The start of a new year brings time for targets to be set and changes to be made. It provides the perfect opportunity to kick bad habits to the curb, to pick up positive new habits and to create a more positive, healthy lifestyle. It is not just a great opportunity for individuals to make important changes in their lives; it is also a great opportunity for teams to make some much needed changes or to set themselves goals.
We are now halfway through the Premier League season in what has already been a fascinating campaign. It is all still to play for throughout the table, with what looks like two teams ready to battle it out for the title, the all important European spots will be as tight as ever and with a few surprise teams making their presence known, and of course the relegation fight is as fierce as ever as teams desperately scrap to retain a place in this fantastic league. There are also all the cups to consider too, which will add plenty of spice and drama from now through to the end of the season. Now that we are midway through and past the challenging Christmas period there is little time for reflection, as the games continue to come thick and fast and we are now in a pivotal month, the January transfer window.
Teams can look to bolster their squad and make changes which could have huge implications for them and the teams around them. It will be many teams' New Year’s resolution to make key signings and shift some dead weight, but there are lots of other resolutions to be made too. A number of teams have picked up some bad habits this season, including losing focus toward the end of games, relying on one player, leaking too many goals or pointing the finger at everyone except themselves.
With 2014 now done and dusted, here is a look at what each team needs to do in 2015.
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20 Arsenal (6th) – Sign a defensive midfielder and sharpen up the back 4
It has again been mixed fortunes for the Gunners so far this season, who look strong going forward and have a gem in Alexis Sanchez, but they are still far from convincing at the back. A commanding defensive midfielder could change this if they can find the right one in January, and they also need to sharpen up their back 4 and keep the key defenders healthy. The title race was over long ago for Arsenal, but if they do this and manage to bring back players from injury and not pick up and fresh ones then they have a great chance of making the top 4 again. But failure to do this, or make progress in the Champions League, would cause uproar from the Arsenal faithful.
19 Aston Villa (12th) – Retain key players and score more goals
Teams will surely come sniffing for Benteke during this transfer period, and Aston Villa are a team that desperately need his goalscoring ability. There has been a goal drought this season for Villa (just 11 so far), who had to cancel their October goal of the month competition after failing to find the back of the net. Reinforcements will not come until a buyer is found for the club, with Mark Cuban showing interest last month. Villa also need to keep hold of Ron Vlaar and Fabian Delph, who are both free agents next summer. They should avoid the drop, but they need to retain their key players and score more goals until someone buys the club and can provide the money to invest in new players.
18 Burnley (19th) – Keep hold of Danny Ings and bolster squad
It was a nightmarish start to Premier League life for Sean Dyche’s men, who did not pick up their first win until November. It has been an upward curve for the Clarets since then, who have picked up a number of important points over the Christmas period and shown real grit which is just what they will need to continue showing if they are to stay up. This included a fantastic comeback against champions Man City; where they clawed their way back from two goals down to earn a point. Danny Ings has been sensational, and Sam Vokes is back and got himself on the scoresheet against Spurs in the F.A Cup. It is vital they retain Ings, and if they can improve defensively and continue to show their grit then there is no reason why they can’t stay up.
17 Chelsea (1st) – Regain focus and steady the ship
A few weeks ago it looked like the title race was already over, as Chelsea had a healthy cushion and they were performing like a well oiled machine. But the Blues hit a few speedbumps over the Christmas period, and now they have let Man City back into the race. At the time of writing, Chelsea only top the table due to an alphabetical advantage, so they now need to forget what happened over Christmas and press on.
Chelsea have the squad and manager to win the league and go far in Europe, but they need to regain their focus and steady the ship. They need to do this fast too, as Man City have great experience in fighting right until the last kick of the season. Instead of blaming referees or a conspiracy against them, Mourinho needs to focus on his team and get them back to the stellar football they played almost all of the first half of the season.
16 Crystal Palace (18th) – Sign at least a striker in January
Palace have embraced the New Year by bringing in a new manager, and former Palace player Alan Pardew is an excellent choice. He had a turbulent time at Newcastle, but he has great experience in helping teams like Crystal Palace change their fortune. Simply bringing in a new manager will not be enough though, and Palace needs to be busy in this transfer window if they have any chance of staying up. Pardew is aware of this, and he has already set his sights on Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert, who has had a difficult start to life at Anfield. This would be a great signing, but Palace may need to consider alternative options as Liverpool will not give him up easily.
15 Everton (13th) – Improve defensively, get Lukaku firing and keep key players fit
It has been a disaster for Everton so far this season, which is disappointing to see as they looked set to become a top team after their highest ever points tally last season (72) and a 5th place finish. They now sit 13th and have let in 33 goals, having lost four consecutive games prior to their draw with the Hammers in the F.A Cup. Their first resolution should be to sharpen up defensively, and this may require replacing 37-year-old Sylvain Distin.
The Toffee’s have also had troubles going forwards, with Lukaku failing to live up to expectations. They need to get him firing, and also keep players like Mirallas and Barkley fit to provide support. Everton have looked sharp in the Europa League, and a convincing run in the competition could salvage their season provided they finish in the top half, which they should.
14 Hull City (15th) – Allow Bruce to invest and get Hernandez playing alongside Jelavic
It has been a real struggle for Hull City so far this season, but they will be boosted by a much needed 2-0 victory over Everton last time out. Steve Bruce needs to find some players that will dig in and put in a shift each game, as so far a number of his key players have been disappointing and ineffective. Huddlestone and Livermore offered a strong central midfield last season, but have failed to live up to expectations this year.
They also had a nightmare with Hatem Ben Arfa who arrived on loan, but was hugely disappointing and has now made a move to Nice. Hull now need to provide Bruce with the money he needs to improve the side as he requires, as he is the right man for the job at KC Stadium. They also need to get club-record signing Abel Hernandez firing and playing alongside Jelavic.
13 Leicester City (20th) – Sign players with Premier League experience and remain optimistic
Aside from a stunning 5-3 victory over Man United, it has been a dreary start to Premier League life for the Foxes this season. They currently prop up the table and have 12 losses to their name, but sitting just four points adrift it is important that they remain optimistic. This alone will not be enough, and Leicester will need to make some signings this month if they are to climb out the bottom three. To do this they will need players with Premier League experience, and most importantly they need to strengthen in defence with a new centre-back after shipping 33 goals so far. They have been in a slump following their victory over United, but they can take positives from some of their performances this season.
12 Liverpool (8th) – Get and keep Sturridge fit, sell Balotelli and find a new keeper
A mighty fall for Liverpool this season, who have gone from almost winning the league to a team riddled with problems. Liverpool desperately needs to get Daniel Sturridge fit and keep him that way for the rest of the season, as he is integral to their success and will provide them with goals that Balotelli and Lambert have failed to provide. They also need to get rid of Balotelli, who has contributed to the toxic atmosphere that is currently at Anfield. They may also look to sign a goalkeeper with higher confidence and better distribution than Mignolet, who has had a shocker this season.
11 Manchester City (2nd) – Get and keep Aguero fit, perform well in Europe and utilize Lampard
City will be galvanized by Chelsea’s recent stumble, as City now have a real shot at winning the title and have great experience in fighting to the death of the season. The obvious resolution is to get and keep Aguero fit, as he is a game changer and will be key in the title race. They may look to add reinforcements in this area too, with Bony apparently close to a deal. City will be pressuring Chelsea all season long for the top spot in the league.
It is also important that City perform well in the Champions League, as this is the only area in which they have disappointed. Barcelona will be a tough challenge, but City are capable of taking down the Catalan giants. City now have Lampard till the end of the season, and they need to continue to utilise him with Toure at the Africa Cup of Nations. Lampard has won City many points, which could ironically see City pip Chelsea to the title.
10 Manchester United (3rd) – Improve defence with a top quality centre-back
Man Utd appear to be back to winning ways with 10 wins out of 20 so far this season, but while they will be happy with where they sit, the performances have not been as convincing as they’d like. They desperately need to improve their defence if they want to lock down 3rd place or trouble City and Chelsea, and they have fielded some truly bizarre backlines at times this season that have looked very vulnerable.
Fortunately they have De Gea between the posts to save their blushes, but they must spend wisely in January and a high quality centre-back should be on top of the shopping list. United are set to announce the arrival of Victor Valdes who will be used to keep De Gea on his toes and push him to the next level. With an improved defence, and if key players stay fit, United look set to return to Champions League football next season.
9 Newcastle United (10th) – Appoint the right boss and back him, keep hold of Sissoko
With the departure of Alan Pardew there is the opportunity of a fresh start for Newcastle in 2015, and they need to start by appointing the right man for the job and back him all the way. They have been linked with Ajax boss Frank De Boer, who was heavily linked with the vacant Tottenham job before Pochettino’s appointment. This would be an excellent choice and a real show of intent from Newcastle. They should also survive January without losing key asset Moussa Sissoko, who has been a standout this season and attracted attention from Arsenal, Chelsea and PSG.
8 Queens Park Rangers (16th) – Improve dreadful away record
If QPR can find a way to win or pick up points on the road, and maintain a solid form at home, then they should stay up this season. Loftus Road has become somewhat of a fortress for Redknapp’s men, who have picked up all of their 19 points in front of home fans. This means they have an abysmal away record which must improve, and Redknapp will no doubt make a shrewd signing or two to rectify this, but they also need to get Sandro fit as he could offer valuable protection to the back four. Charlie Austin has been nothing short of sensational, and they will need to keep him fit and healthy if they are to avoid the drop.
7 Southampton (4th) – Retain Schneiderlin and avoid complacency
After being raided during the summer nobody expected much from Southampton this season, and they have stunned everyone with some excellent performances, including 11 wins in 12 games and an 8-0 thrashing of Sunderland. They currently sit in the all important 4th spot, two points clear of Spurs after 20 games. Ronald Koemen has been fantastic so far and got the best out of his team, with Dusan Tadic and Graziano Pelle being superb. Southampton need to keep hold of Schneiderlin who nearly left in the summer, and ensure that key players stay fit. They may not finish 4th (although not impossible), but as long as they do not get complacent they should finish high in the table.
6 Stoke City (11th) – Tighten up at the back, continue to play with confidence
Stoke seem to play with a new found confidence and flair, which is refreshing to see as they have famously been a team to play an unattractive style of football. Bojan did not get much of a look in at the start of the campaign, but has bulked up and is now starting to show his potential and impact games. They need this to continue, but Stoke must also tighten up at the back if they are to progress. They look set for a mid-table finish, and you have to admire the work that Hughes has done at the Britannia as they have collected some big scalps this season including City, Spurs, Arsenal and Everton.
5 Sunderland (14th) – Find a goalscoring threat, get more from Jack Rodwell
Sunderland fans will desperately want to avoid another relegation scrap after last season, but for that to happen they will need to start winning games instead of drawing. From 20 games they have just three wins to their name (one of these being over fierce rivals Newcastle), and a staggering 11 draws. These dropped points could prove costly, and to start winning games they need to score more goals as they have found the net just 18 times so far. They will need to find a striker on a budget this month, and they also need to get more from Jack Rodwell if they are to survive another season.
4 Swansea City (9th) – Find another goalscorer (if Bony leaves), finish in the top half
It has been a great season for Monk and the Swans, who sit in 9th place, with wins over United and Arsenal being highlights so far. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been one of the best midfielders in the league, with 4 goals and 8 assists to his name so far. Wilfried Bony has also been stellar and caused havoc for opponents, and he is the Premier League top scorer in the 2014 calendar year with 20 goals. At the time of writing, Bony looks set to join Man City, which will be a real blow for Swansea and they need to replace his goalscoring as best they can if he goes. Swansea should finish in the top half of the table, and they should also look to enjoy a solid run in the FA Cup.
3 Tottenham Hotspur (5th) – Ship out dead weight and buy support for Kane, win a trophy
Spurs seemed to have turned a corner over the Christmas period after a rough start, which was punctuated by a stunning 5-3 win over league leaders Chelsea to lift them into 5th place. They will want to keep this momentum up, and for this they need to keep stand out performers Eriksen and Kane fit. Spurs need to clear the decks, with the likes of Paulinho, Adebayor, Soldado, Lennon and Assou-Ekotto all out of favour and costing them big in wages.
If they were to sell a couple of these players it will free up cash to buy support for Kane, which is important because Spurs are in the Europa League, Capital One Cup semi finals and the FA Cup. A trophy would be a fantastic result for Spurs and Pochettino in his first year, and if they keep their momentum going and spend wisely on a striker they could crack the top 4.
2 West Brom (17th) – Allow Pulis to shake up squad, get Berahino firing again (if he stays)
It has been a disaster year for West Brom, but they will be spirited with the appointment of Premier League survival mastermind Tony Pulis. Pulis has never been relegated and was last year’s Premier League manager of the year after somehow steering Crystal Palace to safety. Pulis has made his presence felt already by axing three first team coaches, and he will be looking to shake up the squad. West Brom’s resolution is to not get relegated, and the only way they will manage that is to spend well and let Pulis get on with his job. If he is not used as part of a swap, Berahino will need to recapture his form for West Brom to pick up points.
1 West Ham (7th) – Sign Song on a permanent deal and hold on to Reid, aim for European qualification
What a season it has been for the Hammers, who were happily in 4th place before a run of difficult games against Chelsea, Arsenal and West Brom. They have won nine of 20 games and are now four points off 4th, but it is not just their position that has impressed, they have also played some excellent football. The co-owners wanted more attractive football, and Big Sam has certainly delivered as they have scored 31 times so far and have played with flair. Stuart Downing, Alex Song and Diafra Sakho have been brilliant, and their resolution should be to get Song on a permanent deal and keep hold of Winston Reid. If they continue playing with the same swagger and keep players fit, West Ham will fancy themselves for European qualification.
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