potential; he should be called into Wolves’ Compton base to see if he can pass on his killer instinct to the exciting yet frustrating 22-year-old.