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Season Preview Part 2 04/08/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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CRYSTAL PALACE

INS: Yohan Cabaye (Paris St Germain, £10,000,000), Connor Wickham (Sunderland, up to £9,000,000), Alex McCarthy (Queens Park Rangers, Undisclosed), Patrick Bamford (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS: Mandela Egbo (Borussia Mönchengladbach, TBC), Lewis Price (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Shola Ameobi, Stephen Dobbie, Owen Garvan, Peter Ramage, Jerome Thomas, Jerome Binnom-Williams (Burton Albion, Season Loan), Hiram Boateng (Plymouth Argyle, Six Month Loan), Jack Hunt (Sheffield Wednesday, Season Loan), Ryan Inniss (Port Vale, Season Loan), Yaya Sanogo (Arsenal, End of Loan)

OUR EX-EAGLES: Dean Austin, Ben Watson

THEIR EX-ORNS: Adlène Guedioura, Adrian Mariappa, Keith Millen (Assistant Manager), Jordon Mutch

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: None spring to mind.  Oh, OK then…  defeat to Kevin Phillips’ penalty late in extra time two years ago as we wilted in the Wembley sun.  Prior to that, a well-earned point at Vicarage Road in a 2-2 draw, TV coverage featuring that tiresome Holloway gamesmanship interview, and a 3-2 win at Selhurst on the opening day in which Almen and Matej opened their accounts for the Hornets and we began to wonder quite what the new regime might mean.  Still, quality like that was never going to hang around was it…?  “What will they do when the loans go back?”

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2012-13 2-2 0-1
2011-12 0-2 0-4
2010-11 1-1 2-3
2009-10 1-3
2008-09 2-0 0-0 4-3
2007-08 0-2 2-0 2-0
2005-06 1-2 1-3 0-0 / 3-0
2003-04 1-5 0-1
2002-03 3-3 1-0
2001-02 1-0 2-0
2000-01 2-2 0-1
1998-99 2-1 2-2
1995-96 0-4
1993-94 2-0

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Speroni
Ward         Dann         Delaney      Souaré
McArthur           Jedinak
Zaha                      Cabaye                   Bolasie
Murray

VERDICT: The thing is, you look at the middle of the Premier League and there’s all sorts of clubs that a few years ago were second tier fodder, or worse.  And, yes yes yes for every Stoke, Swansea or Palace – none of whom will be in many folks’ bottom three predictions – there are any number of chancers who slunk back where they came with their tails between their legs… not good enough, not wealthy enough, not lucky enough when it mattered.  Hell, that’s been us on a couple of occasions.  So… there’s no pretending that what’s in front of us is easy but others have done it and whilst any successful plan looks well thought out with the benefit of hindsight, it’s tempting to suggest that clubs that look organised, that look to have a plan that are pulling it off.  And then you think about Palace, and Ian Holloway’s approach to recruitment two years ago and that argument loses some credibility.

The Eagles have attained their current status remarkably quickly having gotten promoted by beating us two years ago and sitting, at that point, squarely in the “going straight back down” slot prior to that excitable scattergun approach to the squad.  Holloway is long gone, but any Hornet who’s been watching our frequent encounters over the years will know that there’s never any shortage of reasons to dislike Palace, and Alan Pardew’s brand of prickly superciliousness is an adequate replacement.  The squad looks solid, the addition of Cabaye an eye-catching one… as I wrote this bit at first I was thinking you might want stronger options up front:  Chamakh is talented but injury-prone, Murray leads the line and the fact that he looks like a lower division plodder is thoroughly deceptive but he’s not going to develop any further, whilst Dwight Gayle’s effervescence and finishing is let down by a lack of physical strength not suited to a lone forward role.  Since then Bamford and Wickham have come in and added different options, if not quite proven ones. All in all though, an astonishingly strong, well-established squad in a short space of time.  Still don’t have to like them though.

 

EVERTON

INS: Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona, £4,300,000), David Henen (Olympiakos, £200,000), Tom Cleverley (Manchester United, Free)

OUTS: Chris Long (Burnley, Undisclosed), Antolín Alcaraz (Las Palmas, Free), Sylvain Distin (AFC Bournemouth, Free), George Green (Oldham Athletic, Free), Luke Garbutt (Fulham, Season Loan), Christian Atsu (Chelsea, End of Loan), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan)

OUR EX-TOFFEES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Tom Cleverley

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: The opening day of our last top flight season set a tone, when a strong display yielded no reward after a bizarre late penalty decision against Chris Powell.  Later in the season an altogether more comfortable 3-0 victory for the Toffees at Vicarage Road in what would be Malky Mackay’s last League appearance.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2006-07 1-2
2000-01 1-2
1999-00 1-3 2-4
1983-84 0-2

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Howard
Coleman        Jagielka     Stones         Baines
McCarthy
Mirallas           Cleverley          Barkley          Deulofeu
Lukaku

VERDICT: There’s the temptation to look at Everton and say “why bother”?  What is there for Everton to aspire to…  after so many year of what was generally recognised as fine achievement in context under David Moyes, and that of by and large just about missing out on a Champions’ League place, what is there for an Everton fan to hope for?  Returning to the status of not quite being as good as Arsenal?  Of kind of winning a lot of games in a fairly prosaic way but not, like, winning a trophy?  Little of this is Everton’s fault, of course, not as such…  these are those barriers to competitiveness that the Champions’ League in particular sets in stone.  But what does an Everton fan hope for?

And then you look in the mirror and think about it for a bit and realise what a load of old bollocks that argument is.  The same trite, lazy tosh that the armchair United fan in the office comes out with when you mention that you follow any club below the elite.  We’re not in line for trophies any more than Everton are, less so, and that’s never stopped any of us, or of the tens of thousands of others who follow clubs that haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of, you know, winning a major competition.  You’re in it for the ride.  You’re in it for belonging to something, for the victories however small or parochial they might be and for the despair and misery too.  That applies to Everton fans as much as it does to fans of Watford or Accrington or anyone.

Perhaps the person suffering most from Everton’s awkward place in the grand scheme of things is Roberto Martinez, stymied as he is by following a successful manager who never actually won anything that high bar isn’t in itself terribly exciting and therefore anything below that sees Everton slip into the morass of also-rans.  Everton fans will cite an epic season for injuries as a driving reason behind last season’s relative slump and if they’re right then the Toffees will be up in fifth or sixth again come May.  Messageboards contain ominous anxiety however, in amongst the griping about ineffective possession football and bickering about quite how good Romelu Lukaku is or isn’t.  That anxiety can be captured in the possibility that too many players might be past their best whilst the kids coming through aren’t (all) quite ready to step in just yet.  In the former camp count Tim Howard – at 36 was last season an aberration or the beginning of the end?  Phil Jagielka, terrific for half of last season but awful for the other half and 33 in August, it’s donkey’s years since he was turning out against us at Bramall Lane. Gareth Barry, by consensus run into the ground during the last campaign.  Leighton Baines, still only 30 but another dipping below his very high standard.

As for the first game of the season… I think we could have done without that particular repeat of 2006/07 when we faced the Toffees at the same stage and found a new and creative way to add to our failure to pick up as much as a point in (now) ten trips to Goodison.  In particular, it would be helpful if Tom Cleverley doesn’t chose his debut to remember what an effective attacking threat he was during his season at Vicarage Road, something that years of being employed otherwise and having his confidence battered by sneering twitterati appear to have pummeled out of him.  Thereafter… somewhere between sixth and twelfth, natch.

LEICESTER CITY

INS: N’Kolo Kante (Caen, £6,300,000), Robert Huth (Stoke City, £3,000,000), Yohan Benalouane (Atalanta, Undisclosed), Shinji Okazaki (Mainz 05, Undisclosed), Christian Fuchs (Schalke 04, Free)

OUTS: Chris Wood (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Paul Gallagher (Preston North End, Free), Tom Hopper (Scunthorpe United, Free), Kieran Kennedy (Motherwell, Free), Anthony Knockaert (Standard Liége, Free), Adam Smith (Northampton Town, Free), Matthew Upson (Franchise FC, Free), Esteban Cambiasso, Conrad Logan, James Pearson, Gary Taylor-Fletcher, Ben Hamer (Nottingham Forest, Season Loan)

OUR EX-FOXES: Lloyd Dyer

THEIR EX-ORNS: Danny Drinkwater, Kevin Phillips (First Team Coach)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A miserable capitulation to a rampant Foxes side in November 2013, and a much more credible draw in Leicester four months later that brought to an end what had been Leicester’s nine-match winning run.  Before that…  this.  And this.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2013-14 0-3 2-2
2012-13 2-1 2-1 3-1 / 0-1
2011-12 3-2 0-2
2010-11 3-2 2-4
2009-10 3-3
2005-06 1-2 2-2
2004-05 2-2 1-0
2002-03 1-2 0-2
1999-00 1-1 0-1
1995-96 0-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Schmeichel
Wasilewski          Huth          Morgan
Albrighton                King               Kante               Schlupp
Mahrez
Ulloa         Okazaki

VERDICT: So I was looking forward to playing Leicester again to a quite unreasonable extent.  Far from a novelty of course, the Foxes have been regular adversaries in recent years but that’s kind of the point… a side that we’ve locked horns with frequently and memorably.  Last year’s respite in hostilities saw Leicester claw their way improbably out of a deep hole… seven points from safety at the end of March, seven wins in the last nine almost trebled their tally for the season and left them comfortable and looking upwards.  After a couple of seasons of building they’d always looked like the promoted side most likely to, and had stuck to their guns throughout the first half of the campaign when performances hadn’t matched results.  The outcome justified the approach and Leicester might have been looking onwards with optimism.  Until everything appeared to implode.

Nigel Pearson’s sacking came on the back of his son’s dismissal following a well-publicised incident on a tour of Thailand.  It seems, however, that the relationship between the notoriously prickly Pearson and the club’s Thai owners was fragile at best in any case.  In any event, the appointment of Claudio Ranieri as his replacement appears an odd one… a very experienced manager with an impressive CV he nonetheless comes to Leicestershire on the back of a bizarrely disastrous four months as Greek boss that saw one draw from five games including a defeat at home to the Faroe Islands.  He will suffer from being neither Nigel Pearson nor popular replacement rumour Martin O’Neill… indeed in some ways he’s as far from Pearson as it’s possible to imagine.  City fans, however determined to be positive, will be uncomfortable with the fact that in his four months he turned Greece from a side characterised by discipline and organisation to an unholy mess.

The squad is, as I write, short of quality in midfield in particular with the loss of Esteban Cambiasso, who played under Ranieri for a season at Inter, particularly awkward.  Suddenly City look much more precarious.

LIVERPOOL

INS: Christian Benteke (Aston Villa, £32,500,000), Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim, £21,000,000), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton, £10,000,000), Joe Gomez (Charlton Athletic, £3,500,000), Bobby Adekanye (Barcelona, Undisclosed), Danny Ings (Burnley, TBC), Adam Bogdan (Bolton Wanderers, Free), James Milner (Manchester City, Free)

OUTS: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City, £49,000,000), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo, £3,500,000), Sebastian Coates (Sunderland, Undisclosed), Rickie Lambert (West Bromwich Albion, Undisclosed), Steven Gerrard (Los Angeles Galaxy, Free), Glen Johnson (Stoke City, Free), Brad Jones, Luis Alberto (Deportivo La Coruña, Season Loan),  Lloyd Jones (Blackpool, Season Loan), Kevin Stewart (Swindon Town, Season Loan), Lawrence Vigouroux (Swindon Town, Season Loan), Danny Ward (Aberdeen, Season Loan), Jordan Williams (Swindon Town, Season Loan), André Wisdom (Norwich City, Season Loan), Javier Manquillo (Atlético Madrid, End of Loan)

OUR EX-REDS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Brendan Rodgers (Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: In contrast to 1999’s excitement, two uninteresting comprehensive defeats within a month of each other last time around during a run in which the Reds won nine league games in ten.  The latter of the two was Ashley Young’s final outing in yellow.  And Will Hoskins’ debut.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2004-05 0-1 / 0-1
1999-00 2-3 1-0
1984-85 3-4
1969-70 1-0
1966-67 1-3

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Mignolet
Clyne         Skrtel       Sakho    Moreno
Henderson     Milner      Coutinho
Firmino               Benteke                   Lallana

VERDICT: Twenty five years since Liverpool won the league.  In some ways that’s extraordinary, almost inconceivable especially if you’re old enough to remember it and the years before it.  In others it just isn’t.  Liverpool have only occasionally been serious contenders for the title in the interim…  and yet opening this sort of article with this sort of reflection is still unavoidable.  And therein part of Liverpool’s problem, really, the mismatch of seeing themselves as one of the country’s Biggest clubs (that b-word is a dangerous thing) and yet 25 years since they were champions, the 2005 Champions’ League notwithstanding, belies that.  There’s a sort of frantic desperation that persists, an urgency divorced from reality to justify what they perceive as their status.

Liverpool have bought a lot of players over the summer and at the time of writing boast a vast squad.  There’s some of that franticness there too, mind…  much as last season was a bit disappointing given what happened before, much as Sturridge’s injury situation left them horribly short up front and much as there’s money to spend given the Sterling transfer it all feels a bit desperate once more…. “look, we’re really serious this time”.  Revolution rather than evolution (again).   Firmino, subject of a big outlay, may be a terrific player… but his recruitment is rather transparently an attempt to recreate the signing of Suarez who was brought in at a similar age and developed and was sold for a significantly higher fee.  And I guess that might work but it all feels a little… haphazard.  Liverpool will still be strong, of course, and might even finish higher up than last season but…  you get the feeling that being seen to be doing something is the priority at Anfield.

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Comments»

1. simmos - 04/08/2015

Is it okay that of all the upcoming games this season, the ones I am most looking forward to are the matches with Leicester? I am probably alone in this but we nearly always have exciting, close matches with them. Apart from the obvious play off match, the terrific two 3-2 home wins in 2010 and 2012 come to mind.

Matt Rowson - 04/08/2015

I agree entirely. The 2-1 at their place where Chalobah took the roof out of the net. The 3-3 when Heidar came back. Often terrific games.

RS - 06/08/2015

Still squirming though after the embarrassing, gloating, showing of the 3 – 1 home playoff video ahead of the last home defeat; what more incentive did they need..?

2. Ramsgate Horn - 04/08/2015

Yes ive seen some great games also Verus the Foxes the home 2-1, in the zola season another example, But lets not forget some
good games v Palarse the play off win in 06 at Selhurst a 3-3 home draw in 02 and 1 2-1 in the taylor playoff season
The big games have spice but im looking forward to the games against the sides arround us, where we may get points
And Newcastle nice to throw a Bananna skin under them

3. Old Git - 05/08/2015

And don’t forget that game in 1970 (I think….) when Barry Endean snatched a glorious late winner barely a few seconds after Keith Eddy had equalized from the penalty spot. A real ‘victory from the jaws of defeat’ moment.


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