The January transfer window opened on New Year’s Day, allowing a wind of opportunities to enter the casa inhabited by La Liga’s clubs. Whether they seize the month remains to be seen, but all 20 teams have the chance to gain something for the second half of the 2016-17 campaign.
Here’s what every La Liga club needs in January:
For a club whose 2016-17 season involves La Liga, the Europa League, and the Copa del Rey, a certain level of depth is obviously required. Athletic Bilbao is no exception. The Basque side lost four of the six La Liga fixtures that followed a Europa League match. The fatigue is understandable, but depth needs to be addressed if Ernesto Valverde’s team, who qualified for the Europa League’s round of 32, is to make a push for a berth in the Champions League.
Needs: More goals from Antoine Griezmann
Atletico Madrid is a wonderful example of a club that is the sum of its parts, so it’s hard to pinpoint one area that can be improved upon without jeopardising the entire structure. With that in mind, Los Colchoneros are uncharacteristically entering 2017 sitting sixth in the La Liga standings having failed to score in six of their 16 games so far.
It seems completely unfair to ask for more out of Griezmann, but, in past years, Atleti often relied on its defensive superiority to squeak out 1-0 victories in which the French forward would provide the lone goal. It was a formula that allowed the club to join Spain’s elite. However, in 2016-17, he only holds six La Liga goals to his name, a far cry from his scoring rate in the past two campaigns.
Needs: Players to pay their taxes
What do you give to the club that has it all? Perhaps it’s more appropriate to analyse whatBarcelona wants, rather than what Barcelonaneeds.
So, what does Barcelona want? Well, for a club that is almost flawless on the pitch, it appears to be far from flawless off it. Lionel Messi,Neymar, Javier Mascherano, and Adriano were all involved in tax-related scandals, suggesting the Blaugrana’s players can stand to learn a thing or two about Spanish taxes. This is surely what the Catalan club, which can do no wrong in the eyes of many, want in 2017.
Needs: Second-half confidence
Celta Vigo is an example of how to throw points away in the second half of matches. The Galician club lost its first three La Liga fixtures of the season, despite entering the interval level with its opponent in each match. Eduardo Berizzo’s side then went on to lose at Espanyol by virtue of two goals in second-half stoppage time and settled for a draw at Las Palmas after blowing a three-goal lead.
If it weren’t for Iago Aspas‘ sensational form, Celta may have entered 2017 in the relegation zone.
Deportivo Alaves‘ return to La Liga is going about as well as its supporters can expect. Los Babazorros are, barring disaster in the second half of the season, set to avoid relegation. But discipline remains an issue for Mauricio Pellegrino’s side, as its 55 yellow cards are more than any side can claim to have collected in the league thus far.
Deportivo de La Coruna
Needs: A dribbler
In order to avoid a relegation battle, Deportivo de La Coruna stands to benefit from a natural dribbler, someone who can be relied upon to create chances by beating a defender in a one-on-one situation. The Galician club ranks 15th in dribbles per game, a statistic that coincides with its fifth-place ranking in goals scored from set pieces. Five of its goals in La Liga this season have come from a free-kick, more than any other side.
Needs: An attacking midfielder
Eibar, La Liga’s smallest club, is once again punching above its weight. Los Armeros are eighth in Spanish football’s top flight, which is phenomenal given the club’s humble background. Nonetheless, Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side could benefit from an attacking midfielder who can get the most out of Sergi Enrich, particularly after Jota was recalled by Brentford on New Year’s Eve.
Needs: A confident shooter
When your club ranks last in La Liga in shots per game and third-last in shots on target per game, it’s not hard to pinpoint what can be improved upon. That’s the situation Espanyol, the only club in the top half of the standings with a negative goal differential, finds itself in.Gerard Moreno can’t take the Catalan club to the next level on his own, and, simply put, things aren’t working out for Felipe Caicedo at RCDE Stadium.
Needs: An accurate forward
Sitting 19th in La Liga, Granada is in desperate need of a forward who can consistently hit the target. If the ball goes in, great. If it doesn’t, the ‘keeper is at least forced into making a save. The Nazaries have tallied a woeful 13 goals through their first 16 games of the season, and rank last in shots on target despite averaging a decent 10.4 shots per game. Without a sharp shooter, the club is unlikely to exit the relegation zone.
Needs: A centre-forward
It should come as no surprise that Paris Saint-Germain‘s Jese is reportedly set to return to his boyhood club, Las Palmas. The Amarillos have shown they aren’t afraid to chase big-name players such as Kevin-Prince Boateng. Quique Setien’s side could certainly improve on Marko Livaja, a centre-forward who is a yellow-card machine and generally underwhelming.
Needs: A dependable ‘keeper
Leganes, located 11 kilometres south of Spain’s capital and in La Liga for the first time in its 88-year history, is simply trying to avoid relegation in its inaugural season in Spanish football’s top flight. Los Pepineros are doing just enough to hover above safety, but their goalkeeping situation is in tatters. At one point in December, one ‘keeper was injured, another was suspended, one wasn’t wanted, and the other was a kid from the club’s youth team.
Needs: A turnaround under Marcelo Romero
Malaga ended 2016 in ugly form. The Andalusian club finished the year with just one victory in seven fixtures in all competitions, including a 4-3 Copa del Rey defeat at home to Cordoba that produced a 6-3 loss on aggregate. If Malaga is to avoid finding itself in a relegation battle, Romero, who was appointed as Juande Ramos’ successor following the latter’s resignation, will need to use January as a month to turn around the team’s fortunes.
Needs: A miracle
Where to even begin with Osasuna? Last in La Liga with one victory and 11 defeats, the Rojillos have been a train wreck since the season’s first matchday. Goals are nowhere to be found, as the club only found the back of the net once in its last six league matches of 2016. Things appear to be no better under Joaquin Caparros than they were under Enrique Martin Monreal, and it will take a miracle of biblical proportions to save Osasuna from relegation.
Real Betis is yet to win two consecutive games this season and sits only six points above the relegation zone as a result. January doesn’t look like a promising month to right the wrong. Los Verdiblancos have a pair of relatively easy fixtures in home matches against Leganes and Sporting de Gijon, but separating the games is a date with Atleti.
It seems greedy to assume Real Madrid, the reigning European champion and world champion by virtue of its conquest at the Club World Cup, needs to do anything in January. But, then again, Los Blancos are a greedy club, always looking for more even when things couldn’t be going any better. Supporters will surely just be hoping that Florentino Perez doesn’t do anything irrational in the January transfer window.
Needs: Anyone suited to its possession-heavy football
Real Sociedad played some of the best football in Spain through the first half of the season, ripping a page out of Barcelona’s notebook with its possession-heavy football. When the Basque club drew the Blaugrana in November, it felt like an unfair result. Eusebio Sacristan’s side outplayed the Catalan team, and the encounter marked the first time since 2008 that Barca didn’t have more possession than its opponent.
Basically, any player who can help Real fight for a place in the Champions League will be welcomed at Anoeta.
Needs: A midfielder who controls the game
Let’s be clear: at this very moment Sevilladoesn’t need a midfielder who can control the game. The Andalusian club’s squad includesSamir Nasri, who is enjoying his best season in recent memory. However, the French midfielder is being investigated by an anti-doping agency over treatment he received. There’s no reason to assume he’s guilty of anything and the investigation may have no impact on Sevilla’s season, but, in the event he is unable to play, Jorge Sampaoli’s side will have to give up on its dream of winning La Liga.
If Sevilla wants to play it safe, the club should consider preparing for the worst.
Sporting de Gijon
Needs: A bossy centre-back
Sporting de Gijon‘s problems run far deeper than its defence, but its backline is at the heart of why the club from Asturias finds itself in the relegation zone. On two occasions this season, Gijon conceded five goals. It’s also been a while since the club kept a clean sheet, the last one coming in October. A centre-back who can come in and organise its defence would be a blessing for Abelardo Fernandez’s side.
How can a club with the fourth-biggest budget in Spanish football be failing so spectacularly?Valencia is only outside of the relegation zone because of its goal differential and is without a permanent manager following Cesare Prandelli’s resignation. It feels like Los Che have hit rock bottom, but a level below rock bottom will be reached if the club fails to get things together in January.
Needs: To maintain its level
It’s hard to believe how well things have worked out for Villarreal this season. The Yellow Submarine parted company with Marcelino one week before the campaign kicked off, causing panic at El Madrigal. But under Fran Escriba, the club is thriving, set to compete for a spot in the Champions League and going into 2017 sitting fourth in La Liga.
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