Top 10 January 2016 Transfer Window Signings

10 – Anthony Knockaert (Standard Liege to Brighton)

Brighton had a fantastic start to the season but recently they have lost their form and are in a real battle to stay in the playoffs. They needed a spark and Knockaert could just make the difference come the end of the season.

Anthony Knockaert

9 – Steven Caulker (QPR to Liverpool)

This might seem a strange one but Caulker has a lot of potential and at the age of 24 he could go on to become one of England’s leading centre backs. He is better than what Liverpool have, if Klopp stops playing him upfront.

Steven Caulker

8 – Leroy Fer (QPR – Swansea)

Yet another QPR departure and with them getting relegated from the Premier League last year it would seem like they don’t have the quality but in Fer they had a midfielder that can really grab hold of a game which Swansea are in need of.

Leroy Fer

7 – Gianelli Imbula (Porto to Stoke City)

When he joined Stoke eyebrows were raised, especially when they broke their transfer record to bring him in. £18.3 million is a lot of money but Mark Hughes feels he needs more power in central midfield and is the replacement for Steven N’Zonzi.

Gianelli Imbula.jpg

6 – Steven Naismith (Everton to Norwich City)

He was not prolific for Everton but he can score goals when given the chance. He has got off to a decent start at Norwich and they certainly need more goals in their team if they want to stay in the top flight.

Steven Naismith

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92 clubs favourite players – Cardiff City – Craig Bellamy

Cardiff City are playing in the Premier League for the first time and they have a few players that I do like and hope perform well but the man that I like the most at their club is Craig Bellamy.

He definitely splits opinion as a lot of people hate him because of the way he conducts himself on the pitch, always arguing with officials and usually having something to complain about. At times I feel this has slightly worked against him as he does have a bad reputation but when he is fully focused and has the ball at his feet even now defenders are worried and he will play a big part in whether Cardiff can stay up. Manager Malky Mackay has already commented that this may be his last as a player and I can see this being the case especially if they do stay up as he will have achieved what he always wanted to.
Bellamy
Unfortunately I do not think he has enough time to get to 100 Premier League goals in his career and this is down to the fact that he did something that not a lot of top players would do and that is dropping down a division to play for the club he supports. But he does still have 79 goals and that is a decent return for someone that has never been prolific, he has only ever it double figures in the Premier League on two occasions (once for Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City). But it is interesting to note that he may have actually became a better goal scorer when he modified his position and starting playing out on the left wing rather than the main striker. He was harshly treated at Man City in my opinion because he was one of their better players when he was on the pitch and then followed this up with an impressive second spell at Liverpool where he scored 9 goals in 33 games.

One of the few things missing from his career is trophies because he has played for big teams when they were competing and he only has a Scottish Cup with Celtic and the League Cup with Liverpool, he probably could have won something at Newcastle United but he should be remembered fondly by them while he was on the pitch because he scored some crucial goals for them, including some goals in the Champions League and that is a position their fans can only wish to be in again.

Bellamy will also be disappointed with his international career because Wales have never came close to qualifying and now that they are finally producing players that will give them the opportunity he is coming to the end of his career.

He is ending his career in the right way and winning the Championship last season will have been one of the best moments even though he only contributed four goals he was still a major asset and now in the Premier League I am sure teams would rather not see his name on the team sheet as on his day he will give players the run around.

Who will be the Championship’s top scorer?

A lot of the time when a player finishes top scorer in the Championship their team finish within the top six.

That is why it is so important to have players that will put the ball in the back of the bet regularly and Championship teams are now starting to pay quite a bit of money for them.

An example of this is Jordan Rhodes who almost by himself kept Blackburn Rovers in the division last year will be hoping that he can just keep doing what he has been year after year. He is an exceptional goal scorer, give him a chance in the box and he will put it away. Personally I think if Blackburn don’t go up then he will still be in the Premier League next season because he deserves to have a chance in the top league.

Charlie Austin has just moved to QPR and this will give him even more chances to put the ball in the back of the net, he is playing with better players and will be involved in a promotion battle rather than a relegation battle. Yet again he is someone that I rate really highly and am surprised that a Premier League team has not signed him. He could be the difference between QPR going straight back up and spending another season in the Championship.

Reading striker Adam Le Fondre will be hoping that he gets more time on the pitch last season because even though he had a phenomenal goals to minutes ratio in the Premier League he still wasn’t given the opportunity to start many games and was used more as a super sub. I hope Adkins does use him better now and he will prove to everyone that he deserves another chance in the Premier League and fires Reading to the Championship title.

Chris Wood had a great start to his career at Leicester City but he didn’t quite keep his good run going and when the team were struggling so was he. That is not to blame him personally but it is slightly worrying that if the team aren’t performing neither is one of your main strikers. But he is still only a young player and will continually get better and maybe this is his season to shine. 7 goals in 17 games is still an impressive return and if he gets something similar next year he could be near the top of the goal scoring charts.

The final pick is Grant Holt. Not much needs to be said about this man, he has fired teams to promotion on several occasions and scored goals at every level including the Premier League so I expect him to lead the line for Wigan and score a lot of crucial goals. He may not have had the greatest year last year but it was not that long ago when some people were wanting him to be called up to Roy Hodgson’s England team.

Who will be Blackburn Rovers next manager?

Blackburn Rovers are searching for their second manager of the season after sacking Henning Berg after just 10 games in charge.

Berg, was only given 57 days but the board have decided that he is not the right man to take the club forward. Firstly, I would just say that I did not think this was a good appointment in the first place and although a lot of Blackburn fans will disagree with me, I thought Steve Kean was actually doing quite well for them this season. He had got a good squad together and they were picking up points and would have challenged for at least the playoffs. But, he was sacked and now Berg has joined him in the unemployed managers list. After playing 159 league games for Blackburn and being part of their title winning side, it was expected he was going to be given more time as the fans would surely have good memories of him as a player and believe he would want to be the man to get them back into the division that he once won with them. However, in his 10 games he only managed one win and the club has slipped down the table at an alarming rate. So, who can stop the slump and turn the club around?

Kevin MacDonald is currently the favourite to get the job and I do not think this appointment will excite the fans and this is not being disrespectful to MacDonald but the only experience of being a manager is two spells as a caretaker at Aston Villa and Leicester City. He has been a good assistant over the years but only 12 games as manager and only three wins is not what the club should be looking at right now. In his 12 games he also suffered a 6-0 defeat to Newcastle United.
But, even more remarkably Judan Ali has also been linked with the job and this would be ridiculous, so if this is MacDonald’s only genuine competition then he will surely get the job. Not a lot is known about Ali and this would certainly end in disaster. I am not saying Blackburn players are egotistical but they will not respond well to this unknown person coming into the club and telling them what to do. Apparently, Ali is a Bollywood star but if he does get the job this would be his biggest challenge yet.

Finally, Mark Hughes is also linked with the job, but to be honest I cannot see this happening , simply because I don’t think he will talk to the owners after seeing what they have done in the last few years. He would be a great choice and he would certainly bring a bit more respectability to the role but unfortunately for Rovers fans they may be the laughing stock of football once again when the new manager is announced. An interesting side point though is if Mark Hughes wants to get back into management, will he have to drop into the Championship?

Who will be Blackburn Rovers next manager?

Steve Kean has finally left Blackburn Rovers after months and months of unrest at the Championship club and the fans have finally got what they wanted.

Yes, I agree with them he definitely shouldn’t have been in charge for as long as he was and when things weren’t going right in the Premier League he should have gone but some of them went about it in the wrong way and just showed how fickle football fans are, one minute they were singing, ‘We are top of the league’ then when the results weren’t going well, ‘Kean out.’ I am glad he has gone because now the club can go forward and the fans will return to Ewood Park and support their team, but if they do end up getting promoted then Kean deserves a lot of credit because he has assembled a decent squad and his signings in the summer were good, in particular Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu and Jordan Rhodes. However, only 21 wins in 74 games is not good enough, so who will replace him?

The favourite is Tim Sherwood, who was their captain in 1995 when they won the Premier League title so he obviously knows what it is like to be around the club when everyone is happy and things are going their way. Sherwood could bring the good times back but it would be very risky in my opinion because this would be first managerial job and his lack of experience could work against him, especially in the Championship when there are a lot of managers that know what they are doing in the division. However, he has worked under some good managers in Harry Redknapp and Andre Villas Boas so if he ever needed advice he could ask them and I’m sure he will have a lot of contacts in the game so he could make some shrewd loan signings, if needed.

The next person linked with the role is also someone that was part of that title winning side and that man is Alan Shearer. Shearer, does have a little more experience than Sherwood but his short spell in charge of Newcastle United ended in relegation after losing five of his eight games in charge. I’m sure the fans would take to him as he was a legend at the club and scored goals for fun at the club so they would hope he would get the best out of their strikers, in particular, Jordan Rhodes, who has been branded the next Alan Shearer.

Finally, someone that may not be as popular but would get results in my opinion and that man is Mick McCarthy. He may not be a big name or even someone that would excite fans but he knows what he is doing and has achieved some sort of success everywhere he has been. Gaining promotion from the Championship isn’t easy and he has done it with both Sunderland and Wolverhampton Wanderers, both times winning the league in the process so he obviously knows exactly what is needed unlike his rivals for the post.

Who will be Wycombe Wanderers next manager?

After losing three games in a row Wycombe Wanderers and only four points from seven games the club have sacked manager Gary Waddock.

Waddock, had been in charge since 2009 and won promotion to League 1in the 2010-11 season, however they only lasted one season at the higher level and were relegated. They were expected to challenge at least for the playoffs this season even though they lost a few key players and Waddock will be disappointed he wasn’t given more time to turn it round. But, the board have decided that a change is needed and there is still an air of negativity around the ground and will hope that a new man will get them back where they believe they belong.

This job will surely interest quite a few out of work managers and this is the route that the club will most likely take because they will not want to pay compensation to another team for a manager. So, let’s look at the options, the favourite for the job is currently Brian Laws, and this may come as a surprise to some people because he has managed in the Premier League recently with Burnley and it will be quite a big drop to League 2. However, he hasn’t had a managerial job since his sacking at the Championship club in 2010 so he does need to find a way back into English football. Another reason why he may be a good choice is because he has won promotion from this division twice before, both times with Scunthorpe United, so he knows exactly what it takes and which players he will need to achieve promotion again.

Another manager linked with the job is former Sheffield Wednesday manager, Gary Megson. Many people believe he was harshly sacked as their manager as the team were performing pretty well and were comfortably in the playoff places, although in the end it did turn out to be a good decision as the team got promoted, he still deserves a lot of credit as he signed a lot of the players. His style of football is usually criticised too as it is very long ball and feeding off the scraps which could be a good thing in League 2 and may work to the teams advantage, however, if Wycombe don’t have the players then the fans will have to accept a transitional period while they get in the right players to play his tactics.

Finally, Paul Ince could be in the running for the job, and it just shows that Wycombe can attract good managers because all three of these have managed in the Premier League at one point. Ince didn’t have the best of times at Blackburn Rovers but he has proved in the lower leagues he can be a success with both Macclesfield Town and MK Dons. His win record of 43.37% is not bad either and if he can replicate this at Wycombe then he would surely get them challenging for the playoffs at least.

Where did it all go wrong for David Bentley?

England beat Moldova 5-0 last night with James Milner playing on the right wing but things could have been so different had David Bentley lived up to his tag of David Beckham’s replacement.

The former Arsenal youngster was tipped for greatness and his attributes were similar to the former England captain with him only needing a yard to put in a cross and not relying on pace or trickery to beat his marker. But where did it all go wrong and why is he now playing in Russia for FC Rostov instead of in the England squad? He has picked up seven caps for his country and did have the talent to be a success but maybe it was his transfer to Tottenham Hotspur that slowed his career and may have effectively finished his international career.

At Blackburn Rovers he was one of their best players and even scored a hatrick for them against Manchester United which not many people have managed to do. In the 2005-06 season he helped the club finish sixth and qualify for the UEFA Cup as it was called at the time. This just shows how far both player and club have fallen away. Bentley followed this up with two more very impressive seasons, playing 97 times, scoring 15 goals and contributing 26 assists for his side and this obviously lead to speculation that he would be leaving the club and there were even rumours that he could be joining Manchester United and in the summer of 2008 he would leave the club for Tottenham Hotspur.

Just looking at the stats of his time at the North London club you can see the problem he only played 42 times in the league in his four years at the club which makes you wonder what the problem was with him because they also splashed out £15 million for him and with his experience and quality in the Premier League it wasn’t seen as a gamble. Although they may have overpaid but that is expected because at the time he was in and around the England squad so his price tag was always going to be high. Other than a few brief moments of quality, in particular his volley against Arsenal in the 4-4 draw and a couple of other goals there isn’t much to say about his time at Spurs, he just didn’t really get the chance and after his first season where he played 35 times he was always behind Aaron Lennon in the pecking order for both club and country.

He has had two loan moves in the last two seasons but neither of them have been particularly impressive, with him spending a lot of time on the substitutes bench at Birmingham City and after agreeing a season long loan move to West Ham United he got injured after only five games and returned to his parent club.

Bentley was always a player I thought highly of, especially at Blackburn where he was a constant threat but there must be a reason why it hasn’t worked out for him since and I hope he can recapture some of his form and come back to England after his spell in Russia and at least be a decent Premier League player.

Who will win the Premier League?

Manchester City won the title last season in the last minute of the last game which ended one of the best ever Premier League seasons.

This year in my opinion there are only three real contenders for the title but I will include five with two of them being very outside chances that even I don’t believe they could actually win it but you never know, football is a very strange game and even Blackburn Rovers have won a Premier League title (things were slightly different when they won it though).

Obviously, Manchester City are the favourites to once again win the title and they will be hoping it is a little more straight forward than last year. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail on why they could win the title because it is obvious, they have the players and now the experience of winning the big one, and they will want even more success. One thing that does worry me though is this change of formation manager Roberto Mancini is trying and maybe he should remember the saying if it isn’t broke then don’t fix it.

Alex Ferguson will want his title back and I think this is his last objective as manager of Manchester United. He won’t retire in my opinion until he has toppled the noisy neighbours and he obviously wants to do it this year with the signings of Shinji Kagawa and they expected arrival of Robin Van Persie. They already look a more attacking threat and if all the players click then it may be an even closer title race than last year, if that is even possible.

Chelsea will be hoping for a much better season than last year and they have made their intentions known to the rest of the country with their signings this summer, in particular, Eden Hazard who was wanted by pretty much all of Europe so it was quite a coup for them. The big question is whether Roberto Di Matteo is good enough to challenge for the title? Yes he won the Champions League and FA Cup last year but he was also sacked as manager of West Brom not long ago, to me , this was a harsh decision but it happened nevertheless.

Now, we get onto the outsiders. Arsenal could challenge for the title if there team can perform well together both offensively and defensively. Their new signings Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud all have a lot of ability but with their lack of Premier League experience they may not be at their best till half way through the season and by then it will be too late. Losing Van Persie will obviously weaken them so they cannot afford to lose anyone else and with Alex Song linked with a move to Barcelona they definitely need to keep hold of him.

From Arsenal to a team that may not even finish in the top six in the coming season, Liverpool. This can only go in one of two ways for me, 1) Brendan Rodgers gets the team playing brilliantly and they adapt to his style of play and new signing Fabio Borini and Luis Suarez both score goals for fun leading them to at least a place in the top four, or 2) The players just can’t get to grips with the new tactics and have yet another season of disappointment, finishing around 7th place.

Who will be the Championship’s top scorer?

Kevin Doyle may not have scored enough goals to keep Wolves in the Premier League but he will be hoping to fire them back there. The last time he played in the Championship he scored 18 goals in 42 games which is a very good record and if he can replicate that sort of form then he will surely come close to being top goal scorer. In my opinion he owes Wolves as he has only scored 21 goals in 102 games and that has not been good enough and only scoring 4 of them in the league last season is one of the reasons they got relegated.

New Cardiff City signing Heidar Helguson will also be hoping to score a lot of goals in the coming season and at least get them into the playoffs. Helguson is probably slightly frustrated that he is not still in the Premier League as he scored nine times in just 16 games for QPR last season. However, he is 34 now and his best years may be past him and the last time he was in the Championship he only scored 13 goals in 34 games. I think he will be vital to Cardiff this year but will only be an outsider for the Golden Boot trophy.

Jermaine Beckford may have only got nine league goals last year but I think he could get a lot more this season with Leicester possibly pushing for an automatic promotion place. Last season was his first full one in the Championship but he has had a full season in the Premier League so maybe he should have performed slightly better but now he has a good understanding with strike partner David Nugent he could score the same amount of goals he did in League 1.

Huddersfield Town star man Jordan Rhodes has to be a consideration because in my opinion with the way that he plays the game he will score goals at all levels. He has fantastic movement and scores all types of goals which will mean he will be a marked man but if he is given the service he will put away his chances. There are rumours that he could be leaving for Blackburn Rovers and this would only help him to score more goals but even if he stays at Huddersfield I expect him to get over 15 goals.

Finally, Craig Bellamy has to be considered an outsider because he has proved he can score goals in this division in his previous spell on loan at Cardiff City. He will be doing all he can to get his hometown club promoted and what better way to do it than score the most goals in the division. The 33 year old has never reached 20 goals but this could be the year that he does it and he will no doubt prove to be a fantastic signing but if he can add the goals to his game then he will be the signing of the season.

Who will win the Championship?

Bolton Wanderers are one of the favourites to be promoted straight back to the Premier League and it is clear to see why. They have kept the majority of the squad from last year and in my opinion it should have been good enough to survive in the Premier League. At the back they have Zat Knight who is a capable defender and David Wheater and new signing Matt Mills so they are covered there. In midfield they have the returning pair of Lee Chung Yong and Stuart Holden combined with the quality of Mark Davies and Chris Eagles they should be able to control most games with these players. The only position they are struggling with slightly is in attack as they seem to lack a consistent goal scorer but I have high hopes for both Marvin Sordell and Benik Afobe this season.

Last year many people believed that Leicester City would walk the title and would be preparing for a season in the Premier League right now but unfortunately for them it didn’t quite work out and a lot of their bigger names didn’t perform their best. Now, with Nigel Pearson back in charge they look set to be contenders once again. Both David Nugent and Jermaine Beckford can score goals in this division and Wes Morgan marshalling the defence I expect a much better showing from them this year.

Neil Warnock has got QPR and Sheffield United promoted to the Premier League in the past and will now be hoping to work his magic at Leeds United. The only problem I see with backing Leeds is the fact that they keep losing their best players and the ones that can produce a bit of magic like Robert Snodgrass but nevertheless they do still have payers like Ross McCormack (who is actually linked with a move away) and Luciano Becchio who can score all types of goals so they will be challengers.

Wolves were just awful towards the end of last season and that will have hurt their players and they will be hoping to bounce back to their best this season and give the fans something to cheer about. They could be losing three of their better players though before the transfer window with Michael Kightly already leaving and both Steven Fetcher and Matt Jarvis being linked with Premier League clubs it may not be so easy. Also the team will have to get to grips with what Stale Solbakken or it will be another season of disappointment and they may get stuck in the Championship for a number of years.

Finally, the third team that were relegated from the Premier League, Blackburn Rovers also make my shortlist and it was a difficult decision on whether to include them because they have someone in charge that seems to be a very poor manager but in his defence he has brought in some good signings and that’s what is making me think they could win the title. Danny Murphy could prove to be the signing of the season in the Championship and lead them back to the Premier League.