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January window Q & A with smarterscout's Dan Altman

The January transfer window is always a bit of an enigma. We usually read predictions that it will be disappointing, and yet clubs almost always end up spending a lot of money before it's over. This season, the pandemic has put a dent into clubs' finances. But that also means there are plenty of clubs eager to sell their top players to make ends meet. Television rights issues in France may force clubs to sell players, too, and the competitiveness of Europe's top five leagues could multiply the potential buyers. Once again, it's actually hard to say what will happen.

That won't stop us from speculating, of course – it's part of the fun. So on the eve of the January 2021 window, smarterscout creator Dan Altman took questions from Twitter users. Here's a selection:

With Liverpool pretty much requiring a CB who should we be looking at to partner Fabinho? Would love to know what the data says on Sven Botman of Lille :) (@H23football)

Earlier we suggested Christian Luyindama or Diego as possibilities at RCB. There aren't many great options for someone who could slot right in. You can check Sven Botman's stats at a Premier League standard for free on our site, but here's a thread.

What player would you sign for Man Utd to challenge/replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back? (@BenMUFC__)

I think we'd be looking for another young player who had high ball retention with a good rate of dribbling forward and a lot of link-up passing, but with higher attacking output. Achraf Hakimi comes to mind right away, but if he'd be too pricey, Celtic's Jeremie Frimpong is a very interesting 20-year-old who's been flagged by our young prospects algorithm.

With City in need of a left footed left back,left winger and a finisher who do you think Man City should sign? (@teenage_pundit)

I would take a look at Villarreal's Pervis Estupinan and Alfonso Pedraza. Both of them tick a lot of boxes for Manchester City, and from there it's a question of style, speed, and intangibles. Both can play further forward as well, though neither is great in duels.

Havertz and Werner have struggled to adapt to the league, do you think this struggle continues? (@EdenToMadrid)

For me both of them have often been played out of position. Kai Havertz does drift to the right and then make runs through the channel, but he's not a typical winger in the sense that he tends to make telling passes and then arrive late to clean up any leftovers in the box. When he does receive behind the back line, he's usually on the dead run centrally. He's more of a second striker or even an 8/10 sort of player for me, something Frank Lampard knows a bit about. Timo Werner drifts in from the left as the point of the spear, so he could play in a two or next to a false nine. It would be interesting to see Havertz as that false nine, with Werner to his left and Christian Pulisic or Hakim Ziyech on his right, similar to how Liverpool sets up with Roberto Firmino arriving late. Then Chelsea could play Mason Mount, Mateo Kovacic, and N'Golo Kante in midfield behind this front three. But it might not work for every opponent; sometimes you need a battering ram like Olivier Giroud or a runner like Tammy Abraham up front.

What do you think would be an ideal midfield profile for Arsenal to target in this window for maximal gains? Someone to partner Partey or play ahead of him. Also, would love to hear your opinion on Julian Brandt for Arsenal. (@Manoj_ISR)

Julian Brandt isn't a bad shout, but he might require Arsenal to bring in a real AM to play in a midfield three. Dani Ceballos gives you more aggressive passing from CM than Brandt likely would, though Brandt can get into the box himself.

Who would you suggest to Tottenham creation problem? I'm thinking in someone Eriksen-esque (aka like Eriksen 16/17 season, playing as a winger playmaker who can also play as a 10) (@grohsarthur)

Ziyech might have fit that role pretty well, but he's gone to Chelsea and Spurs will probably look to sign someone younger, anyway. On that note, they may want to watch Carlo Holse at Rosenborg. Matheus Pereira also fits the profile and may be available if West Brom go down. Harry Wilson could be growing into the right sort of player, too.

Villa need a centre Mid to backup to Luiz and McGinn & Luiz has a buyback clause to City that could be activated at any time... any early/mid 20s DM that matches his profile? (@LukeBenoit08)

Frank Onyeka might be a good option, as he's played a very similar style to Douglas Luiz's in the Champions League for Midtjylland. And if Fulham are relegated, Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa would fit the bill as well.

According to your data, who should Manchester United buy as Central Defender and Central Midfielder please? (@HugoFerrandis)

Despite his recent form, I think Victor Lindelof has been a weakness, so I would look at RCB. A while back we suggested Alessio Romagnoli for style and personality. For a CM, Houssem Aouar would probably be near the top of the list, and Fabian Ruiz might be a good fit as well.

Who do you think Wolves should sign as a replacement for Raúl Jimnez whilst he’s out injured. (@Supermancooks)

If money is no object and they're looking for a veteran who can slot right in, Gerard Moreno might do the trick. Outstanding finisher, rather similar style to Raul Jimenez.

In your view, which Belgian Pro League player would be most ready for a transfer to the Big 5 leagues? (@Karel_DMeester)

Krepin Diatta is a player we've highlighted. I also think Hans Vanaken is underrated, though some scouts think he might be too slow for a top league.

Hi! Who should Lazio buy to replace the long-injured Senad Lulic on the left flank? Thank you! (@Giups58)

Robin Gosens would probably have the easiest transition over from Atalanta, but if he's too expensive or unavailable they should take a look at Eduard Sobol. He's on loan at Club Brugge from Shakhtar Donetsk, but Brugge have an option and could buy to sell.

Do you think Sardar Azmoun will move in Jan window or summer? And what level of club do you think he is capable of playing for? (@ScottyLaw100)

Sardar Azmoun is a rather unusual player. He's a target man who can score with his head but very rarely goes up for aerials if he's not shooting. He operates pretty centrally, linking up on the edge of the final third, but he likes to dribble into the box on the GK's right. Plenty of clubs that play the ball on the floor will be interested in him, but Zenit needn't rush to sell him as his contract ends in 2022. Because Iran are so high in the FIFA men's rankings, Azmoun would get a work permit automatically in the UK. He might find beating Premier League GKs to be a challenge, though.

What U.S MLS prospects should clubs be on the lookout for potentially in January or season's end? (@FoureyedNate)

This discussion often starts with Gianluca Busio. We've talked about him before – he's one of the brightest young stars in MLS and still just 18 years old. Juventus and Barcelona have both apparently been interested.

Michael Olunga just finished top goal scorer in Japan what League in Europe do you think suits him best should he move? (@Naythan_DK)

Michael Olunga is such a dedicated target man, and is so good in the air, that maybe Serie A could work. He could also test himself in the EFL Championship if he were looking to get into the Premier League eventually. He might need to add a bit more variety to his game in that case.

anybody from the kleague standout as ready to move abroad? (@kleaguenglish)

We singled out Bum-Keun Song recently on our feed. He's an excellent shotstopper who's waiting for his chance with the Korean national team. At age 23, he's already been strong in the K League 1 for years and deserves a move to a more challenging league.

My question: in one tweet, sell smarterscout to a football club when they ask what benefit it will give them in the transfer market. (@BrennasFootball)

smarterscout offers a quick, objective second opinion on 50,000+ players in 48+ leagues around the world, available 24/7 on any device, with cutting-edge metrics and data visualisations.

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