January squad number conundrums
By Tom Dean
It’s January once again which means fans everywhere will be dreaming of the winter signings that could change the fortunes of their teams this season.
Some will be dreaming big, some will be thinking practically and others will already be visualising how the shirt looks hanging in the dressing room.
Here’s a look at some potential big movers in the market and how they could slot in.
The league leaders appear to be closing in on Ukrainian winger Mykhailo Mudryk to help bolster their shot at a first league title in almost 20 years.
The Shakhtar Donetsk winger has attracted a lot of attention for his performances domestically and in the Champions League and would be a statement signing for the Gunners.
However his favoured number 10 shirt, which he wears for both club and country is currently being occupied by Emile Smith-Rowe, who has only managed to play 62 minutes so far this season.
In fact the only first team number currently available in Mikel Arteta’s squad is 2, which was vacated by Héctor Bellerín in the summer. Ben White has since nailed down the right back spot and it will be interesting to see where Arteta sees his future in the team – in any case a summer switch seems unlikely.
There’s been a lot of speculation surrounding potential defensive incomings at Chelsea with Benoît Badiashile already confirmed as the latest addition to a leaky backline.
The Frenchman has inherited Andreas Christensen’s old number 4 shirt while 2 and 3 still remain available following the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso in the summer.
A mega deal for World Cup star Enzo Fernández appears to have collapsed but the west London club are now reportedly on the brink of announcing Atlético Madrid forward João Félix as their newest shiny new toy.
The 2019 Golden Boy winner has worn the number 7 since his big money move to Atlético but is likely to slip into the vacant number 11 for his loan stint at Stamford Bridge – the same number he wore for Portugal at the World Cup.
Graham Potter has already recruited fellow forwards David Datro Fofana and Andrey Santos during the January window while the numbering at the club has become increasingly wild, especially after the summer arrivals of Marc Cucurella and Wesley Fofana. It looks as though a big reshuffle is now in order, especially with the confirmed arrival of Christopher Nkunku.
The Reds have already made their statement move of the window by securing another standout World Cup youngster in Cody Gakpo.
The 23-year-old has been on fire this season scoring 18 times for club and country but after their performance in the 3-1 defeat to Brentford, it looks like Jurgen Klopp has targeted the wrong area for immediate improvement.
It seems unlikely that the Dutchman has been signed as a long-term midfield option and the assignment of the number 18 while Sadio Mané’s old number 10 remains available would seem to support that theory.
It could also be that that specific shirt is being withheld with a specific player in mind. But while the Jude Bellingham rumours continue to bubble away in the background, Liverpool might be more concerned with saving their season and making Anfield a realistic destination for Europe’s hottest property.
Spurs are likely to be about as unpredictable in the transfer market as they have been on the pitch this season but they look like they need reinforcements throughout the squad.
The right-sided wing-back slot remains a problem area for Antonio Conte and despite the club signing no less than four (if we include Ivan Perišić) in recent seasons, they are now looking at another potential target.
Sporting Lisbon’s Pedro Porro is the most recent target and there’s no doubt the Spaniard would jump to the front of queue for a starting position. Porro has fluttered between the number 2 and 24 during his short career but both are currently occupied by Matt Doherty and Djed Spence respectively.
The other name on the shopping list from Lisbon is academy graduate Marcus Edwards. The 24-year-old made just one appearance for Spurs wearing the number 48 before moving to Portugal in 2019 – a return would almost certainly see that number slashed.
Meanwhile Spurs Women have laid down a marker with the club and Women’s Super League record signing of striker Bethany England from Chelsea.
The England international has been recruited to help eradicate the team’s long-running goalscoring problem however the 28-year-old will have to start life in north London without her favoured number 9 shirt, instead wearing number 19 – the same number she wore during the Lionesses European triumph last summer.
Inevitably the focus at Old Trafford has shifted from Cristiano Ronaldo, to who is going to replace him. Big boots to fill and an even bigger shirt to wear with the legendary number 7 now left open.
Erik ten Hag says he wants a new striker but whether there is anyone available to fill that space in January is another question.
United’s focus appears to have made a dramatic switch from Félix to Burnley striker Wout Weghorst over the last couple of days. The Dutchman has been on loan at Besiktas for the first half of the season but is now poised to make a shock move to Manchester.
If the deal does go through however, the likelihood of him stepping out in the coveted number 7 is minimal. His preferred numbers 9 and 19 are also unavailable so it could end up being a lucky dip for the striker.
The Villans have made a big splash in the window with the acquisition of former Arsenal and England midfielder Jordan Nobbs.
The 30-year-old has been one of the most prominent players since the WSL’s inception back in 2012 and has amassed an incredible trophy collection throughout her career.
With her iconic number 8 – which she wore for the entirety of her Arsenal career – unavailable a new chapter in the number 88 now awaits. The switch will make her the highest numbered player this season, and almost certainly in the history of the league.