Lowly AFC Bournemouth enter 2018 embroiled in a dogged battle to preserve their Premier League status for a fourth successive year.

And while manager Eddie Howe has been repeatedly quick to play down the possibility of a busy January recruitment drive, further investment will surely be required if they are to build on a late win over Everton and attempt to mirror last season's exploits, which saw them recover from a woeful run of early New Year form to pull clear of the lower reaches and record a surprising maiden top-half finish.

The Cherries should be mindful of a worsening injury list, a lack of depth in certain areas and the potential for some of the clubs around them to spend their way out of trouble.

Howe's loyalty to his current players is a trait to be admired, although the previously stellar reputation of a young, attack-minded coach once spoken of as a future candidate for Arsenal and England following his sterling work to take Bournemouth through the divisions has certainly taken a hit during a difficult period.

What they need

Howe was initially insistent that summer signing Jermain Defoe's 10-week lay-off with an ankle fracture would not force his hand in January, throwing down a marker to the likes of Josh King, Benik Afobe and Lys Mousset to step up and support top scorer Callum Wilson, who has impressed since returning from a nine-month absence in October.

However, a hamstring injury sustained by King during the 2-1 defeat of Sam Allardyce's Everton on 30 December is likely to alter that approach and lead to a swift shift in priorities.

Upgrades in a weak central midfield area would not go amiss either, particularly with the injured Harry Arter subject to admiration from elsewhere and Andrew Surman also dealing with fitness issues. Bournemouth's leaky defence have similarly attracted criticism of late, despite the confident form of Nathan Ake.

Who could join?

Having previously raided Chelsea for the likes of Christian Atsu, Ake and Asmir Begovic, it is believed that Bournemouth are once again in talks with the defending champions over a loan deal for 18-year-old full-back Dujon Sterling.

Dujon Sterling
Chelsea's England Under-19 defender Dujon Sterling could follow Nathan Ake and Asmir Begovic to Bournemouth

Reading academy graduate Omar Richards was also linked with a move to the south coast before he put pen to paper on a new three-and-half-year contract, while Howe is said to be one of a number of English top-flight managers looking at Rennes forward Firmin Ndombe Mubele.

A loan return to the Vitality Stadium for Liverpool's Danny Ings - who worked with Howe at both Bournemouth and Burnley - could be one potential solution to the Defoe/King problem.

Who could leave?

Despite his difficult season to date, West Ham United are in hot pursuit of Arter and have reportedly seen an opening bid of £8m ($10.7m) dismissed for a player lauded by Howe as being a "driving force" and "almost the heartbeat of the team". The Republic of Ireland international only signed a new four-year deal in July.

The underwhelming Afobe has been mentioned in connection with £15m moves to Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and former employers Wolverhampton Wanderers and it is possible that the soon-to-be out-of-contract Lewis Grabban will be recalled from his prolific loan spell at Sunderland and sold to the highest bidder rather than reintegrated back into the squad.

Meanwhile, Adam Smith and Celta Vigo's Jonny have attracted attention from Leicester City and Claude Puel after an injury to regular right-back Danny Simpson.

Harry Arter
Howe intends to keep Harry Arter amid interest from West Ham

What the manager has said

After previously claiming that he was not "looking at anything" in a difficult and expensive January market, Howe said after the win over Everton: "We've picked up another injury in Josh King, but we've got one or two bodies coming back, so it's a little bittersweet.

"It looks like a hamstring problem, so that could be a minimum of two weeks. We are a little light in the striker department now with Josh's injury, so we'll have to wait and see if that changes our transfer policy."