With most of the Premier League's top half needing a new striker this summer, Daniel Storey takes a look at the probable names on expensive shopping lists...
With the title races in both England and Spain looking like they might go right to the wire, Daniel Storey gives you his top ten title finishes. Think final day madness and mayhem...
10) Michael Laudrup (Swansea)
Basically because winning trophies is kind of the point of football. The most bizarre thing about 2013 is not that Swansea won the League Cup but that they somehow retained ninth place despite picking up just 18 points from 18 games at the end of last season - a record that shows just how hard it is to play in flip-flops. Wigan had the same post-New Year record and were relegated.
Laudrup then spent the summer losing a great deal of ground with neutrals by bitching about money as if he didn't know that Swansea operate on a tight, sensible budget. He probably didn't think the £21m he was granted was quite enough but, watching £12m Wilfried Bony's contributions so far, it might be a blessing that he was not given more. This season? Europa League progress aside, massively forgettable.
9) Malky Mackay (Cardiff)
Ninth place on this list should come with a warning: Nigel Adkins was last seen here at the end of 2012 and he's currently managing Reading in the Championship, and now Malky Mackay sits without employment as we enter the New Year.
Not that the Scot should be particularly worried. After taking Cardiff to their long awaited Promised Land before running square into the face of a high-trousered, low-patienced Malaysian owner in Vincent Tan, being sacked was probably the best result for Mackay. His reputation left fairly unblemished, he will be high on the list of any lower-half Premier League jobs that come up. And there may well be a few.
8) Rafa Benitez (Chelsea)
If you're third on January 1 and then third on May 19 while picking up a trophy in between, it has to count as an excellent five months. Benitez still gets very little credit (especially from Jose Mourinho, who has spent months trying to denigrate those achievements) but Chelsea's record in the closing weeks of the season was damned close to exemplary. In fourth place with eight games to go and sandwiched between Tottenham and Arsenal, many suggested that Chelsea would be the club dropping out of those Champions League places.
What followed was a 20-point haul from 24 available, with a victory at Old Trafford the most eye-catching result if not the most impressive performance. Benitez even found a way to prise goals from Fernando Torres while simultaneously p***ing off John Terry, which absolutely has to be applauded. And he won the Europa League trophy and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. Not bad. Not bad at all.
7) Mauricio Pochettino (Southampton)
When I wrote in December that Pochettino was in an ideal position because managing outside the elite means that your decisions are not scrutinised, many read it as criticism of the Argentine. Maybe the point was a tad clumsy, but the point was actually that the best managers (according to the media) are those not currently in the top jobs and thus free from extensive dissection. So after the heralded Owen Coyle came Steve Clarke (on this list at the close of 2012) and now Pochettino, strongly touted for the Tottenham job until they realised Tim Sherwood already 'knew the place'.
It all seems a long way from January, when Pochettino came in to replace Nigel Adkins to general uproar. The uproar got a little quieter when Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea were all beaten and Southampton pulled away from relegation trouble. A summer of spending followed (£36m on Victor Wanyama, Dani Osvaldo and Dejan Lovren) along with a summer of work on Pochettino's favoured high-pressing game and the Saints have been rewarded with a place in mid-table and reasonable aspirations to go higher.
6) Alan Pardew (Newcastle United)
"Last year, in an emergency really, we had to take four or five, which we didn't really want to do but it still worked out well for us," said Alan Pardew last week in an uncharacteristic bout of understatement. The five January arrivals were Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoan Gouffran, Massadio Haidara and Moussa Sissoko; four of those players became key members of a Newcastle side that doubled their tally of victories for the season in little more than two months between January and April.
Few gave them hope of kicking on again after a summer that saw only Loic Remy arrive at St James' and 11 points after nine games gave little hint of the rejuvenation that was to come as Pardew changed his tactics - using Sissoko and Gouffran as hard-working wide men and dropping Hatem Ben Arfa. Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United were all beaten as Yohan Cabaye, Chieck Tiote and Tim Krul all rediscovered their 2011/12 form. The Premier League's second-longest-serving manager actually looks comfortable and deserving of that status. He still won't get any credit from Geordies, mind.
5) Roberto Martinez (Wigan/Everton)
We've never had a relegated manager on this list; but then there's never been a relegated manager who also won a trophy and then started phenomenally well in their difficult new job at a bigger club. Even the relegation was unusual in that Wigan started 2013 out of the relegation zone and then picked up the point a game that would normally keep them out of trouble. Their problem was that Aston Villa and Sunderland suddenly got so very much better while the Latics were busy being slightly distracted by that big shiny thing.
And then came Everton. Yes, it's early days, but they're just very sodding good. The defence might have been inherited from David Moyes but the additions of Gareth Barry, Gerard Deulofeu, James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku have added so much more further up the pitch, while Ross Barkley has been inherited by a manager who believes risk is not necessarily a bad thing. He'd be top of this list if Wigan had won more than one of their final eight games of last season.
4) Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United)
With every day that passes, the manner in which Sir Alex Ferguson won the Premier League with this flawed squad of players looks more and more impressive. In absentia, he looks like a necromancer. A seven-point gap at the turn of the year became 11 points by the season's end as United were simply relentless. Despite never appearing to play very well, they churned out victory after victory, with Robin van Persie a machine in pursuit of his first ever league title.
So why is he not top of this list? At least some of the blame for Manchester United's Champions League exit falls on Ferguson's shoulders, he bequeathed David Moyes to Manchester United fans and bequeathed a flawed squad to Moyes before walking into the sunset with his error-strewn book under his arm. He was alright, Jack, but United are not.
3) Steve Bruce (Hull City)
Steve Bruce looked like a broken man (with a broken nose) after watching his side slump to a 2-0 defeat at Barnsley on the penultimate day of last season, having collapsed within sight of the finishing line. In the end their prone body was heaved over the line by Leeds beating Watford as they drew 2-2 with Cardiff in a ridiculously exciting final day. Nobody gave them a chance of being anything other than particularly robust Premier League whipping boys (including this website) as this was a side drastically lacking class. Paul McShane? Alex Bruce? George Boyd?
What followed was an incredibly impressive transfer window with Curtis Davies, Maynor Figueroa, Allan McGregor and Yannick Sagbo being followed by the real coup - Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore arriving from Tottenham as a ready-made midfield partnership. It's not always been pretty but their home form has been phenomenal, with deserved victory over Liverpool the highlight. This was potentially Bruce's last pop at managing a Premier League club and it's gone really rather well so far.
2) Brendan Rodgers (Liverpool)
Liverpool claimed 46 points in 2012. They had matched that total by the end of September in 2013, by which time ninth at the turn of the year (below West Brom and Stoke) had become second. It's been a remarkable transformation helped by the January purchases of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, the revitalisation of Jordan Henderson and, latterly Raheem Sterling, and the stubborn refusal to allow Luis Suarez to leave in the summer. For at least two of those key things, we must give Rodgers credit.
He is still occasionally cringe-worthy (his boast of 'churning out wins' came three months too soon) but he will have been glad to leave Being: Liverpool behind in 2012. And although he has not always spent wisely, there has been nothing as calamitous as spending £25m on Joe Allen and Fabio Borini. A lack of European football and managerial upheaval at three of last season's top four may have conspired in his favour but Rodgers has still shown the kind of tactical flexibility that makes his Liverpool side intriguing to watch. Warning: It will be far, far harder in 2014.
1) Arsene Wenger (Arsenal)
Mesut f***ing Ozil. He only went and signed Mesut f***ing Ozil. That alone would have earned him a place on this list (he was seventh last year, largely for delivering the delicious Santi Cazorla) but amassing the most Premier League points in the whole of 2013 by some margin makes him the undisputed manager of the calendar year. They matched champions Manchester United point for point after Christmas and then recovered from that opening-day humiliation to Aston Villa by going on a phenomenal run and advancing from a rock-hard Champions League group. And by signing Mesut f***ing Ozil.
As 2013 began, Arsenal were in fifth place in the Premier League; as 2013 ends, they're top. We almost think that's worth a trophy.