Juventus might be steamrollering their way back toward the top of Serie A in Italy, but they'll have work to do to claim another Scudetto with two or three teams looking capable of challenging them after the Turin side's poor start to the campaign.
One of those is Inter Milan, looking strong and balanced if not terribly entertaining under Roberto Mancini, but the Nerazzurri could ideally benefit from one or two alterations in January to push them closer to the top and prevent points slipping through the net-as happened in the recent disappointing, though arguably undeserved, 1-0 reversal at home to Sassuolo.
Inter have good depth through most of the spine of their team and manager Mancini has options in attack, but one or two additions or alterations can make such a difference over the second half of the season. There have already been plenty of suggestions in the media that Nemanja Vidic-a long-term injury absentee and without an appearance this season-could be on his way out, while Fredy Guarin may end his stay in Italy too.
Those departures would free up wages as well as potentially bring in funds for transfer deals, allowing Inter to recruit a new face or two of their own; here we look at the likely style of players who might fit three key areas of the park and suggest potential options.
Inter have the best defensive record in Italy's top flight and the central partnership of Jeison Murillo and Miranda looks a good fit, but more cover might be necessary. Juan Jesus has covered centrally and on the left, while Andrea Ranocchia has not featured prominently and has also been linked with a move away. Whoever comes in would be playing a back-up role though, so it's not likely Inter will splash out big in this regard.
Both current starters are calm in possession but resilient and strong defensively-not an easy combination to find, much less to snare on the cheap in January, but one or two defenders whose deals are set to expire in the summer might prove attainable on a budget.
Marseille's Nicolas N'Koulou or Juventus' Martin Caceres could be reasonable suggestions, with both providing physicality and the latter, of course, well acquainted with both the league and the team he'll be hoping to help overhaul. Would he swap one bench for another, though?
Playing a 4-3-3 variation, for the most part, Inter will want to replace Guarin if he moves on. A powerful runner from deep who can offer link play and tenacity in the final third, the Colombian has never really managed to find consistency but still brings traits which will be missed.
A starting triumvirate in the centre of Gary Medel, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Marcelo Brozovic needs similar styled replacements, off the bench and in rotation, and though Inter have one or two others to call on they would still need to plug the gap left by Guarin.
Kevin Kampl or Steven N'Zonzi would be potentially attainable and good-fit additions, Milan Badelj might be a cheeky and ambitious target off title rivals Fiorentina, but Leon Goretzka would be a perfect fit for Mancini's side: technically impressive, non-stop work rate and aggressive in winning back possession. He would also cost a fortune, perhaps something beyond Inter, and would attract interest from other sides around Europe too.
First and foremost, the priority is to keep Mauro Icardi fit and firing. If that happens, Inter have a chance to succeed, but a second reliable source of goals would be a pleasing thing indeed. Stevan Jovetic and Adem Ljajic bring their own talents, but neither can be relied to consistently strike the back of the net. Rodrigo Palacio's days of consistency are behind him in most aspects, but goalscoring especially-he has just one this term from almost 700 minutes of action.
Finding a striker happy to play back-up but who can, again, find the target at times is no easy feat, so a risk with a younger player, a loan or an expiring deal would all come into the reckoning.
PSG's Ezequiel Lavezzi should come cheap as he nears the end of his deal, while Aleksandr Kokorin of Dinamo Moscow provides a viable alternative to Icardi centrally.
Whatever route they take, Inter should certainly invest in the squad this winter to keep them chasing at the top; they're only two points off first place at the halfway stage and have to travel to each of Napoli, Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina in the second half of the season. Their strong defence is paramount, but reinforcements elsewhere could help take all-important three points at one or more of those grounds.