A previously respected Premier League stalwart with Everton reduced to a punchline following miserable spells at Manchester United and Sunderland and a forgettable stint in La Liga, David Moyes is steadily beginning to rebuild his shattered managerial reputation as relegation-threatened West Ham United's unlikely firefighter.

In the bottom three and with just nine points to their name when the club finally dispensed of Slaven Bilic after several months of uncertainty in November, the gruff Scot, certainly not a popular choice as successor to the former Hammers cult hero, has made noticeable improvements during his 11 matches in charge, even if such progress has not been accompanied by a swift surge up the table.

While it would be an exaggeration to say that West Ham fans are heading into 2018 with any sort of real optimism given that they are still entrenched in a scrap for survival, their predicament is no longer as dire and the right signings this month could prove instrumental in successfully avoiding a disastrous return to the second tier.

What they need

Most would agree that at least one new central midfielder is top of the January agenda for West Ham, with captain Mark Noble - while still an influential figure - past his best and Cheikhou Kouyate and Pedro Obiang both having flattered to deceive this season.

Moyes, looking for experienced Premier League campaigners capable of making an impact straightaway, has spoken of the need to redress an imbalanced squad that features a surplus of middling forwards and left-sided operators but a shortage of quality options both in the middle of the park and down the right-hand flank.

Who could join

Joe Allen
Stoke are unlikely to want to sell key midfielder Joe Allen this month Getty Images

West Ham are said to be willing to part with up to £15m ($20.3m) to deprive fellow strugglers Stoke City of Joe Allen, but it seems high unlikely that the crisis-stricken Potters will be content to lose one of their best players to a bottom-half rival while in a state of such peril.

Newcastle United's Jonjo Shelvey and Harry Arter of Bournemouth have been mentioned as other potential solutions to that midfield problem, though another move for William Carvalho seems unlikely at this juncture despite the club resolving their differences with Sporting CP following an ugly post-summer war of words.

Swansea City duo Alfie Mawson and Ki Sung-yueng are also on the radar, along with ex-Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle, Sevilla's Steven N'Zonzi, Reading centre-back Liam Moore, West Bromwich Albion captain Jonny Evans, Augsburg right-back Daniel Opare, Arsenal duo Jack Wilshere and Olivier Giroud and FC Krasnodar talisman Fyodor Smolov.

West Ham are additionally believed to be apart of the crowded Danny Ings, Moussa Dembele and Theo Walcott sweepstakes.

Who could leave

Diafra Sakho's desire to leave appears to be mutual amid that aforementioned striker excess, with Swansea rumoured to be chasing a player whose proposed £9m transfer to Rennes collapsed in absurd fashion back in August.

Diafra Sakho
Diafra Sakho has been linked with a move to bottom club Swansea City Getty Images

Top scorer and former club record signing Andre Ayew has also been linked with a return to South Wales, though his wage packet may prove problematic. Some outlets even suggest that Andy Carroll has emerged as a shock candidate to back-up Alvaro Morata at Chelsea.

Borussia Monchengladbach have made a £10m bid to sign Reece Oxford on a permanent basis after he was recalled early from his loan spell in North Rhine-Westphalia, with Bundesliga rivals RB Leipzig also eyeing a deal for the 19-year-old defender.

Meanwhile, Liverpool are supposedly leading the chase for Domingos Quina as West Ham look to cash in on the teenage prospect given that their current plight is hardly conducive to prolonged chances for youngsters.

What the manager has said

"I've given players opportunities," Moyes said over the festive period. "I'm in a hurry and I have to be in a hurry and because of that I cannot wait three or four months to see how you do. Ideally, I'd have had six or seven pre-season games to understand what they're like and what they do, but I've not.

"I've got to say every player has shown great desire and is committed in training, but I think we're short in some areas and overloaded in others. For example, we've got lots of forwards, but we're really short of midfield players.

"We've got quite a few who are comfortable playing on the left, but not so many who can play on the right, so we've got a little bit of an imbalanced squad which we've got to straighten out in January if we can."

David Moyes
West Ham boss David Moyes is targeting players who are ready to hit the ground running in January Getty Images