Eye On EPL

Mid-season moves might help win title or avoid the drop

You do not need a degree in mathematics or psychology to realise that the January transfer market is risky business.

Joining a club midway through the season is not easy, even for the game's brightest talents.

One-time winter signings Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, for example, took a full year to acclimatise to Manchester United's surroundings.

But this year, with the English Premier League (EPL) more open than ever, we could see the cash being splashed by all 20 clubs.

Already, Charlie Austin's £4 million (S$8.2 million) move to Southampton looks like a shrewd investment. A striker who averaged a goal every two EPL games is a bargain at that price.

On the other hand, midfielder Jonjo Shelvey's switch to Newcastle United for £12 million looks like a deal an over-zealous teenager would make on the Football Manager computer game.

The top clubs have been quiet so far. But do not expect it to stay that way, especially when the so-called lesser teams are splurging the financial rewards from the league's latest TV rights deal.

Even before their hapless 1-0 defeat by United, Liverpool were in dire need of a squad revamp.

This is not Juergen Klopp's team yet - one would expect the German to sign at least one defensive midfielder and a top-quality centre-back (Steven Caulker does not count) later this month.

A pile-up of hamstring injury victims has filled the Reds' treatment room so perhaps he should be on the lookout for fitter players to suit the high-pressing style he demands.

Arch-rivals United have already given manager Louis van Gaal £250 million but the team still look like a Europa League outfit at best.

I doubt the Glazers will give the Dutchman another cent, biding their time until the summer when Ryan Giggs could potentially take over the hot seat.

At the top, the moves made by Arsenal and Manchester City over the coming weeks could determine the destiny of the EPL trophy.

Arsene Wenger has a solid squad at his disposal - if they were all fit.

But with so many key players out injured, the Frenchman might have to dip into his transfer kitty.

Arsenal fans have for years asked for a top-class alternative to target man Olivier Giroud (Danny Welbeck does not count).

In midfield, imagine how Leicester City maestro Riyad Mahrez would shine alongside the likes of Mesut Oezil and Aaron Ramsey.

Again, you do not need a degree in statistical analysis to know that goals win you the league, particularly in a season when clean sheets are fast becoming a rarity.

City have fire-power up front in the form of Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne, but may need to add another box-to-box midfielder to support Yaya Toure.

Like their Manchester neighbours, however, the Abu Dhabi club owners may be hesitant to give money to Manuel Pellegrini, not when a certain Pep Guardiola hovers in the shadows.

With the European Championship in June, top players may be hesitant to move for fear of losing their form and focus.

But in such a topsy-turvy season, the club with the most guts and creativity in this transfer market will be the one that wins the title - or staves off relegation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2016, with the headline 'Mid-season moves might help win title or avoid the drop'. Print Edition | Subscribe