Kevin Doyle
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Kevin Doyle on the January transfer window for Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and more

| 16.01.2021

We’ve been chatting with our football ambassador Kevin Doyle to discuss all things January transfer window, from the importance on keeping a squad together, to areas which could be improved to push on for a title charge.

Our football ambassador has already given us his thoughts on the January window, Wolves’ hunt for a striker and Dele Alli’s future, plus there’s more to come on his thoughts on the talent in the Championship.

Liverpool have been hit with a defensive injury crisis this season, losing most of their first-choice defenders including Virgil van Dijk. Ozan Kabak from Schalke and Sven Botman from Lille have been linked with a move, along with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Arsenal’s Sokratis. Should Klopp trust what he’s already got, or make a move for a new first team partner for Van Dijk?

It’s sort of like the Wolves situation, isn’t it? But I think they need to go for someone. Van Dijk is out for the season, and you’ve got four to five months left with a lot of games to play in there. You’ve seen Jordan Henderson play back there in recent weeks and it’s really unsettling for them with all three out.

Kabak from Schalke for me is the most realistic of the options they’ve been linked with because of Klopp’s contacts in Germany, and probably knowing a lot more about him with his knowledge of the Bundesliga than others that have been mentioned, plus he’ll know a lot of people in the league who have watched him play. So that’s the one for me, of all the names, that would be the best option but you just don’t know.

It’s so difficult as there are a million things that have to be taken into account. Picking someone, and then trying to sign them on top of what’s already going on makes it harder. He’s obviously a good player and clubs don’t necessarily want to sell in January. It’s a difficult one but they definitely need to at least try, which I’m sure they are. I’d imagine they’re doing everything to get a centre half in because they’re competing for the Champions League and Premier League.

I’ve seen them live a few times over the past few months too and you can see they’re struggling at the back. They’ve done very well considering, to be where they are, but they’re about 15 or so points off where this time last season, and you could basically say that’s because of the situation with their back four. I don’t think they should wait, they need to get someone in. You weight up every situation with the pros and cons, and in Liverpool’s situation, I think it’s too big of an ask for the players they’ve got to fill in for the players that are out, especially Van Dijk in the longer term.

He’s a certainty in the team when he’s fit, but the rest of those aren’t, and if you spend some money on signing a good centre half, he’d fancy his chances of keeping his place in the team when the others come back fit, apart from when Van Dijk gets back in.

With Liverpool, I’d also look at the problem areas they’ve got with contracts at the moment. Wijnaldum’s contract is up in the summer, and he’s a really good player for them. Although he’s 30 and Liverpool have an issue with giving contracts to player over 30, they only seem to give them one year contracts.

Georginio Wijnaldum Kevin Doyle

He’s a player that’s done really well for them, and I’d imagine this will be his last big contract and he’d be looking for a three or four year deal somewhere else, so I can see him leaving because I don’t see Liverpool budging from their stance as they haven’t done in the past, which hasn’t harmed them moving players on as they always find someone else to come in.

Klopp’s still picking him and he’s still putting everything he’s got into games, but I would say he’ll be leaving at the end of the season. Mo Salah’s a situation that’s sort of bubbling a little bit too. He looks to be angling for a new contract, he’s been one of the best players in Europe for the last two seasons so I’m sure he’d want to be paid like one of the best players too, and whether Liverpool want to spend that sort of money wage wise, it’d make him one of the highest paid players in the world, and it could create a knock-on effect with a few other players then looking for a similar thing because within that squad, there’s a few players that could make the same argument.

It’s a problem that top clubs have and a club like Liverpool, who have been really good, it’s just a situation they’ll find themselves in because of their success. With Salah, he hasn’t actually been playing that well recently. He’s been missing chances the last few games that we usually see him scoring.

If he does leave, I don’t think it’s the end of the world for Liverpool, as good as he’s been, they’ve had these issues in the past, with Coutinho for example. He was fantastic for them, they moved him on and bring someone else in to replace him. Klopp is very good at finding someone, getting them in and making them better than they were before they came, so if I was a Liverpool fan, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Mo Salah does move on.

Looking back at the Summer transfer window, Chelsea spent a lot of money on signings that are taking their time to adapt to the physicality and intensity of the League. Do you think they should add to their squad in January, linked with Declan Rice again, or is it more important to keep the squad together for Frank Lampard to find his best XI?

Yeah I think it’ll be a case of more patience with them. They didn’t get to sign anyone for a year or 18 months because of their transfer ban, so they had to sign a good few players from somewhere to make up for that.

They did spend a lot of money, but if you think about the summer, can you imagine moving to England from wherever in the middle of a global pandemic? Outside of football, the personal side, players like Timo Werner coming over and trying to settle in England. Your family probably can’t come with all the restrictions in place, and it’s hard enough to move club in normal circumstances, but to move country, especially in the world we’ve been living in over the last year, I can understand why some of those are taking time to adapt.

They made a lot of signings, possibly more than any other club in the Premier League, so it’s bound to take a while for them to settle, especially living in London for the last six months when you’ve come from another country. It’s a bit of a mess trying to settle in, and the situation has made it harder so I’d give them patience, a bit more time.

With Werner for example, he’s been a fantastic player for the last few seasons, and he’s been getting a lot stick in the last few months at Chelsea, but he’s obviously been signed for a reason, he had a list of teams wanting to sign him and he’s real good quality, but a bit of patience will help them.

Frank Lampard’s a young manager too, and he’s learning on top of all of that as well, and trying to do it in a difficult situation so I wouldn’t go and add any more to the squad that he’s got in January, I’d just leave it as it is and let those players try and find their feet.

Mikel Arteta seems to be getting a response from his side recently, throwing some academy products into the spotlight to shine. Do Arsenal need to improve their squad in January, or would you trust the academy products rather than sign others?

They’ve been linked with Emiliano Buendia from Norwich, and he’s one I like because he’s a young player but I can’t see Norwich letting him go in the January transfer window, not when they’re competing to try and bounce straight back up, but they might be able to go for him at the end of the season.

We’ve seen Christian Eriksen linked too but I couldn’t see him signing, even on loan, personally because of the links he’s got to Spurs. I guess you never know but I can’t see it happening.

They seem to have turned a corner in the last month, because it looked like at one stage, Arteta might be getting the sack, but in fairness, Arsenal have stuck with him. I saw some of his interviews and you could have easily questioned what he was saying, but he’s stuck to his philosophy and his style of play, making some changes by bringing in some younger players and it’s having the desired effect.

Arsenal, over the years, have had some fantastic players come through the academy, and this time around, I’d let those players find their feet. They’ve got no pressure, they’ve got nothing to lose now because they were underperforming, but the youth players have come in and helped to turn things around.

I wouldn’t go signing players in this January window if I was Arsenal, no, I’d let the season play out especially with the mayhem going on around the world outside of football, I think signing players now just isn’t ideal. We’ve spoken about Chelsea and their players not settling in, and that could be used as a good example. It’s not the right time to buy if you feel you can get away without it.

Manchester City and Manchester United are both looking competitive in the league so far. Should either side improve their squads to help their push, or stick with what they’ve got?

For City, I’d say they do need to look for another centre forward. Aguero has been a big loss for them this season, and Jesus is a good player, a top talent, but he’s not like Aguero.

Aguero is the one player for City who is just a greedy, goalhanger that wants to score goals and doesn’t want to be chasing. They’re so good on the ball, they’re so good at pressing and possession, they can afford to have a player like Aguero in their team who’s basically old school and just scores goals.

Every time he’s been injured, they’ve never found anyone that can do the job like he does, and you feel like they don’t want to play him all that often. I get the feeling Pep Guardiola doesn’t like the way Aguero plays. In his philosophy and the way he likes to see football played, he prefers someone that is the complete team player, who presses and closes down the ball and does exactly what he says, but he just has to revert to Aguero because he keep getting the goals the team needs and when he’s not in the team, they just have so much possession and so many chances, but no one there to finish them off.

Sergio Aguero Kevin Doyle

I don’t think they’ve ever really looked to replace Aguero, they’ve never looked to sign that type of player again but I do think they need another because he’s getting older and he has had a lot of these niggly injuries where he’s back for a game or two, and then he’s gone again. So if I was City, I wouldn’t look for anyone else, only that sort of number nine, and they don’t have to play them every week, but they have so many games where teams just sit off and soak up pressure, and they don’t have that goalscorer on the pitch.

They could leave it until the summer, with Messi linked and their current form looking like they’re turning a corner. They’ve got a game in hand and they’re only a few points off the top two now, so I think they’ll leave it.

The only one would be if they could bring Diego Costa in for six months, he wouldn’t be a bad shout. If they could get someone like that, temporarily while Aguero is injured, then they should but if not, then I’d leave it, but I don’t really expect any of the top teams to go mad in January anyway.

For United, their defence has been the main issue but they’ve been better in recent weeks. Eric Bailly has come in and he’s looked more commanding. They look to be able to press a bit higher with him because he’s got more pace to be able to cover.

With Harry Maguire, he was signed by United for £80m and everyone was delighted. United fans thought what a player, he’s exactly what they needed and the whole situation at the club has been harsh on him, and he’s taken the brunt of the blame at the back but if I was Manchester United, I wouldn’t look to sign a defender in January, I’d look to put a defensive coach in place.

They look to me like a back four who don’t play and train together every week. The full backs look so detached. They either over cover or they don’t cover enough. When there are crosses coming in, they don’t seem to be able to deal with them, and they don’t look like they’ve played together a whole lot.

They’re fantastic to watch, I’m a Manchester United fan so it’s great to see them playing well and scoring a lot of goals, but they look like a team who go into training, play 5-a-side and don’t actually work on shape, especially defensively. I could be totally wrong, they could be working on it every day of the week and it’s just not working out during games, but to me, they need someone to organise them.

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, being a centre forward during his career, does he necessarily know what he’s doing defensively? Because I know I wouldn’t be able to organise a back four as a centre forward. Us forwards don’t usually know what we’re talking about in terms of defence, so he should really look at getting someone in there to help get them working as a back four.

Individually, you’ve got Wan-Bissaka, a really good player with a lot of potential, but he’s a good player going forward and I don’t think he necessarily has a defensive mindset, so he needs coaching. Luke Shaw, he’s the same, he needs coaching in my opinion. I always worry about the full back situation at Manchester United, that they have potential and they’re good going forward, but defensively, it looks like they sometimes forget their roles and responsibilities to be organised and compact.

Then you’ve got the two centre halves. Maguire was obviously £80m, then Lindelof and Bailly, they weren’t cheap either, but as a back four, they’re probably as expensive as any other in the Premier League but they just need tying together with a coach, which doesn’t cost a whole lot of money to sort out.

It’s not rocket science, because as a United fan, over the rest of the pitch, I think they’ve got as good of a squad as anyone. I’m not critical or the back four, they just need to be tied together.

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Drew Goodsell

Drew is a journalism graduate of UEL where he worked as a Business Editor for the university news website. He is a Chelsea fan, but closely follows American sports, being an avid fan of the New York based Knicks (NBA) and Giants (NFL).