How Manchester United’s January transfer window compares to West Ham, Arsenal & Spurs in race for top-4 spot

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The Red Devils are in pole position for a Champions League spot, but holding onto it is another matter.

The end of the January transfer window means we know how all the top-four chasing sides are equipped for the final months of the Premier League season.

It’s Manchester United who lead the way at present, with the Red Devils currently occupying the final Champions League spot.

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But with sides playing differing numbers of games, that lead doesn’t count for a huge amount at this stage, and all five hopefuls have been involved in some form of transfer activity over the last month.

We’ve taken a look at how all the respective squads have shaped up ahead of the final months of the campaign.

Anthony Martial left United on loan last month. Credit: Getty.Anthony Martial left United on loan last month. Credit: Getty.
Anthony Martial left United on loan last month. Credit: Getty. | AFP via Getty Images

Manchester United- 4th; P22, 38 points

The Red Devils failed to bring anyone in during the window, despite their deficiencies in midfield. If anything will cost United a Champions League spot, it’s that inability to add an enforcer to break up opposition attacks.

However, United approached the winter window with a squad that was bloated, and moving on the clearly unhappy Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek is a huge plus for Ralf Rangnick.

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Despite all the issues at Old Trafford, that they’re in fourth is remarkable given how poor they’ve been for the majority of the season, and even with the huge levels of under-performance, there’s no denying the quality in this squad.

Paul Pogba’s return to the side could be key, while Rangnick does appear to have settled on a formation and has a clearer idea of who he wants in his starting XI. The Red Devils look in a slightly stronger position post-January than they did at the start of 2021.

West Ham United- 5th; P23, 37 points

It was a quiet mid-season market for David Moyes’s side, with West Ham failing to add reinforcements last month.

Three youngsters left on loan, but in general the lack of action indicates Moyes is happy with the group he’s assembled at the London Stadium.

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West Ham manager David Moyes. Credit: Getty.West Ham manager David Moyes. Credit: Getty.
West Ham manager David Moyes. Credit: Getty. | AFP via Getty Images

The only concern for the Hammers is whether they have enough depth in centre-back and up front, especially with a Europa League run to contend with.

West Ham perhaps lack the star names of their top-four rivals, but they’ve been one of the most consistent sides over the past 18 months and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Arsenal- 6th; P21, 36 points

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s departure to Barcelona was one of the biggest stories on transfer deadline day, while the Gunners also moved on several fringe players last month such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Folarin Balogun, Sead Kolasinac, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers.

They did sign three players in Auston Trusty, Matt Turner and Lino Silva, but none of those will play a significant role in the latter half of the campaign.

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Arsenal’s form stuttered in January after an impressive few months, and they’ll need to respond quickly if they want to reassert themselves in the Champions League race.

Mikel Arteta has assembled a united squad with depth, and doesn’t have to contend with playing in Europe. They’ve also shown they can compete with the top sides in recent weeks.

Tottenham Hotspur- 7th; P20, 36 points

Spurs were one of the busiest sides on deadline day, bringing in Dejan Kulusevski and Rodrigo Bentancur, while Dele Alli joined Everton.

Giovani Lo Celso, Bryan Gil, Tanguy Ndombele also left on loan, and Antonio Conte has already made his mark on the squad.

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Antonio Conte signed two players on deadline day. Credit: Getty.Antonio Conte signed two players on deadline day. Credit: Getty.
Antonio Conte signed two players on deadline day. Credit: Getty. | AFP via Getty Images

Of the sides competing for the Champions League places, Tottenham have the best manager, and will be in a great position should they win their games in hand.

Encouragingly, Harry Kane also appears to be finding his feet again after the longest dip of his senior Tottenham career.

Wolverhampton Wanderers - 8th; P21, 34 points

An unlikely outsider, Wolves had a quiet window and the only real addition was youngster Chiquinho.

The inconsistent Adama Traore departed to join Barcelona, but the Midlands side have the quality in the wide areas to cover for the speedy Spaniard.

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However, Wolves probably lack the resources to compete with the other big hitters during the run-in, and a top-eight finish would be an achievement for Bruno Lage’s side.

Verdict

Given how close the sides are in the league table, this is a race which will most probably run right into the final weeks of the season. There’s even an outside chance that third-place Chelsea are pulled into the battle.

Of the chasing pack, United have the best resources, but they’ve proven already this season how little that can mean when it comes to on-field performances.

Meanwhile, Rangnick must be slightly alarmed at how much better Spurs look under Conte, and with the number of games they have in hand on the Red Devils.

In our view, it’ll be a race between those two clubs for that final Champions League spot.

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