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Resolutions: what do Premier League teams desperately need in 2015?

Whether sitting pretty at the top or struggling down the bottom, clubs will have priorities this year.

IT’S THE FIRST day of January and Premier League teams will be keeping their fingers crossed that certain things go their way for the foreseeable future. But what are their New Year’s resolutions?

Chelsea: Keep Eden Hazard fit 

In Hazard, Chelsea have a player that can take a game by the scruff of its neck. It’s possible to shackle both Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas but the Belgian has too much in his arsenal and can easily evade tackles, thrill with his approach play and finish with aplomb should it be required.

Manchester City: Get Sergio Aguero back quickly

They’re not doing too badly without him but the Argentine was unplayable before his injury. And it wasn’t just the goals – it was the importance of the goals.

Britain Soccer Premier League Source: Scott Heppell/AP/Press Association Images

The hat-trick against Bayern, the winner against Manchester United, the equaliser against QPR, all four against Spurs. His comeback could spur his side towards retaining their title.

Manchester United: A good selection headache

The Dutchman must be buoyed by how well his side have done in the circumstances. He’s yet to have a full squad to choose from so instead of enjoying the dilemma of which high-profile names to leave out, it’s been a desperate attempt to fill in the cracks on a weekly basis.

Should Rojo, Shaw, Di Maria, Falcao, Herrera, Blind et al get a consistent injury-free run, there could be an impressive rally at a decisive time of the season.

Southampton: Keep solid defence intact

For a team that lost two of its best defenders in the summer, the Saints are doing superbly at the back. The likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand have all impressed and its lead to Ronald Koeman’s side rack up the second-best defensive record in the top-flight (they’re a goal behind Chelsea).

West Ham: Continue impressive home form

There will be an inevitable tail-off but to make sure the damage is minimal, Big Sam will drill the importance of home results into his players. From their 9 wins, 6 have come on their own turf and the Boleyn Ground has been a bit of a fortress for them this term.

In front of their own crowd, they don’t give teams much – conceding just seven times in their 9 fixtures in East London. They’ll need that to continue.

Arsenal: Deal with set-pieces

This season, Per Mertesacker, Wojciech Szczesny and Arsene Wenger have all commented on the Gunners’ issues at free-kicks and corners. But they’ve continued to crop up.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Arsenal v Newcastle United - Emirates Stadium Source: John Walton/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Having flattered to deceive against Liverpool, they somehow led deep into injury-time but allowed the always-dangerous Martin Skrtel to score from a free-header and level in the dying moments.

Tottenham: Take pressure off Harry Kane

Kane has been in terrific form and quickly established himself as a crucial ingredient in Mauricio Pochettino’s side. But it’s critical that Spurs don’t place too much responsibility on his shoulders.

Britain Soccer League Cup Source: Alastair Grant/AP/Press Association Images

There’s likely to be burn-out issues towards the end of the campaign and if the club wish to retain their European ambitions, they’ll need another player to step up carry the weight in attack.

Swansea: Figure out away days

Garry Monk’s team are interesting to analyse. They’ve got a reputation as a lovely footballing team but the top-flight is largely unforgiving to sides that can’t dig deep and grind out results. The Swans struggle on their travels, particularly up front. In eight away games, they’ve managed eight goals.

They’re genuinely in contention for a European place at the turn but they’ll need to pick up points on the road if they’re to turn the dream into reality.

Liverpool: Daniel Sturridge to be the same player

The Raheem Sterling experiment isn’t suiting anyone. Yes, the youngster has enough in his locker to crop up with a few goals from a central attacking position but he’s much more effective in a deeper role, running at defenders. But Rodgers has had to improvise owing to the awful form of Mario Balotelli and the inability of summer signings Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert to rack up goals.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool - White Hart Lane Source: Adam Davy/PA Wire/Press Association Images

He’s counting down the days (as are the fans) to the day Sturridge is back to full fitness. But, the biggest concern is that his relentless run of bad luck with injuries will see him struggle, that he may have lost a yard of pace, etc. However, if he is the same player as last season and before, expect Liverpool to stage a solid rally as the season ebbs towards conclusion.

Stoke: Pick up more points at the Brittania

Under Tony Pulis, teams feared playing Stoke at home. The games were usually edgy, scrappy and physically intimidating. But, they’ve lost just as many games one home soil this season as they have on their travels.

In 8 matches in front of their own crowd, they’ve managed just 9 goals – a dismal return and one Mark Hughes will need to correct if they’re to secure a top-ten finish.

Newcastle: Stop being so streaky

The Magpies enjoy streaks. It doesn’t matter if it’s a run of wins or defeats, they’ll take either. Earlier this season, they went seven games without a win and followed that up with five straight victories.

Throughout December, there were three successive league losses.

Everton: Reduce goals conceded

In 19 games, Roberto Martinez’ side have leaked over 30 goals. The only other teams to do likewise are Leicester, Crystal Palace and QPR. They’ve also scored an excellent 29 and if there was a smaller difference between the ‘goals for’ and ‘goals against’ columns, they’d be on the cusp of a top-six place.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Newcastle United v Everton - St James' Park Source: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Food for thought for the Toffees.

Aston Villa: Get Benteke the ball

Paul Lambert’s side can’t score goals. But last month, Christian Benteke returned and had an immediate impact – scoring the winner away to Palace and the opening goal against Manchester United at Villa Park. He also popped up with an assist in the 2-1 victory over Leicester.

It’s critical that Villa’s midfield can provide the necessary service for the Belgian – he will do the rest.

Sunderland: Stop drawing games

Numbers rarely lie. Gus Poyet’s side have drawn 11 of their 19 top-flight games this season. To put it in context, even a win in two of those fixtures would see Sunderland currently occupy 11th place in the table. Instead, they’re four points off the drop zone and deserve better than that.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Newcastle United v Sunderland - St. James' Park Source: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Along with Burnley and Aston Villa, they have the worst goal-scoring rate in the top-flight and badly need to reignite their firepower up top.

West Brom: Better home form

The Hawthorns hasn’t ever been a notoriously difficult place to go but the Baggies’ results there this season have been terrible.

They’ve suffered 5 defeats, drawn three games and leaked 16 goals. For Tony Pulis, those numbers need emergency surgery or they’ll easily drift into the relegation dogfight come February/March.

QPR: Hope Charlie Austin doesn’t slow down

Any promoted team needs a consistent goalscorer and this season in particular, it’s clearly apparent. Looking at how badly Burnley and Leicester have struggled without a leading light in attack, makes Austin’s contribution to QPR all the more impressive.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Queens Park Rangers v Aston Villa - Loftus Road Source: John Walton/PA Wire/Press Association Images

He’s grabbed crucial goals too – the winner early in the season against Sunderland, a brace against Villa, the dramatic winner against Leicester and all three against West Brom.

Hull: Keep staying in games

There are grounds to feel frustrated and optimistic for Steve Bruce and it probably depends on whether he’s a ‘glass half-full’ type of person. They’ve been involved in a litany of tight affairs.

They’ve drawn seven times but in 11 games, there’s been 1 goal or less between the teams.

Crystal Palace: A manager with relegation-evading experience

Palace are in a right mess, as they were last season. On that occasion, they brought in Tony Pulis – a manager who knew a lot about overachieving. He oversaw a revolution and the club finished on the cusp of the top-half.

This time, they’ll just want to stay afloat again. That’s what makes their next managerial appointment so important. It’s pointless thinking anything other than short-term. If the board bring in a man unfamiliar with a relegation fight, it will probably be the nail in their coffin.

Burnley: Sam Vokes to get some goals

The Clarets don’t score goals. For a while, Danny Ings did a decent impression of Charlie Austin and scored four times in five games. But he was held scoreless throughout December. And despite his side picking up some points along the way, they need more up front.

Soccer - Sky Bet Championship - Burnley v Doncaster Rovers - Turf Moor Source: Dave Thompson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

It could be tailor-made for Sam Vokes. Out for so long with a cruciate injury, he made a cameo on Stephen’s Day and may just pop up with some important goals from here until the end of the campaign.

Leicester: A miracle

There are exceptions to every rule. In 2013, Sunderland were bottom of the top-flight and weren’t relegated. In 2004, West Brom did likewise. But in the 22 seasons of Premier League football, only twice has the side bottom at Christmas managed to avoid the drop.

Leicester need Leonardo Ulloa to continue grabbing goals but he needs help. Away from home, they’ve been hopeless, losing eight from nine. It seems desperate and the odds of two successive exceptions to the relegation ‘rule’ seems unlikely.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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