It’s been a volatile season across Europe, with results difficult to predict and league tables taking on an unfamiliar look.
In the Premier League, Southampton and Leicester City have made particularly strong starts while Everton have put themselves in a position to challenge for a top-six position too.
Also looking to upset the traditional big hitters are West Ham and Wolves, so today we take a look at the business those five clubs are beginning to look at for January as they contemplate a genuine push for European football.
The top priority ahead of January has been to get star striker Danny Ings signed up on a new improved contract, and an announcement over his future is coming soon.
Saints have been eager to have him tied up on a long-term deal, and with two years remaining on his current contract there has been a big push for him to commit his future. Ings wants to stay at Saints, he is feeling great on and off the pitch, and sources suggest that he should have his new deal signed by the new year.
Look out for the loan signing of Brandon Williams from Manchester United. Saints want a new full-back, and even looked at signing him last summer, but there is a good chance United are going to let him out this time.
We should not expect any substantial spending from the Foxes next month. The club’s King Power owners have taken a hit on their business during the pandemic and do not plan to invest heavily in the next window. We should not totally rule out any dealings though and there are a couple of names to keep an eye on as we head into 2021.
Celtic’s attacking midfielder Ryan Christie is a player Brendan Rodgers is impressed by and, after stressing he is not interested in extending his contract at this stage, the player could come into view as a target.
Michael Olise, Reading’s highly regarded midfielder, is also thought to be on the list of potential targets and is one to watch.
Demarai Gray, 24, will leave the club in January as he seeks to ignite his season as his only action has been a single appearance in the Carabao Cup. Keep an eye out, too, for new deals for Youri Tielemans and Jonny Evans as both are expected to sign extensions.
Juventus player Sami Khedira during the UEFA Champions League training session
Image credit: Getty Images
Director of football Marcel Brands is recognised as one of the best negotiators in European football and he has the ongoing task of ensuring the club lives up to the ambition of owner Farhad Moshiri. The club were bold in the last transfer window and this time around there seem to be two positions that could be strengthened - central midfield and right-back.
They bought Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez last summer so it probably sounds strange that the middle of the park is an area of concern, yet sources suggest Gylfi Sigurdsson and Tom Davies will not have a long-term future at the club.
It is believed they would like to make a signing with international credentials and 33-year-old Sami Khedira of Juventus has been in contact with Carlo Ancelotti and is very keen on the prospect of playing in the Premier League. He will be allowed to move on in the winter window, but so too will Tottenham’s Harry Winks - another name that has been mentioned as a possible addition. Dele Alli has been linked too but it's thought he would wait even if they did make an offer, as there could be exciting offers from abroad.
The midfield is likely to be a priority but a full-back is an area that needs new depth too. The club are seeking a long-term solution and one name discussed has been Norwich City’s Max Aarons, who was also closely pursued by Barcelona last summer. It is believed he will prove out of their reach, though, so other targets on the list are going to be needed.
West Ham United
Ideally David Moyes would add a new centre-back to his squad. He has felt since the start of the season they could do with one more reliable defensive option and the situation is not reflective of any potential around Issa Diop leaving. The club are ready to hold strong on their stance he is not for sale, certainly in January anyway.
There are rumours again that Declan Rice could be on his way to Chelsea but that transfer is unlikely to materialise unless Chelsea make a significant sale in the middle of the park. The player does remain keen on the move but Hammers sources believe he will be with them until the end of the season. We have reported before that Christian Eriksen is a figure they would like to sound out in midfield, but that is more in hope than expectation because the player’s ambitions and salary might not fit with them.
The midfield is certainly an area of intrigue as another storyline to watch surrounds Tomas Soucek, who is being offered a new deal but is not yet close to signing.
Moyes has warned that the club are unlikely to spend big money but they do fancy some business.
There have been discussions in recent weeks over the role of Sebastian Haller and also how Manuel Lanzini fits in and whether he could be sold if a suitable offer arrives. It’s not unreasonable that they might look for another forward and Reims front man Boulaye Dia, who has nine goals in 13 games in Ligue 1, is believed to be one figure they have been scouting.
Adama Traore of Wolverhampton Wanderers during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Aston Villa
Image credit: Getty Images
The loss of Raul Jimenez after a head injury that left him with a fractured skull has had an obvious impact on the club’s structure of play and goal threat, yet the club are hopeful they can get by without having to purchase a new forward to replace him.
They have faith in 18-year-old Fabio Silva, who made a £35 million move from Porto in the summer and has huge potential. There will be a lot of pressure on Silva to deliver so it is also possible they look for an experienced figure to come in short term and Salomon Rondon, who plays in the Chinese Super League with Dalian Yifang, has been linked.
Wolves had hoped to sign Adama Traore up to a new contract by now, and the manager is slightly annoyed that has not happened, so expect plenty of discussion around that in the coming days and weeks.
Watch the premiere of 'Loving Maradona' on Eurosport 1, eurosport.co.uk and the Eurosport app from 19:30 UK time on Monday, December 21.