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2018 January Transfer Window: 5 Players That Need A Move

A yellow tieHappy 2018, or in football terms, welcome to the latest upheaval caused by the January transfer window! This annual, mid-season 'event' remains the footballing equivalent of marmite. It may have been around for 15 years now, but the strong divide in opinions that it stirs up, are as fervent as ever. 

The canary yellow tie of gurning enthusiast, Jim White, has my strongest sympathies. Dusted off once a year, this fashion accessory is the primary witness to the Scottish presenter and his desperate efforts to fill air-time, even though he has nothing to say. If ties ever become self-aware, we'll witness Mr White being throttled to death one January...'Live on Sky Sports News!' 

What's certain, is that by the time we get to January 31st 2018, the vast majority of transfers will have long been negotiated and resolved. Whilst most of the deals in those last 24 hours, will be of the 'panic-buy' variety. 

That being said, the January transfer window does offer a chance of escape, for those players who find themselves in an undesirable predicament. There will be some who have fallen out of favour, especially if their manager has changed since last August, and others who now wish to force a move to meet their ambitions. So, with that in mind, here are 5 footballers who should seriously consider a new club this transfer window.

(1) Theo Walcott

The speculation has gathered pace for this footballing enigma, with Walcott originally being linked to a move back to his old club Southampton, but now looking set for the more attractive career option of Everton. Big Sam Allardyce used a recent press-conference to express his admiration for the Arsenal winger, and the feeling is that this is a move that could reinvigorate the player.

As a Gunner myself, it pains me somewhat to be advocating a move for Theo. But, it has become increasingly clear this season, that Arsène Wenger no longer considers him capable of holding down a spot in the Premier League. In fact, Walcott has so far played just 63 minutes, across 6 games, in the league this season. That is a pretty damning statistic, especially as it's not as if Arsenal are in a dominant position, with a nailed-on first 11.

Walcott still hopes to force his way back into the England squad for the World Cup in Russia, but if he stays in London, this will be a pipe dream. As sad as it is to admit, the player would most likely be better off with a fresh start. He's nearing 400 games for Arsenal, has scored 108 goals, and won 3 FA Cups, and yet as things stand, he is further down the pecking order than ever before.

(2) Matteo Darmian

Purchased by Louis van Gaal, this defender had a decent start to life at Manchester United, but has since fallen out of favour under the management of José Mourinho. Darmian last played in the Premier League on December 2nd, and has only appeared in it 4 times this campaign.

Considering that Mourinho gave Darmian 18 Premier League outings during 2016/17, it seems clear that the Italian is on a downward trajectory at Manchester United. Injuries may offer him a way back into the team, or he may experience a Lazarus-esque resurrection like Luke Shaw, but these look like doubtful outcomes. 

What sounds more likely, is that Darmian will be offered a route back into Serie A, where he made his reputation with Torino. He would certainly make a good addition to one of the top six clubs, and this may be the more appealing option, rather than biding his time with the Red Devils, and hoping that he can convince Mourinho of his long-term worth.

(3) Hatem Ben Arfa

What a conundrum Hatem Ben Arfa is. The view of him in the UK, is of a mercurial talent who promised so much but ultimately ended up as a disappointment. Newcastle United persisted with him for 4 years, until they cancelled his contract in January 2015.

The Frenchman returned home and was given a fresh opportunity by Nice, where, to much surprise, he flourished. After the 2015/16 season, when he scored 17 goals in Ligue 1 and was recalled to Les Bleus, he was rehabilitated as a top transfer target. This led to PSG swooping in and adding him to their squad in July 2016.

Last season he played a majority of the time, contributing to PSG winning the Coupe de Ligue and the Coupe de France. However, Ben Arfa was left on the bench for the final of the former, and didn't even make the squad for the latter. It was already becoming clear that his significance to the team was on the wane. More than halfway through this season, and the winger has yet to make it on to the pitch in the league. Another French club could come in for him, but the rumours are the player himself fancies a Premier League return, with Leicester City being touted.

(4) Iker Casillas

The former Real Madrid captain, and club legend, had a controversially underwhelming departure from Los Merengues in 2015, but he at least found solace in a move to Porto FC. However, the past 2 seasons have coincided with an usual trophy drought for Porto, and the 2017/18 Primeira Liga is looking like it could end up as a thrilling 3-way tussle for the title, against Sporting Lisbon and Benfica. 

Porto remain unbeaten in the league, alongside their 2 rivals, and Casillas started this season as 1st choice goalkeeper. The Dragões won their first 7 games and then drew 0-0 against Sporting, but since then Casillas has been relegated to the subs bench, despite having kept 6 clean sheets. 

On the one hand, Casillas should be desperate to reclaim his position, and to finally secure a trophy with Porto. But on the other hand, he'll be 37 in May, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he was open to offers that would get him back on to the pitch sooner. He isn't that old for a goalkeeper these days, and could still be coveted by many clubs around Europe, but what's more likely is that Casillas could be attracted by the idea of being a star player in the MLS, with Chicago Fire being mentioned. 

(5) Ahmed Musa

The Nigerian forward was one of the wave of purchases made by Leicester City, in the wake of their famous Premier League title triumph. Whilst he was granted plenty of playing time during the tumultuous 2016/17 season, he failed to deliver much on the goal-scoring front. Just 2 were registered in the league, with 4 across all competitions, in 34 appearances. 

Following the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, prospects for Musa dwindled under Craig Shakespeare, only getting off the bench 3 times whilst he was in charge. And things have got worse since Claude Puel took over, as Ahmed Musa has made just 1 Premier League match day squad this season (versus Liverpool on December 30th). 

A mere 18 months after joining the champions of England, the player must be wondering how everything could have gone so wrong. He's already on his 3rd manager, and each change has led to him being further and further away from the 1st team. Reports suggest Musa could well remain in the Premier League beyond January 31st, but it may end up being as a loan signing for one of the mid-table clubs.

This is just 5 high-profile footballers that should seriously consider their options in January 2018, and every club, at every level, will have their equivalents. Do you think they should stay or go, or do you have some better ideas on which players need a transfer move now?

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