The January transfer window has descended upon the A-League Men; the last real opportunity for its 12 sides to retool and reload in their attempts to challenge for the 2022-23 crown. Running from Jan. 11 to Feb. 7, the midseason window hasn't traditionally been the one in which a club's title winning bonafides are established but, with the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Luis Suarez, and Virgil van Dijk all moving in the year's opening month, history shows it can still serve to change a club's fortunes.
Of course, these windows have been littered with panicked deals that have failed to properly address the weaknesses they were envisioned to solve around the world; Fernando Torres' move to Chelsea springs to mind. Sometimes, the causes of this are as simple as the player not being good though or not the right fit for the system in spite of the scouting and due diligence. In other cases, however, these new additions will perform adequately in the role assigned to them, only for team performances to not improve; football departments misdiagnosing the issue with their squad and paying the price both literally and figuratively.
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In the A-Leagues, this is all made even more complicated by the lack of codified prohibition of transfers between ALM -- leading to the silly little dance of a player "mutually terminating" their deal at one side and then being announced as a "free agent" signing with another seconds later.
The broader discussions around a domestic transfer system are complicated but, from a practical sense, it does limit the pool that ALM clubs can draw on. New signings need to be players that rivals are willing to discard for nothing, players from tiers below the ALM, returning expats, or foreign stars ready to fill any vacant international spots. One club executive told ESPN of their hesitation to let a player who hasn't seen a single minute this season go based on the very small chance that they might sign with a rival.
It's a window fraught with uncertainty, but here are the areas that each ALM side will look to strengthen before the transfer window slams shut on Feb. 7.
Jump to: Adelaide United | Brisbane Roar | Central Coast Mariners | Macarthur FC | Melbourne City | Melbourne Victory | Newcastle Jets | Perth Glory | Sydney FC | Wellington Phoenix | Western Sydney Wanderers | Western United
In Craig Goodwin and Ben Halloran, Adelaide has two of the competition's premier attacking threats out wide. Often, however, the South Australians' forays forward will descend into hit-and-hope from the flanks and abandon the centre of the park entirely -- evidenced by the fact that the Reds lead the league in crosses this season.
Slowly returning to fitness, Zach Clough looks like he's set to be given a run centrally in support of towering striker Hiroshi Ibusuki but, behind him, 35-year-old Isaias and 36-year-old Juande have lost a step, are battling injury and discipline issues, and aren't providing the midfield with the kind of drive it needs.
If coach Carl Veart doesn't think that 21-year-old Louis D'Arrigo is capable of being a regular contributor, then reinforcement in the middle of the park with another body that is capable of providing the Reds' with more creativity and verve from the base of the midfield would help the team. Central defensive depth could also be sought.
It's not exactly a secret as to what the Roar are on the lookout for this January: coach Warren Moon himself saying that talks are already underway with attacking reinforcements to replace departed marquee Charlie Austin and provide some kind of edge in front of goal.
Melbourne Victory -- or even the Roar with Austin early this season -- has shown that simply plugging a new player into the forward line isn't a guarantee of success. But with one of the more solid defences in the league, the Roar desperately needs someone that can pop up and convert the scant chances they're creating this season up the other end.
Central Coast Mariners
With Garang Kuol's move to Europe now complete (the youngster debuted for Scottish side Hearts on Friday after being loaned out by new club Newcastle United), the Mariners will need to make a decision. Do they look to promote internally to replace the attacking output that Kuol brought to the team? Or do they look to the market to try and find someone that goes some way towards replicating his spark?
Looking at the Mariners' history under Nick Montgomery, and acknowledging that even under new ownership they're still not the most cash-rich of sides, don't expect the club to make any kind of splashes in the market -- especially with their recent moves to lock in their current squad to new deals. Coming back from an ACL tear, Brazilian attacker Moresche is already likely to boost the team late in the season.
Maybe some more depth in the midfield and at wing-back could be useful.
Bulls coach Dwight Yorke has declared that his side is "down to the bare bones" after a rash of injuries but has also said in some interviews that his side is looking to add further bodies and declared in others that they're unlikely to make any additions.
Looking at the squad at his disposal, the Manchester United legend has more than enough attacking talent on hand but, behind them, there are questions. No side averages less possession than the Bulls and they're capable of being excellent in transition but when they're unable to grab the first goal of the game they have proven devoid of answers this season: losing every game in which they have conceded the first goal.
A ball-playing midfielder in the Steven Ugarkovic-mould (not that he's going to be leaving the Phoenix) that could help open things up for Ulises Davila, Al Hassan Toure and Daniel Arzani would be a boost, as would more defensive depth.
With a firmly established starting XI, Melbourne City boss Rado Vidosic is already looking at instituting a rotation policy to ensure that the likes of Andrew Nabbout, Scott Jamieson and Florin Berenguer don't waste away on the bench. Thus it feels a bit churlish to even suggest that the league leaders really need to add anything.
In a push, the club could look at bringing in a veteran and preferably ball-playing holding midfielder to back-up Aiden O'Neill, who has battled injury problems in recent years.
While scoring goals remains the biggest problem for Victory, the attacking talent already assembled should be enough to improve -- the tools are there to score a lot more than they have with the right approach.
Nonetheless, with the four-time champions rooted near the bottom of the table and possessing two visa slots heading into January, the licence for coach Tony Popovic and head of football John Didulica to go to work and try to prevent the club's season from becoming unsalvageable is there.
A proper Brendan Hamill replacement that can spot-start for Roderick Miranda and Matt Spiranovic would be a welcome addition. Further, a decision perhaps needs to be made on if the current midfield composition is what the club needs to pull itself out of its rut -- be it in the form of youth getting a run, or bringing in a fresh face.
The Jets need help in a number of areas. After likely proving the difference as the club missed finals in 2021-22, the defence still needs shoring up even with the addition of young prospect Mark Natta. Creative dynamo Daniel Penha was never properly replaced either and, right now, ESPN Stats and Information marks the Jets as the statistically worst offensive team in the league.
The problem is that, right now, without owners, this club is effectively being run off the sniff of an oily rag and proper reinforcement is almost impossible. The stewardship from other A-Leagues clubs is more about keeping the lights on rather than actually empowering a potential rival.
Thus, the Jets' biggest need is the same as it's been for years: new, stable ownership. And then maybe a defender.
Glory has already addressed one of their major needs this January, with the opening of the window enabling Socceroos striker Adam Taggart to finally pull on the purple... at least once he's recovered from the new injury he's picked up. Taggart, however, will still need someone to get the ball into positions for him to score in and right now the Glory are struggling to do that at all.
Coach Ruben Zadkovich brought in several veteran additions to his side this offseason and with his claims it will be several windows until Glory are able to challenge for silverware, signings in any area of the park wouldn't surprise. But after 11 games and with Aaron McEneff out for an extended period he needs to either shuffle his deck or bring in someone that can provide a kickstart to a midfield that too often bogs down in possession. Further depth and competition at wing-back could also be added.
If Stefan Colakovski isn't in the club's plans despite their goal scoring woes, it's likely better for all they part company as well; Glory opening his slot up for others and the attacker able to seek minutes elsewhere.
Given the Harboursiders' struggles in the first season in the newly renovated Sydney Football Stadium, it feels likely that Sydney will try something in January, and a case can be made for an addition almost everywhere. Of course, their priorities might change if the club's board pay heed to growing fan sentiment and sack coach Steve Corica.
Alex Wilkinson's looming return should shore up a defence that has shipped the second most goals in the league this season and was unable to hold onto a 2-0 lead against Perth but, given some of the lapses that have been seen from the Sky Blue backline reinforcement back there may be worth exploring. At this point, Jack Rodwell's fitness cannot and should not be relied upon and arguably it never should have been to begin with.
Up the other end, Sydney are scoring, but they could be scoring more. Now in his second stint in the club, English striker Adam Le Fondre has three goals in nine appearances despite injuries but, with Patrick Wood pressing hard for minutes, a decision may soon be looming as to if the youngster, or a new addition from the academy and/or market, gets greater scope alongside Joe Lolley and Robert Mak in attack.
Ben Waine is now a Plymouth Argyle player but, with their visa slots filled, the Phoenix will need to find an Australian or New Zealander to fill the Waine Train's void if they wish to do so. Yet with academy graduates Ben Old and Oskar van Hattum waiting in the wings, such moves are unlikely.
Though back-to-back 1-0 wins have shown signs of defensive improvement, that they came against struggling Sydney FC and a blunt Brisbane Roar mean that it's too early to declare a leaky backline that shipped 18 goals across the opening 10 games of the season to be fixed; coach Ufuk Talay recently confirming discussions had taken place at the board level on bringing in a new defender.
Western Sydney Wanderers
The Wanderers possess one of the ALM's most miserly defences -- just ask City after they ran into a red and black armoured tortoise on Sunday -- and, in Calem Nieuwenhof, they already appear to have made one of the signings of the season. But with Sulejman Krpic failing to fire and Milos Ninkovic battling fitness issues (not a surprise at his age), coach Marko Rudan's side could certainly use some extra finishing power in the attacking third in order to convert a few more of their scant chances and keep pace with free-scoring City and the Mariners atop the table.
Outside of a thumping 4-0 win over Macarthur, the Wanderers have scored more than one goal in just a single game this season -- a 2-0 win over a struggling Jets. Beyond Krpic, Yeni Ngbakoto has been deployed as a No. 9 at times since his round six debut and 18-year-old debutant Nathanael Blair was up front against City. A more permanent solution in the centre of the attack, if Rudan doesn't want to play Kusini Yengi in that role, would be helpful.
What Western United does in the January window will likely hinge on what happens with two of their biggest names: striker Aleksandar Prijovic and defender Leo Lacroix. Both were linked with moves away from the club during the offseason and with the window opening up again, there is every chance that those drums will begin to beat again.
While Prijovic has found some semblance of form after slowly building up his fitness at the start of the season, and much of United's attack goes through him, Lacroix's drop-off across the season's opening months has been alarming. The Swiss defender has looked like a shadow of the dominant figure he was a season ago and his own goal in the 4-0 loss to City was his third of the season. If Lacroix really does want out, it's a call Western needs to make.
Ben Garuccio being lost for at least six weeks with a calf strain also opens the door for a potential injury replacement player, given that coach John Aloisi seemingly cares little for forgotten wing-back Dalibor Markovic. If Tongo Doumbia and Neil Kilkenny are the most optimal midfield pairing week in and week out, or if another ball-playing holder could be added to the mix is another possibility, given that Luke Duzel has also seemingly fallen out of favour.