Get set for a transfer scramble

Trevor Steven
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WE’VE not seen much in the way of transfer activity in this January window, but expect all that to change over the next few days as managers hit the mid-season panic button.

Today and tomorrow are potentially massive days in determining the campaign and you can be assured at least one of the genuine title contenders will make a foray into the market to strengthen their squad.

Manchester United have moved first to lure Fulham’s young centre back Chris Smalling to Old Trafford. He fits the bill perfectly but wouldn’t have been on Sir Alex Ferguson’s radar at the beginning of the season with Arsene Wenger first to spot the lad’s true potential.

Of the so-called ‘big four’, Liverpool are the ones with the greater need to strengthen but finances are clearly holding Rafael Benitez back in his bid to secure a top-four spot.

Chelsea have rediscovered themselves after a difficult spell and have come through unscathed – indeed, the returns of Drogba, Essien, Kalou and Mikel from Africa Cup of Nations duty will be like four new signings.

From nowhere, Arsenal have emerged as true title contenders – even without Robin van Persie and Nicklas Bendtner – and Wenger clearly takes great delight in proving wrong the critics who suggest his squad has a soft underbelly.

Unsurprisingly then, it’s Manchester City who look the more likely to be busy in the build-up to Monday’s transfer deadline, especially in light of Robinho’s imminent return to his native Brazil.

Despite an impressive honeymoon period following his record £32.5m move from Real Madrid in August 2008, Robinho has shown he hasn’t got what it takes, mentally, to compete in the Premier League so it’s probably best for all concerned that he moves on.

But with an open purse to work with, I’d be very surprised if Roberto Mancini didn’t replace the Brazilian with a world-class performer to make a statement of intent to his rivals.