Where every Scottish Premiership club may look to strengthen in January

Brendan Rodgers and Celtic could be in for a busy January. Picture: John Devlin
Brendan Rodgers and Celtic could be in for a busy January. Picture: John Devlin
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A run-down of every top flight club and where they’ll be looking to strengthen their squads in January.

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ABERDEEN

Back-up right-back | centre-back in his peak years | forward with physical presence | robust midfielder

Shay Logan hasn’t been particularly poor this year, he just hasn’t played to his best. The right-back is currently in his fifth season with the club and will turn 30 later this month. He’s never really had proper competition at his position before. This wasn’t an issue before as he’s Mr Reliable in terms of injuries and performances, but Aberdeen could perhaps now benefit by giving him a competitor to fight off.

Scott McKenna and Kari Arnason as the starting centre-back partnership wasn’t Derek McInnes’ plan from the outset, but they’ve performed excellently since being thrown together in the aftermath of the Dons’ League Cup exit to Motherwell. However, McKenna is only 21 and playing in his first full top-flight season, it would be naive not to expect a dip in form at some stage, while Arnason is in his mid-30s and only on a one-year deal.

The club have an embarrassment of riches up front with Adam Rooney, Stevie May and Nicky Maynard sometimes vying for one spot, not to mention Greg Stewart and prodigal son Niall McGinn capable of providing cover. However, they still lack the battering ram, back-to-front option that’s been absent since Jayden Stockley’s exit.

They could similarly use some physical presence in the centre of the park. O’Connor has filled in diligently since it was discovered that signing Greg Tansey was not a good idea, though many fans are yet to be convinced he’s the answer.

CELTIC

First-choice right-back | back-up left-back | attacking midfielder | possible Moussa Dembele replacement

Mikael Lustig’s performances over the last couple of months have led to many supporters to wonder whether the 31-year-old Swede, who’s suffered injury problems during his career, may be coming to the end of his time as a nailed on starter. With Cristian Gamboa apparently unfancied by Brendan Rodgers and Anthony Ralston out injured, the Celtic boss could look to reinforce his defence on this side. It would also give him the opportunity to use Lustig in a central role if they were light on cover. While he’s not viewed as the answer to Celtic’s problems inside, he’s still a superior alternative to Nir Bitton.

Kieran Tierney is the only experienced left-back in the squad and, with the Scottish international among those rotated recently to keep legs fresh, an extra body would help.

Centre-back has been mooted as a position the club should be looking to upgrade. Although, with Kristoffer Ajer showing great promise, Marvin Compper signing from RB Leipzig, and Jozo Simunovic, Dedryck Boyata and Erik Sviatchenko still at the club, they may wait to move one or two of these players on before signing another centre-half.

Further forward, Jonny Hayes is going to be out for a considerable period of time through injury, Patrick Roberts will return to Manchester City in the summer and, though talk of poor form is slightly overblown, it’s not an exaggeration to say Scott Sinclair isn’t at the top of his game at the moment. With Stuart Armstrong similarly underwhelming and Tom Rogic continuing to be hamstrung by injury issues, another attack-minded midfielder capable of operating across the triumvirate behind the striker would provide the team with a spark.

Up top, it’s difficult to envision Rodgers signing an additional striker - seeing as he prefers to use one - unless Moussa Dembele is sold. If the Frenchman leaves, finding his replacement will jump right to the top of the wishlist.

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DUNDEE

Goalscoring striker | left winger | goalkeeper to compete for No.1 spot | Basque Jon deal

Dundee aren’t bad at knocking the ball about and they’ve got some players who can create chances. They just can’t score them. Marcus Haber has a decent record, though Neil McCann doesn’t like his lack of application. The Dundee boss prefers Soufien Moussa, but he only seems to score penalties. A hitman capable of bagging 15 goals in a season would transform Dundee into a top six contender.

The Dees could also use someone who they can trust to be a source of creativity on the left-wing. So far they’ve used Randy Woulters, Faissal El Bakhtaoui and Scott Allan. The latter two are playing out of position, and can often look it, while the former just hasn’t been good enough.

Another goalkeeper is badly needed to provide some experience competition for new No.1 Elliot Parish after Scott Bain’s exit to Hibs.

The club will also be keen to get a new contract signed for Jon Aurtenetxe. The Basque left-back has impressed in recent weeks but is now out of contract.

HAMILTON

A striker or two | starting centre-back | cover at wing-back

Botti Biabi has returned to Swansea City after an unsuccessful loan spell, while Antonio Rojano will likely be out until February at the earliest. That leaves just Rakish Bingham as the club’s only out-and-out striker, with David Templeton and Steven Boyd able to play in the deeper second-striker role in Accies’ 3-5-2 system. Injury to Bingham in late January would spell disaster, so finding another striker is of the utmost importance.

They also have a pressing need at centre-back after Georgios Sarris was unceremoniously dumped following a flashpoint at the end of Accies’ 1-0 loss to Partick Thistle. Michael Devlin is injured, so it leaves them with little cover behind the back three of Alex Gogic, Xavier Tomas and Scott McMann.

There could also be a hole to fill on the right side of their team with Ioannis Skondras facing a possible suspension well into the New Year after he manhandled referee Gavin Duncan and threw a couple of punches at his Ross County opponents in a mid-December win. On the other side, there’s no direct replacement for Dougie Imrie either.

HEARTS

Pacy winger | striker with good decision making | left-back | deep-lying playmaker

There’s a real lack of pace in the Hearts attack with only David Milinkovic truly capable of getting in behind. There still remains a dearth of out-and-out natural wide players at the club anyway, so signing a fast winger could kill two birds with one stone.

Milinkovic is one of many Hearts attackers who you would call unpredictable in the final third. Sometimes this can be a good thing, as the opposition doesn’t know what they’re going to do, but it means there’s stretches during games where little cohesion and understanding exists in the final third. A forward who consistently makes the right decision, while also providing more of a goal threat than the scoreless Cole Stockton, would be most welcome.

Now, to the left-back issue. Hearts signed two in the summer to try and finally solve a long-held problem, and it still didn’t work. Once again, the club will be searching for an upgrade at the position in the January window. Although, seeing as a back four featuring Michael Smith - a right-back filling in on the other side - has excelled in recent weeks, this may no longer be viewed as the urgent requirement it once was.

There’s a reason Hearts have utilised a pair of 16-year-olds in the centre of the park this season: Harry Cochrane and Anthony McDonald are two of the better passers of the ball in the team. An experienced talent to sit in front of the defence and help dictate the tempo wouldn’t go amiss.

HIBS

Goalscoring striker | full-back cover (or an upgrade) | possible John McGinn replacement

If Hibs had a forward capable of scoring 20 goals - think Anthony Stokes in his pomp - then they’d have a terrific chance of finishing second in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Finding someone as close to that description as possible must be their main aim in the January window.

In defence, David Gray and Steven Whittaker have both been hampered by injury problems this campaign, while Whittaker (who is out with a pelvic issue) is the solitary alternative to Lewis Stevenson on the left. The latter has been solid without being spectacular, and neither of the right-backs have shone, so Neil Lennon may look at trying to upgrade at one of the positions.

Rumours regarding the future of John McGinn will continue to circle until the window SLAMS shut at the end of January. Unless he leaves, there is enough competition in centre midfield to satisfy the Hibs boss at present.

READ MORE - What Scott Bain’s signing could mean for Hibs and the Dundee keeper

KILMARNOCK

Depth at right-back | younger centre-back | more options up front | possible Jordan Jones replacement

The right side of the defence is an issue because there’s only Stephen O’Donnell. Kirk Broadfoot has operated there in the past, but his form in the central area has picked up so much that Killie really wouldn’t want to shift him over for any longer than a game or two.

Speaking of the centre-backs, Gordon Greer is only on a deal until the summer and there are rumblings he could be on his way. Of the rest, Broadfoot is 33, Scott Boyd is 31, Stuart Findlay is still Newcastle’s asset and the younger back-ups (Calum Waters and Daniel Higgins) have rarely been seen. There is space there for a central defender in his peak years to come in and improve the unit.

In attack, even if Kris Boyd and Eammon Brophy have been excellent of late, there’s little quality in reserve. Summer signing Lee Erwin has yet to replicate the form of his time with Motherwell and hasn’t contributed a whole lot.

Jordan Jones is attracting interest from Burnley and Rangers and, if the club want to receive any cash from their most valued asset, they could cash in this summer. Steve Clarke may look at recruiting his replacement early if the opportunity is there.

MOTHERWELL

Goalscorer | left-back with attacking qualities | another option at right-midfield

Even though Motherwell have added a striker, they still need a goalscorer to replace Louis Moult. Curtis Main, who joined from Portsmouth on Wednesday, has netted only 34 career goals in almost ten seasons. Alex Fisher is woefully out of form and Ryan Bowman is never likely to be a 15-goal-a-season man. More than one attacker is required from this window.

Steven Hammell’s advancing years means he’s unable to operate effectively as an attacking full-back, and injuries have often seen the right-footed Richard Tait posted on the left side. Charles Dunne, meanwhile, is much more comfortable in the centre of defence. A younger, natural wing-back with attacking instincts will fill a void in the squad.

They could also look at adding a right-sided midfielder. Tait provides a threat from deep, but when Motherwell switch out of the 3-5-2 they’re missing a natural winger on that flank. Chris Cadden can play there and do so to a high standard, but the loss of form to Motherwell’s central midfielders in recent weeks may necessitate his return to the engine room.

PARTICK THISTLE

Centre-midfielder | attacking midfielder | another option up front

Abdul Osman has been missing since January, Stuart Bannigan is out after re-aggravating his knee injury, and Gary Fraser just returned from a 18-month absence. All in all, it’s fair to say Thistle haven’t had their problems to seek in the centre of midfield. Even with Osman to return soon and Martin Woods’ recent signing, they need reinforcements in the area, and preferably a player who isn’t prone to injury.

Full-back is another position where more players have been on the treatment table than on the park: Christie Elliott, Mustapha Dumbuya and Callum Booth have all missed significant action. However, manager Alan Archibald has indicated they’ll wait for the players to return rather than sign someone else.

Chris Erskine, Ryan Edwards and Steven Lawless haven’t played to their best this season, and Thistle should opt to add an additional creative force to haul themselves out of the relegation battle rather than gamble on the trio rediscovering their form.

With Kris Doolan, Miles Storey and Conor Sammon all in the squad, an extra striker may be the last thing from Archibald’s mind, though a goal return of 11 so far from the trio may tempt him to think otherwise.

RANGERS

Quality striker | Starting centre-back | Creative and dependable No.10 | depth at right-back

At the time of writing, Jamie Murphy looks set to complete a £1million move from Brighton. A proven talent who can play up front and on the left-wing, providing competition for places with Josh Windass, he’s exactly what Rangers need right now. However, they shouldn’t stop there. Eduardo Herrera isn’t the answer and it appears unlikely Ryan Hardie will be. With Kenny Miller injured, they require another forward to act as a foil for Alfredo Morelos.

If Rangers can shift either of Niko Kranjcar or Carlos Pena off the wage bill, then a No.10 who is capable of playing on the same wavelength as the rest of his team-mates would give the attack an edge it’s missed for some time.

In defence, while Danny Wilson and David Bates performed tremendously in the recent Old Firm game with Celtic, they’ve still to show they can be trusted as starters across the whole season. Bruno Alves has been inconsistent and hampered by a few knocks, while Fabio Cardoso is now out of favour. A quality centre-back is needed.

Manager Graeme Murty might also ask for director of football Mark Allen to find him a reserve right-back who can fill in for James Tavernier effectively. Lee Hodson will be fortunate to play again in a Rangers shirt.

READ MORE - Jamie Murphy to undergo medical at Rangers after fee agreed

ROSS COUNTY

Talismanic striker | quality at left-back | commanding centre-back in reserve | pacy winger

Unlike some other teams on this list, County don’t necessarily require a goalscorer in attack. Of course, getting one would be rather swell, but it’s not quite as important for them. What they really need is a forward capable of leading the line by himself: someone who can occupy defenders with both pace and power, and make the ball stick in attack.

Sean Kelly is perceived as the weak link of what’s an impressive back four. Even if getting a defender the quality of Jason Naismith on the other side will be tough, it’s something they should at least try to achieve.

In the centre, Andrew Davies and Marcus Fraser make up an excellent and criminally underrated partnership. Unfortunately, there isn’t much behind them with midfielder Christopher Routis often covering for Davies when he’s out injured.

Speed from midfield would help to stretch opponents, and if they can acquire a winger of such description then it could free up mid-season signing Chris Eagles to move inside, while Michael Gardyne could possibly do likewise on the other wing, giving the team some additional options.

ST JOHNSTONE

Ball-playing midfielder | pace out wide | experienced centre-back

St Johnstone have toiled to exert their dominance on opponents this term and a lot of it has stemmed from the centre of the park. Chris Millar was out of the side until fairly recently, and without him Saints didn’t have someone who would get their foot on the ball and make the simple pass to keep possession. The veteran will turn 35 in March and was told to search for a new club earlier this campaign. A long-term solution must be addressed before the start of the 2018/19 Ladbrokes Premiership.

Michael O’Halloran’s return to Rangers after the conclusion of his loan deal robs the team of pace in the wide areas, or even in the attack overall. Youth team graduates Chris Kane (who’ll return from his loan) and Craig Thomson have a degree of quickness about them, but neither are trusted to be in the team for any significant period of team. There is hope that O’Halloran will return from Ibrox for a second loan spell, but manager Tommy Wright must surely be looking at alternatives in case that doesn’t happen.

Wright made a point of going into this season with Liam Gordon and Jason Kerr as his deputies for the centre of defence, urging the two young players to stand up to the challenge. However, Kerr was sent out on loan in August, and even though Gordon has been fine when called upon, he still stands behind Steven Anderson in the pecking order. The club stalwart, and captain going into the campaign, has suffered a real dip in form. Wright will likely stick with the status quo until the conclusion of the 2017/18 season, but don’t be too surprised if he adds an experienced defender to his corps.

- An earlier version of this article said Jordan Jones was out of contract at the end of the season. He is, in fact, contracted until 2019.