With the January transfer window a week old, while most teams look to strengthen ahead of the second half of the season, other are eager to cash in on players that have been deemed surplus to requirements.
Lack of form, contracts soon to expire coupled with excessive wage demands, age or managerial change are all factors that can bring a manager to sanction a player’s departure.
Furthermore, while many players might stay put in January, for others the second half of the season will determine their future and whether they’ll be in next season’s team picture or whether they’ll be told to pack their bags.
Here’s five Premier League players that could be playing for their future between now and May.
1) Tom Cleverley
Nobody has epitomised United’s troubled first half of the season more than Tom Cleverley.
The England international has been consistently poor for United this season and has failed to live up the expectations that had been placed on his shoulders after two solid seasons at Old Trafford, following his impressive loan spells at Watford and Wigan.
Poor defensively and lacking imagination going forward, Cleverley hasn’t been helped by his team’s evident deficiencies in the middle of the park, with only Michael Carrick and Phil Jones proving to be positive influences in United’s engine room.
With less than five months left before Roy Hodgson announces his England squad for the World Cup, the United midfielder, based on his current form – or rather lack of – could miss out on a flight ticket to Brazil.
A host of United players have under-performed this season and it’s perhaps a little unfair to single out Cleverley, but one can’t help thinking that the only reason why he retains his spot in the starting XI is the lack of valid alternatives at David Moyes’ disposal.
2) Stevan Jovetic
Amid Manchester City’s blistering first five months of the season, the Montenegro international has been an uncharacteristically sour note.
Arrived as part of City’s spending spree last summer, Jovetic has failed to mirror the stellar impact of fellow signings Alvaro Negredo and Fernandinho nor has he been able to offer a less spectacular but solid contribution like Jesus Navas.
The former Fiorentina man has featured in only three Premier League games so far and only started once – in the 0-0 away at Stoke – while he is yet to be involved in the Champions League and has played just twice in the Capital One Cup – albeit scoring two goals.
A calf injury in November sidelined him for over a month, before he picked up another knock just a week after returning to action and he’s a long way to go if he is to justify the £23m City paid Fiorentina last summer.
3) Erik Lamela
Talking of expensive imports from Serie A who are yet to leave a trace in the Premier League, the excitement that surrounded the Argentine’s arrival at White Hart Lane is a long distant memory.
Spurs’ record signing is yet to break double digit in terms of Premier League appearances and of the nine games he’s been involved in, he’s only started two of them, a rather poor return for a player for whom Daniel Levy forked out £30m last summer.
Things have gone marginally better in Europa League, where Lamela has played six games, scoring one goal and assisting three but, despite a more frequent involvement, the 21-year-old only showed glimpses of his talent.
Ignored by Andre’ Villas-Boas, for Lamela things haven’t significantly under Tim Sherwood and the Argentine could soon be on his way back to Italy, with Inter Milan reportedly interested.
4) Ricky Van Wolfswinkel
When Chris Hughton splashed £13m on strikers last summer, he would have hoped for a better return than the paltry 17 goals the Canaries have managed in the first 20 Premier League games of the campaign.
Norwich’s problems in front of goal – the Canaries have the league’s third-worst offensive record – have been compounded by Van Wolfswinkel’s struggle to adapt to English football.
A £8.8m arrival from Sporting Lisbon in the summer, the Dutchman netted on his debut, before failing to add to his tally in the 10 games he featured in before succumbing to an ankle injury at the end of October.
With the Canaries just three points of the relegation zone, Hughton must hope his faith in Van Wolfswinkel will be repaid in the second half of the season.
5) Marouane Fellaini
Everything that’s been said about Tom Cleverley can be applied to the Belgian midfielder too, except that Cleverley didn’t cost his club £27m, when his release clause was four million cheaper.
While Fellaini can’t be criticised for David Moyes’ decision to invest such a huge amount of money on him, the former Everton midfielder has looked a paltry imitation of the player who had become one of the league’s most dangerous midfielder while at Goodison Park.
Any other team would be desperate to have their summer signing back from injury as soon as possible, but the truth is that, despite their appalling form, United have virtually not felt Fellaini’s absence at all.
And that’s a damning statement.