x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Time for clubs to decide their fate in new year

With the Premier League's transfer window open, Richard Jolly looks at 10 key questions in what could be a defining period of the season.

Fernando Torres, right, was Chelsea’s most expensive buy in January 2011.
Fernando Torres, right, was Chelsea’s most expensive buy in January 2011.

Who will be the biggest spenders?

Last January, it was Chelsea, who broke the British transfer record by splashing out £50 million (Dh287.5m) on Fernando Torres and paid another £24m for David Luiz.

In most recent summer windows, it has been Manchester City, but there are signs that the era of extravagance at the Etihad Stadium has come to an end. So there are a couple of other possibilities: Liverpool, looking to break into the top four, and Arsenal, who have at least £30m remaining after the summer sales of Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas and Gael Clichy.

Will there be a superstar signing?

Partly because the world's biggest clubs are reluctant to buy players who are cup-tied for the Champions League, the top talents can sit out the January market.

But Manchester City and Manchester United are already out of Europe's top club competition; Liverpool and Tottenham were never in it; and Chelsea's priorities may be domestic rather than continental. If a major player, whether Edinson Cavani, Mario Gotze, Eden Hazard or Karim Benzema, becomes available, there is nothing to stop England's clubs from moving for them.

Where do Chelsea go from here?

Historically, their answers to any problems have either entailed sacking the manager or spending heavily. If Andre Villas-Boas is backed, it suggests they will buy to ensure they finish in the top four.

Yet the rebuilding job appears larger than either the manager or the owner, Roman Abramovich, anticipated. Bringing in defender Gary Cahill from Bolton will be the first step, but it would be a surprise if bigger bids are not made as Villas-Boas looks to rebuild his midfield and forward line.

Will Manchester United spend?

The consensus outside Old Trafford is that United need a central midfielder, a situation that has been highlighted as Darren Fletcher is on indefinite leave.

Sir Alex Ferguson, however, insists not, arguing there is little value in the January transfer market and that as his two most successful New Year recruits, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, did not flourish until the following season, and a short-term gain is unlikely.

But sometimes Ferguson's most vehement denials precede the opposite outcome and the more the manager says he won't spend, the more some expect him to.

Will Arsene Wenger make a major buy?

Wenger is already bringing one big name to Arsenal, securing Thierry Henry's return on a two-month loan from New York Red Bulls.

But whereas some managers must sell before they buy, he has plenty of money at his disposal to recruit another. Mikel Arteta has been a short-term replacement for Fabregas but he admires two men with the potential to be Arsenal's playmaker for a decade, Lille's Eden Hazard and Borussia Dortmund's Mario Gotze.

Either would require a club record fee. Wenger could also add to his attack again, especially if he can offload Andrey Arshavin.

Can Manchester City make a title-winning signing?

By common consensus, Roberto Mancini has the strongest squad in the Premier League. Thus far, too, he has not really suffered with injuries but, especially with the Toure brothers going to the African Cup of Nations, it may take an extra addition to push City over the finishing line in the title race.

The Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi may be the manager's preferred addition, but options would be another central defender or striker.

Will Queens Park Rangers buy their way to safety?

Since Air Asia tycoon Tony Fernandes' August takeover, QPR have been active in the transfer market. Five players were bought at the end of the summer transfer window and, had it lasted a few days longer, more would have arrived.

Now Neil Warnock is looking for a second army of reinforcements to keep QPR up. The centre of defence, where Tottenham's Sebastien Bassong was a target, and the forward line are likely to receive particular attention. The maverick Moroccan Adel Taarabt could leave, however.

Can Martin O'Neill sign a striker?

Sunderland's major problem is obvious.

Since Darren Bent left 12 months ago, they have been short of goals from their forward line, a problem that was compounded when Asamoah Gyan joined Pro League side Al Ain on loan in September. O'Neill said he never discussed his transfer budget with owner Ellis Short before he was appointed, but it is safe to assume he knows it and is aware - with on-loan Nicklas Bendtner an unconvincing spearhead for his side - where his priorities lie.

But tempting high-class forwards to Sunderland has proved problematic in the past.

How do Bolton Wanderers replace Gary Cahill?

Even with an England international central defender, Bolton's defensive record has been awful this season.

Remove Cahill, who will almost certainly join Chelsea, and the shaky foundations to Owen Coyle's side will seem still more unstable. The American international Tim Ream may be the immediate replacement, but some more of the windfall should be spent on a second defender, whether a centre-back, a left-back or a right-back. All would help.

Can Blackburn Rovers get the four players they want?

Steve Kean's recent refrain has been that he is eyeing four players to keep them up. Yet football players who have options tend to be reluctant to hop on board what seems a sinking ship and there are serious doubts about the level of funding owners Venky's are providing.

Moreover, Blackburn's summer recruitment was, with the notable exception of Yakubu, both unsuccessful and bizarre.

The likelier probability is that Rovers will lose Junior Hoilett, their most creative player.

The Canadian is out of contract in the summer, has delayed signing a new deal and is admired by more prosperous clubs.

sports@thenational.ae