Christmas finally arrives tomorrow and you can bet your bottom dollar that Premier League managers won’t be short of gift requests.
Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel will all have ideas about how to secure the title, while some – possibly Newcastle’s Eddie Howe – will be praying for a miracle to avoid relegation.
Most will want very different things – a star striker to get back fit again, a new defender in the January transfer window, a goalkeeper to return to form… or simply for the captain not to do anything silly for six months.
So, from Aubameyang to Zaha and everything in between, Sportsmail‘s Max Mathews gives you the rundown on what every top-flight boss is likely to have on their Christmas list.
With Christmas approaching, every Premier League manager will be hoping for a festive gift – Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola (above) knows his team will suffer without Joao Cancelo
Whether you agree or not with Mikel Arteta’s decision to strip Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of the Arsenal captaincy, airing the club’s dirty laundry in public is not a good look.
Picking the right replacement – and one who doesn’t create negative headlines in the first six months – would be just what the doctor ordered.
Would Aaron Ramsdale, Ben White or Bukayo Saka, all under 24, be ready for that pressure and expectation?
The squad is also bloated and has plenty of passengers. What future do Hector Bellerin, William Saliba and Matteo Guendouzi have?
Will any of the four strikers in Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Eddie Nketiah and Folarin Balogun be there in a year? Arteta will be hoping to sort it all out.
Mikel Arteta is after a new Arsenal captain after stripping it from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Steven Gerrard has made a bright start at Aston Villa, instantly revitalising the Midlands side and proving his capacity to grind out wins.
But his preferred 4-3-3 system doesn’t seem to make the most of the players available.
Where does gifted playmaker Emi Buendia fit in? Does he drop Ollie Watkins to accommodate Danny Ings?
Neither of them are wingers, but he may not fancy the so-far half-fit Leon Bailey, Bertrand Traore, Anwar El Ghazi, Trezeguet or Ashley Young there either.
Warding off interest in Emi Martinez, Ezri Konsa and John McGinn – all of whom are capable of playing at a higher level – would be a crucial festive boost for Gerrard.
The return of classy goalkeeper David Raya and talismanic striker Ivan Toney cannot come soon enough for Thomas Frank.
Alvaro Fernandez is decent backup between the sticks but not of Raya’s calibre, and the Bees have struggled in Toney’s absence.
Pontus Jansson is an experienced defensive lynchpin in a young side and they will be hoping to tie him down to a new deal.
Bryan Mbeumo to stop hitting the woodwork would be a great stocking filler, too.
The return of David Raya and striker Ivan Toney cannot come soon enough for Brentford
Hearing some of the boos ring around the Amex after a thoroughly dominant show in a 0-0 draw against Leeds, Graham Potter is probably only asking for his own supporters to cut him some slack.
The Seagulls have only lost three of their 15 matches this season and, as sizeable xG under-performers, have been unlucky not to have more points, but still somehow attract the ire of the fans.
The lasting rude health of Lewis Dunk, Adam Webster and Joel Veltman would help too – Dan Burn does not quite cut it if you’re a Premier League side aiming for the top half.
Years of underinvestment in the Burnley squad finally appears to be catching up with the Clarets.
The club’s new American owners would do well to back Sean Dyche – he’s proved his financial prudence and will be praying for some money come January.
Losing James Tarkowski and/or Ben Mee to Newcastle would be crushing, as would Maxwel Cornet or Dwight McNeil losing form – given Chris Wood’s travails, those two provide spark that is all too rare at Turf Moor. Can he persuade them all to stay?
Obviously, the impending expiring contracts of defensive foursome Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta is not helping Thomas Tuchel. Now it’s spilling onto the pitch via defensive mistakes.
They’re probably the German’s four best options at centre back in a system that uses three of them, they would cost a fortune to replace, and defences win you titles.
Tuchel will doubtless be very keen for the situation to be resolved.
Keeping two of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic fit is important too – Ruben Loftus-Cheek (possibly), Ross Barkley and Saul Niguez (definitely) are not good enough backup.
Sorting out a new deal for Antonio Rudiger (left) will be a key priority for Thomas Tuchel (right)
Top of Patrick Vieira’s wish list will be a giant ball of cotton wool in which to wrap Conor Gallagher, the Chelsea loanee who is instrumental to the Eagles’ recent revolution.
Assuming the Blues want him back eventually, the financial clout to replace him this summer would help.
It would also be wise to resolve the Wilfried Zaha will-he-won’t-he transfer saga and get Ebere Eze and the promising Nathan Ferguson back to full fitness.
Conor Gallagher is key to Crystal Palace’s chances of having a strong second half of the season
Rafael Benitez just wants some love from the Everton fans.
A win in the near future to relieve some of the pressure on him and the players would also be more than welcome. Perhaps a bit of a luck in the transfer market in January, too, after so many windows of discontent.
It would also be a huge boost for the Toffees if talisman Dominic Calvert-Lewin returns from injury. Everton need some attacking spark as soon as possible.
Marcelo Bielsa’s wish list, you imagine, will be for Patrick Bamford to return so teenager Joe Gelhardt can stop showing up £25million signing Dan James up front.
Some squad players so the Argentine can stop filling up the bench with youngsters who have barely finished their GCSEs would be great.
Even ultra-popular Bielsa will know a manager can only sustain so many 7-0 drubbings, so not playing Manchester City for a while will do nicely for him, thank you very much.
Talismanic striker Patrick Bamford’s return from injury cannot come soon enough for Leeds
Getting Wesley Fofana back in defence and somehow keeping him away from the Premier League sides rightfully interested in luring him away will be key to solving Leicester’s defensive woes.
If there’s a way for Brendan Rodgers to successfully combine James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy, I’m sure the Northern Irishman would be grateful for any ideas.
Festive fixtures against Manchester City and Liverpool are also the stuff of nightmares so a couple of draws would do nicely.
Santa Claus’ elves will be inundated with letters from Jurgen Klopp begging for his star players to have a clean bill of health across the rest of the season.
Injuries cost the Reds in their title defence last year and they did not cultivate the same squad depth as City or Chelsea in the summer, either.
Losing Alisson, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho or Mo Salah would be hugely damaging.
Kostas Tsimikas, Neco Williams, Takumi Minamino and Divock Origi are OK but not the basis of a title-winning team.
Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita also coming back injury-free from the AFCON as soon as possible will be high on Klopp’s wanted list too.
Liverpool will hope Mo Salah (left) and Sadio Mane (right) return from AFCON quick and fit
Pep Guardiola’s Christmas list is short and sweet: a striker.
It doesn’t have to be Erling Haaland or Harry Kane – although one of them would be nice.
Although a host of attacking midfielders playing as a false nine was enough last season, this year their title rivals are stronger and it could cost them.
If City are still mounting a treble push, Pep will be praying for no serious injuries, although the only genuinely irreplaceable player is full-back Joao Cancelo.
Ralf Rangnick knows what he wants from a club. He will have plenty of ideas on how to play, who to sell, and who to keep.
All he’ll want is the gift of time to implement his intricate methods on the training pitch, given the club’s Covid crisis of the past few weeks.
A central midfielder has been needed for years, and so the money to upgrade a midfield trio of Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic – would go a long way to plugging the biggest gap in the team.
Perhaps some clarity on Paul Pogba’s future would be good, too.
At Manchester United, Ralf Rangnick will want time to implement his famous style in training
Presumably Eddie Howe is planning on blasting ABBA’s hit ‘Money, Money, Money’ outside Amanda Staveley’s office door as soon as the window opens.
Once he’s secured the financial backing, Howe will also have to hope other clubs are willing to sell to the unpopular Magpies and that players want to come given the distinct possibility of relegation. Defensive improvements will be crucial.
The absence of Callum Wilson or Allan Saint-Maximin would probably be a fatal blow, too, so a nice and empty treatment room would do nicely.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe will be desperate for defensive reinforcements in January
Dean Smith’s side already look harder to beat than Daniel Farke’s men were at the start of the season, but Smith will need his spine of Tim Krul, Grant Hanley, Mathias Normann and Teemu Pukki to play pretty much every game if they want to stay up.
Reinvigorating Todd Cantwell, who after two excellent seasons now looks very subdued, could be the boost the Canaries need.
After stand-in Willy Caballero looked shaky in the 3-0 loss against Arsenal, Ralph Hasenhuttl will be hoping for Alex McCarthy and Fraser Forster to return from injury ASAP.
A couple of morale-boosting James Ward-Prowse free-kicks wouldn’t hurt too.
More than anything, the Austrian will want a stay of execution. If the Saints carry on their bad form, he could be axed as the club look to avoid relegation.
Get. Kane. Scoring.
After 167 league goals across the last seven seasons, averaging more than 23 per campaign, the England captain is currently on… two.
But the signs are there that he is starting to regain that sharpness and clinical edge in front of goal. Take his goal against Liverpool last week as an example.
Antonio Conte will have to find buyers for the likes of Matt Doherty, Ryan Sessegnon, Harry Winks, Dele Alli and Tanguy Ndombele too and shifting some of them would be a Christmas miracle.
Getting disaffected star striker Harry Kane (right) to return to the goalscoring form of previous campaigns will be top of the Christmas list for new Tottenham manager Antonio Conte (left)
Claudio Ranieri knows what he needs: a better defence. There are goals in the team via Josh King, Emmanuel Dennis and Ismaila Sarr.
Can his back four give the experienced Ben Foster the chance to keep them in enough games to stay up?
It goes without saying Ranieri will also be wishing for clemency from the club’s infamously trigger-happy owners if they lose a couple on the bounce…
Ward off Liverpool interest in Jarrod Bowen. Restore the goalscoring form and confidence of Michail Antonio, who to be fair never seems short of belief in his own abilities.
Otherwise, David Moyes will be asking Santa for more of the same.
Only Manchester City and Chelsea have conceded fewer goals than Wolves. But only Norwich (eight) have scored fewer than Wolves’ 13.
With a frontline boasting the likes of Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore, Daniel Podence, Hwang Hee-chan and Francisco Trincao, the club’s attacking struggles seem odd, especially given the goalscoring prowess of Bruno Lage’s Benfica.
The return of the irrepressible Pedro Neto cannot come soon enough.