It’s safe to say that Preston North End’s 2021-22 season has been a bit topsy-turvy so far.
There was lots of worried faces at the beginning of the season when the Lilywhites started with three losses in a row – including a 4-1 drubbing at home to Hull City – but fears were soon alleviated with back-to-back successes against Peterborough and Swansea City.
September saw five successive draws for North End and they were on their way to recording a first win since the end of August when they faced off against Queens Park Rangers, only for a second half collapse to lose 3-2 at Loftus Road.
We are still a way off the January transfer window opening but fans will be looking ahead to it already with the chance for PNE to refresh their squad, so let’s look at some situations that could arise when the first month of 2022 comes about.
A new centre-back?
Since Patrick Bauer returned to the starting line-up after recovering from a nasty achilles injury, North End’s defence for the most part of the German alongside Jordan Storey and Andrew Hughes has been quite solid.
Injuries have started to creep in though with Hughes missing the last two matches with a toe issue and Bauer being withdrawn at half-time against QPR with a dead leg, meaning that Greg Cunningham and Liam Lindsay came in.
If many North End fans are asked they will have not wanted to sign Lindsay, and with fellow deputy Paul Huntington not playing in a while there’s a case to be made for a new centre-back – perhaps a left-sided one – to arrive mid-season.
Interest in Riis?
Emil Riis had a lot to live up to in his first season at Preston North End, but it’s fair to say it was a bit of an inconsistent one.
There were exciting performances but when it was all said and done the Dane only scored twice for the club all season – but in his first 14 games of the current campaign he’s obliterated that record.
Riis has scored eight goals in all competitions already this season and whilst he’s still an incredibly raw individual, he’s getting chances on a regular basis and putting some of them away.
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There’s been promising signs and if he does continue his hot streak, Riis could find himself with bigger clubs than North End looking at his signature come the January window, and North End know all about selling strikers with Callum Robinson and Jordan Hugill both moving on for decent fees in the past.
Harrop to depart?
With PNE having a big squad, several players had to miss out on their 25-man league squad and one of those was Josh Harrop.
He arrived to much fanfare in 2017 from Manchester United after scoring on his debut for the Red Devils, but it’s never quite worked out for the midfielder at Deepdale.
A bad knee injury didn’t help in 2018, but even when he made 32 appearances the following season he only scored five goals and was in and out of the side with Alex Neil not seemingly to fully trust his abilities.
Harrop secured himself a contract extension last summer but he only ended up making five appearances before he was sent out on a forgettable loan spell to Ipswich Town.
It was a surprise to see no League One club come in for Harrop this summer in a potential loan deal, but when the window re-opens in January it would be a surprise if North End don’t try and actively move the 25-year-old on – even if offloading him permanently may be tough.