English teams seek new inspiration as transfer window opens
MANCHESTER, England (AP):
The January transfer window opens for business today, and rarely has so much been at stake for teams in the lucrative English Premier League.
Lagging behind in the race for Champions League qualification, Chelsea, Manchester United, and Liverpool could be the most active of the country's major powers as they look for a strong finish to arguably the most unpredictable season in the Premier League's 24-year history.
Then there's the scramble to avoid the costliest-ever relegation from England's top division. Next season ushers in the start of the Premier League's new three-year TV deal worth a record $8 billion, and no club will want to miss out on a share of that bounty.
So, count on England being the place where most deals are done over the next month, as usual. Last January, English clubs were easily the biggest spenders, splashing out about US$213 million to shatter the record for the season as a whole at US$1.25 billion.
Top teams operating strategic transfer plans rarely do major deals in this period. Likely targets can be ruled out of the Champions League and managers can be scared off by inflated prices.
This season could be different.
Chelsea are in 14th place, three points above the relegation zone, in the most woeful title defence that the Premier League has seen. A top new signing by caretaker coach Guus Hiddink could inspire a revival, and the striker department needs refreshing.
"The window is wide open," Hiddink said Wednesday.
Just as it will be at Man United, where Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney are the only two strikers at a club struggling to score goals. A world-class striker could make all the difference for underpressure United manager Louis van Gaal, who is likely to add to the US$375 million he has already spent in his 18 months in charge. "Our problem is not dominating the games, it's to score," Van Gaal said yesterday, adding that 2015 had been a "good year" for United apart from the last month.
It is Juergen Klopp's first transfer window since becoming Liverpool manager. Will he return to his old hunting ground of Germany to bolster Liverpool's squad?
It will also be interesting to see whether Leicester, remarkably in second place after half of the Premier League campaign, splashes out to stay in the title contention. And if the team manages to keep hold of striker Jamie Vardy.
On Wednesday, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said it would be a "busy" month for his club, with a midfielder needed to solve an injury crisis.