We can’t wait for the January transfer window so have looked at every Premier League side and suggested one ‘Christmas present’ for each one. What does your team need?
It’s almost the big day! We hope you’re all ready for Christmas, Opta Analyst readers.
Before you wrap all your presents, watch The Snowman for the millionth time, and eat your own bodyweight in mince pies, we have a Christmas treat for you.
People rarely think of the Premier League when it comes to Christmas Day – we have the decency and patience to wait until Boxing Day to dive headfirst back into football – but we were feeling festive here at Opta Analyst HQ. So, we decided to come up with Christmas wish lists for each side in England’s top flight.
We’re approaching the halfway point of the season and things are looking very interesting at both ends of the table. But everyone thinks their team needs something, and everyone should get a Christmas present, so we’ve suggested one for every club.
Granted, these will have to wait until January, so just imagine Premier League clubs have that same uncle we all do who blames it on the post office when you finally get your Christmas present on 31 January.
What They Need: A Striker
Mikel Arteta’s men are top of the Premier League and looking to win the title for the first time in 20 years. That said, they were in an even better position at this stage last season and couldn’t get the job done, so they surely won’t turn down the chance to strengthen.
Many rumours have been circling about securing a number nine. Gabriel Jesus, Eddie Nketiah and Kai Havertz are all excellent players, but Arsenal could perhaps do with a more guaranteed source of goals.
We wrote earlier this season about how Arteta has shored up the defence, but his team have struggled on occasion for goals. Despite being top, four teams have scored more than Arsenal’s 35, four have a higher expected goals (xG) total of 32.03, and five have a better shot conversion rate than their 13%.
Suggested Gift: Ivan Toney
Toney has been absent all season due to a betting-related ban, but he returns on 17 January and has been linked with a big-money move away from Brentford. With a few Premier League sides in the market for a goalscorer, the Bees will fancy their chances of getting a hefty fee.
That’s because Toney has proven himself to be a reliable Premier League goalscorer, ranking third to Erling Haaland (36) and Harry Kane (30) in last season’s top scorer’s chart, hitting 20 goals.
The 27-year-old might take a while to get up to speed following his ban, but will also be fresh as a result. He wins plenty of balls in the air (he won 109 aerial duels last season – the most of any forward), but his goals predominantly come with his feet, and generally off first-time shots. Of his 32 Premier League goals since Brentford were promoted, just four have been headed, while 26 came from first-time shots.
What They Need: A Right-Sided Defender
What a year it has been for Aston Villa. Their victory over Brentford last weekend was their 25th of 2023 in the Premier League, their most wins in a calendar year in the top flight.
With a title race to compete in as well as an ongoing UEFA Europa Conference League campaign, Unai Emery could do with some help. Losing Tyrone Mings long term and utilising Ezri Konsa on the right side of his defence suggests he could do with another option there.
Villa have been very good boys in 2023, so it’s only fair they get a present.
Suggested Gift: Juan Foyth
If there’s one thing we’ve all experienced at Christmas, it’s being gifted the same thing twice. Emery surely won’t mind being re-united with Foyth though, whom he worked with at Villarreal.
The former Tottenham player is comfortable at right-back or centre-back, meaning he could either play with Konsa, or allow him some rest at least.
During the 2021-22 season under Emery, Foyth attempted almost 50 more tackles than any of his Villarreal teammates (110) and also had a better success rate than any of them (70%). He’s been linked to Inter and Juventus and would probably expect to play more often than a move to Villa would likely allow, but he may be interested in a reunion with his former boss and a return to the Premier League.
What They Need: A Competent Presser/Back-Up for Dominic Solanke
After a difficult start, Bournemouth are starting to come good under Andoni Iraola.
We recently looked at Bournemouth’s improvement, in particular their productive pressing game. It is a huge part of Iraola’s philosophy. Across the big five European leagues in 2022-23, only Bayern Munich (73) forced more high turnovers that led to a shot than Iraola’s Rayo Vallecano (68).
Dominic Solanke is leading from the front, but his only alternative right now is Kieffer Moore, who is stylistically very different and is being linked with a move back to Cardiff City in January. Another striker would be handy, especially one who defends from the front.
Suggested Gift: Kévin Denkey
Denkey showed some promise for Cercle Brugge last season, scoring 11 goals in 38 league games in Belgium, but he has already gone past that in 2023-24, hitting 15 in 19 outings.
The Togo international is also a fond winner of possession in the final third, doing so 21 times already this season. Only Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher (who we’ll come to shortly) has done so more often in Europe’s top 10 leagues.
What They Need: A Striker
This is based on the assumption Brentford sell Ivan Toney, otherwise they might want to consider another right-sided attacker now that Bryan Mbuemo is injured and apparently out for three months.
Thomas Frank’s side have underperformed their xG by more than six goals (24 goals from 30.2 xG) and could do with someone to pop the ball in the net with more regularity.
Suggested Gift: Jonas Wind
A few people get wind at Christmas, and Brentford might consider doing the same.
Instead of sprouts being the source, they can perhaps use what should be significant money from any Toney sale, and Wolfsburg’s Jonas Wind could replace quite a bit of what they would lose if Toney were to leave.
The England striker averaged 6.9 aerial duels per 90 minutes last season in the Premier League, winning 3.3. So far this season, Wind has averaged 5.9 aerial duels per 90 in the Bundesliga, winning 3.0, while also scoring nine goals in 16 games.
What They Need: A Midfielder
Despite a recent dip in form, Brighton have impressed overall again despite losing key players in the summer. Alexis Mac Allister and Moisés Caicedo both left and replacements came in. Mahmoud Dahoud and Carlos Baleba have not yet established themselves in the same way, though, playing just 453 and 525 minutes respectively.
They may well improve, especially with Baleba being just 19 years old, but there could be an opportunity for Roberto De Zerbi to have a more oven-ready option in a season that still includes a promising UEFA Europa League campaign.
Suggested Gift: Conor Gallagher
Frankly, it would just be nice to see Brighton take someone from Chelsea for once (Billy Gilmour excepted).
Rumour has it that Chelsea want to sell Gallagher to balance the books, and it looks like just the kind of chance Brighton usually take. De Zerbi will likely be impressed at the fact Gallagher has won possession in the final third more than any other player in Europe’s top 10 leagues this season (23).
He is also the second-best performing Chelsea player so far this season according to our Opta Player Ratings.
What They Need: A Goalscorer
We stopped short of suggesting a striker now that Lyle Foster is back. The South African is having a good first season in the Premier League, even if his club isn’t firing on any cylinders yet.
Burnley are having plenty of the ball, with no other team in the bottom half having as much as their 49.7% average possession, but they’re not scoring enough goals. Only Sheffield United (12) have scored fewer than their 16, and only the Blades (13) have a lower xG than the Clarets’ 15.2.
Suggested Gift: Jack Clarke
Burnley reportedly tried to sign Clarke in the summer, and he’s looked very good again for Sunderland this season.
The former Tottenham and Leeds man has scored 10 goals in 22 games in the Championship in 2023-24, and no one has attempted as many as his 143 dribbles, with a success rate of 55.2%.
Fourteen-goal Sammie Szmodics would also have been an interesting option were it not for the fact he plays for rivals Blackburn. Bah humbug.
What They Need: A Striker
Given their start to the season, some might harshly suggest Chelsea don’t deserve a present. Let’s not forget they did get a lump of Cole (Palmer) in the summer… sorry.
If there’s one thing Chelsea aren’t shy about doing it’s buying themselves new extravagant things, and our suggestion would probably be the most expensive on this whole list.
Suggested Gift: Victor Osimhen
Nicolas Jackson is showing some promise and Christopher Nkunku is just coming back from injury, but it still seems the Blues want to add another big-name forward to their ranks.
Names don’t get much bigger than Osimhen. The Napoli striker scored 26 goals in 32 games as he led them to their first Serie A title in 33 years last season. He’s already hit another seven goals in 12 league games this season.
There could be an opportunity there too, with the Nigeria international supposedly unhappy with his club’s questionable social media activity around him earlier this season.
What They Need: Some Creativity
Boy, do they. Palace have been solid enough as usual under Roy Hodgson, conceding fewer goals per game than the likes of Brighton, Fulham, Wolves and Chelsea.
However, only Sheffield United and Burnley have averaged fewer goals per game than them, while only the Premier League’s current bottom three have had fewer big chances per game.
Suggested Gift: Matías Soulé
Palace are relatively toothless when they’re without Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, which isn’t ideal given both have missed a lot of football through injury this season.
That could be why they’ve been linked to Soulé. The young Argentine has been outstanding for Frosinone in Serie A this season, on loan from Juventus.
Only Napoli’s Matteo Politano has created as many chances in open play as Soulé in Italy’s top flight this season (30), and the 20-year-old has six goals to his name from 14 league appearances.
What They Need: A Midfielder
It’s difficult to suggest Everton need anything right now. They are one of the form teams in the Premier League, looking like a well-drilled unit as Sean Dyche puts their bad start and points deduction in the rearview mirror.
As you can see below, they still don’t control games much outside of their own penalty area, but what they do well, they do very well at the moment and it is showing in results, winning their last four Premier League games without conceding a goal.
The best we can come up with is a midfielder, and it could be that Dyche doesn’t even want one. These might be the proverbial pair of socks, but with Idrissa Gueye and Abdoulaye Doucouré both expected to be off to the Africa Cup of Nations next month, a short-term option could be on the cards.
Suggested Gift: Leander Dendoncker
The Belgian has been linked with a loan move to Goodison Park due to a lack of minutes at Aston Villa this season. Dendoncker has played just 31 minutes of Premier League football in 2023-24.
Of Villa players to play at least 500 minutes last season, though, only Tyrone Mings (1.5) averaged more interceptions per 90 minutes than Dendoncker’s 1.3. Of Everton midfielders this season, only James Garner and Gueye (both 1.0) are averaging as many as 1.0 interceptions per 90.
What They Need: A Brazilian Midfielder with a Name Like a ‘Giant’ 80s Wrestler
First things first, this could easily change if Fulham sell João Palhinha, with rumours his failed summer move to Bayern Munich may be resurrected next month.
Should the tackle enthusiast head to Germany, Fulham could look to Genoa’s Morten Frendrup, who ranks second to Palhinha (76-63) in Europe’s top five leagues for tackles attempted, and the 22-year-old Dane has a slightly better success rate (48.7%-52.4%).
However, Fulham fans may have been dreaming of something else this winter.
Suggested Gift: André
The Brazil midfielder has been linked with Fulham for a while now, having recently helped Fluminense to Copa Libertadores glory. He has also impressed at the FIFA Club World Cup in the last week. In his team’s semi-final win over Al-Ahly, André completed 108 passes, the most by a player from a South American team in a Club World Cup game on record (since 2011).
And that sums him up, he is a passing machine and could take Marco Silva’s midfield to another level. André not only attempted almost 1,000 more passes than anyone else in Brazilian Serie A last season (2,479), he also had the best accuracy (94.8%) of anyone who attempted at least 70 passes.
What They Need: A Centre-Back
It has been a strong start to the season for Liverpool, but they know all too well how a title challenge can be derailed by injuries, particularly to centre-backs.
Joël Matip is already out injured, possibly for the rest of the season, while Ibrahima Konaté and Joe Gomez don’t exactly have exemplary availability records themselves, so Jürgen Klopp could probably do with another option, even with the emergence of Jarell Quansah this season. It would also free up Gomez to feature more at right-back, where he has looked quite sharp in recent games, which could in turn release Trent Alexander-Arnold into a much-discussed midfield role.
Suggested Gift: Gonçalo Inácio
Klopp does still have four strong options in the three mentioned plus captain Virgil van Dijk, who has looked close to his best this season. However, another injury or two could change that quickly, while there’s also one thing missing from his centre-back options: a left-footer. Van Dijk is the one constant and works best on the left but could presumably move over to the right if needed given he has often played there for his country.
Inácio – who can also play left-back – has been linked with Liverpool in recent transfer windows, having impressed since breaking into the Sporting CP first team. He has also forced his way into the Portugal senior side, scoring twice against Luxembourg earlier this season. He’s comfortable on the ball and is the only player in the Portuguese Primeira Liga to have attempted more than 1,000 passes this season (1,111), completing 87.9% of them. No defender in Portugal’s top flight has made more carries (285) or more progressive carries (193), something Liverpool may miss with the marauding Matip now sidelined.
What They Need: Some Creativity
You could argue that Luton have both impressed and underwhelmed in their debut Premier League campaign. The heavy favourites for the drop have so far been the strongest of the three promoted teams, though still haven’t reached double figures for points.
Rob Edwards’ side generally stay close in games, with seven of their 11 defeats coming by just a single goal, but they could do with some more creativity. Only Sheffield United (142) have had fewer shots than their 168.
Suggested Gift: Gabriel Sara
Luton get a lot of joy from corners and free-kicks, and no one has created more chances from set-pieces in the Championship this season than Sara (35).
The Norwich City man – who has five goals and eight assists in the league – has also created 30 chances from open play; only eight players have created more in England’s second tier this season.
It might take some of their Premier League riches to pry Sara from Carrow Road, but when in Rome and all that.
What They Need: A Riyad Mahrez Replacement
It felt like a strange choice for Manchester City to sell Cole Palmer to Chelsea in the summer transfer window. The youngster seemed to be the obvious replacement for the outgoing Riyad Mahrez, who may not have been a starter all the time but still produced plenty of key goal involvements from the right side.
Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva have predominantly played on the right of the attack this season, but both are probably better utilised centrally. With talent like Jack Grealish and Jérémy Doku on the left, you would think Pep Guardiola would like more of the same on the right.
Suggested Gift: Johan Bakayoko
As we analysed recently, Doku has given Man City a whole new dimension to their attack. So, why not double down on that?
Bakayoko has been in sensational form for PSV this season. Only Jarne Steuckers and Quinten Timber have created more chances from open play in Europe’s top 10 leagues than his 40, while no one created more than his 15 chances from open play in the UEFA Champions League group stage. The 20-year-old has also completed the same number of dribbles as Doku in domestic football this season (53).
What They Need: A Striker
As detailed in our most recent Stat, Viz, Quiz newsletter, Manchester United are conceding chances, but not as many goals as you’d think.
Their main problem lies at the other end of the pitch, having scored just 18 goals from their 17 Premier League games so far this season. Only four teams have scored fewer. Summer signing Rasmus Højlund is yet to find the net in the league despite hitting five in the Champions League, and the youngster could do with some help as he gets used to life in England.
Suggested Gift: Serhou Guirassy
It took a while for Guirassy to catch fire, but the 27-year-old has certainly done that this season, scoring 17 goals in 14 Bundesliga games for Stuttgart. It is already the most league goals he has scored in a campaign by six, and we’ve only just reached the winter break.
We outlined Guirassy’s story and ability earlier this season, but the key here could be his reported price. With Sir Jim Ratcliffe still trying to get his investment over the line, funds could be tight at Old Trafford in January, and the suggested £15 million release clause would surely tempt a team in desperate need of a reliable finisher.
What They Need: A Midfielder
Given their injury crisis, you could argue that Newcastle need a new player in every position. With Sandro Tonali suspended for a while, though, midfield is probably the biggest need.
It would make sense for it to just be a short-term deal, though, with Tonali returning eventually, while the likes of Elliot Anderson and Lewis Miley are the future of the midfield.
Suggested Gift: Kalvin Phillips
The former Leeds man will probably be in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2024 anyway, but he’ll want games to ensure he’s up to speed for next summer’s tournament in Germany. Phillips has played just 89 minutes in the Premier League this season for Man City, with Pep Guardiola more or less saying he has little use for him.
Eddie Howe would surely welcome a loan deal for a player who recovered possession at an average of 10.2 times per 90 in the Premier League in the 2021-22 season for Leeds; the highest average of any player in the league to play 900+ minutes that term.
What They Need: Some Creativity
Forest have upset some of the fanbase by dispensing with Steve Cooper just before Christmas, which seemed harsh considering the excellent job the Welshman did up until this season in trying circumstances.
Nuno Espírito Santo is in, though, tasked with improving a record that has seen Forest win just one of their last 13 games (D5 L7) and slip to 17th place. Perhaps the former Wolves and Spurs boss has been given an extra incentive to keep them up. A ‘Santo clause’ if you will… ahem!
Suggested Gift: Crysencio Summerville
He may have a first name like a social media insult for Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Asensio and a surname like a US teen drama, but Crysencio Summerville has also been doing impressive things in the Championship.
Forest have struggled for goals this season, but in Chris Wood and Divock Origi (and Taiwo Awoniyi when he recovers from injury), have strikers you feel could trouble the net if given some better service. Only two players have scored more goals in the Championship this season than Leeds man Summerville (10), only four have more assists (6) and only three have created more chances (59).
What They Need: An Aerially Dominant Centre-Back
You thought we were going to say an overlapping centre-back, didn’t you? We’re not that predictable (if you ignore the Santo-clause pun above).
It feels like most people have written off Sheffield United, who are bottom of the league and bottom of most metrics. They have scored the fewest goals (12), conceded the most (43), had the fewest shots (142), faced the most (306), have the lowest xG (13) and conceded the highest (36.68). Despite all that, they have as many points as Burnley (8).
Suggested Gift: Liam Lindsay
One area the Blades have been particularly blunt in this season has been in the air. No team has lost more aerial duels than Sheff Utd in the Premier League in 2023-24 (342), at least 30 more than any other team.
No defender has won as many aerial duels in the Championship this season as Liam Lindsay (93 out of 124), while the Preston man also has three goals to his name, including a late winner in the derby at Blackburn earlier this month. If Wilder wants to add some aerial prowess at the back, he could do a lot worse than the former Barnsley and Stoke City defender.
What They Need: A Centre-Back
Like Newcastle, Spurs have been hit hard by absences this season. It’s been a solid start to life under Ange Postecoglou, but not having Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven does make them look like a fairly different team.
With Ben Davies and Emerson Royal having to fill in centrally on occasion, Postecoglou would surely appreciate another centre-back in his stocking. We looked at possible January transfer targets for Spurs recently, and this was one of them.
Suggested Gift: Jean-Clair Todibo
The former Barcelona defender has been linked with a move to the Premier League for a while and is having another excellent season with Nice (we tried to think of a ‘naughty or Nice’ joke but frankly it was beyond us).
Comfortable on the ball, Todibo likes a good carry. Only teammate Dante (462) has made more carries than Todibo (425) in Ligue 1 this season, while only three players have made more progressive carries – defined as carrying the ball at least five metres up the field towards the opponents’ goal – than him (201), though two of those have played three more games than Todibo’s 14.
What They Need: A Striker
It feels like an area West Ham haven’t been able to box off for years. Michail Antonio has done an admirable job up top, but the club has consistently tried to bring in a long-term number nine to be their main guy and it never seems to work.
Mohammed Kudus (9) and Jarrod Bowen (11) have been chipping in with goals this season, but neither can be considered a natural number nine, and with James Ward-Prowse in the midfield it almost seems a waste not to have someone down the middle who can be a regular source of goals.
Suggested Gift: Santiago Giménez
It might be asking a bit much considering the reported £60m asking price, but it’s Christmas after all. If you can’t treat yourself now, when can you?
West Ham procured Edson Álvarez and Kudus from the Eredivisie, so it is a market they like and Giménez has been in sensational form for Feyenoord. The Mexico international has scored 18 goals in 16 league games this season, as well as two goals in four Champions League outings.
A slightly more realistic option could be SC Braga’s Simon Banza, who has scored more headed goals than any other striker in Europe’s top 10 leagues this season (6), from just 10 headed attempts, a skill that would be particularly useful if he had Ward-Prowse as a teammate. Banza has scored 13 goals in 14 games overall in the Primeira Liga.
What They Need: Help for Pedro Neto
Only five teams have a lower xG than Wolves (21.56) despite the efforts of Pedro Neto, who assisted seven goals in 10 games before sustaining a hamstring injury in late October.
He may return to Gary O’Neil’s squad for the Christmas Eve game against Chelsea but Wolves cannot be so reliant on Neto for creativity, especially given his injury record.
Suggested Gift: Armand Laurienté
According to Opta’s player radars, Sassuolo’s Laurienté was the closest thing in Europe’s top five leagues to Neto last season, though that is taking Neto’s numbers from just shy of 900 minutes this season and extrapolating them. Laurienté hasn’t matched the Portuguese winger’s assist numbers in 2023-24, but only 11 players have created more chances from open play in Serie A than the Frenchman.
Jadon Sancho was second closest on our radars, and who knows? Maybe Wolves could snag the former Borussia Dortmund man on loan, but it seems unlikely.
Who do you think your team should sign in January? Let us know on our social accounts over on X, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook. You can also subscribe to our football newsletter to receive exclusive weekly content.