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Season Preview 2017 – Part 1 07/08/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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Four today.  Four tomorrow.  And so on…

ARSENAL

INS: Alexandre Lacazette (Lyon, £52,000,000), Sead Kolašinac (Schalke 04, Free)

OUTS: Kaylen Hinds (VfL Wolfsburg, Undisclosed), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus, Undisclosed), Chris Willock (Benfica, Undisclosed), Stefan O’Connor (Newcastle United, Free), Yaya Sanogo (Toulouse, Free), Kristopher da Graca, Kostas Pileas, Takuma Asano (VfB Stuttgart, Season Loan), Mark Bola (Bristol Rovers, Season Loan), Steve Mavididi (Preston North End, Season Loan)

OUR EX-GUNNERS: Tommie Hoban (youth)

THEIR EX-ORNS: Héctor Bellerín

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A humbling first half in August given ample silver lining by Roberto Pereyra’s second half debut, and a stonking win at the Emirates in January that secured our final away points of the season.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 1-3 2-1
2015-16 0-3 2-1
2001-02 2-4
1999-00 2-3 0-1
1986-87 3-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Cech
Koscielny        Holding        Mustafi
Bellerín              Xhaka           Ramsey                 Monreal
Özil                     Lacazette                 Sanchez

VERDICT: It must be bloody pergatory to be an Arsenal fan at the moment.

And I’m not talking about the hand-wringing, the sense of entitlement and so forth.  Fans of most clubs are guilty of that in the right circumstances and as entertaining as it is from the outside you also have to pity the silent element of the Arsenal support who have to tolerate the nonsense that emerges from empty vessels and the easy target it makes their side.

You could take solace in the siege mentality that such things tends to invoke, except that if there’s precious little evidence of Arsenal fans being “as one”.  The Wenger thing, whatever your views and however little of a damn you give as an outsider is horribly divisive.  Such cursory “research” as I do for these pieces, flicking through forums and so on, evidences deeply entrenched and extreme positions.  I hate such situations as a Watford fan, things that split the support and have people turning on each other.  The illusion of harmony, of all being in it together on the same side, is one of the things I cherish about being at football.

And then there’s the Sanchez thing.  Good grief.  If I have to read one more piece about PSGorManCityorBayern… Sanchez expected to stay!  Sanchez expected to leave!  500k a week!…  and I don’t even give a damn.  Imagine if you did.

It occurred to me that Arsenal have emerged into almost the mirror image of George Graham’s notorious side.  That side was rugged, brutally pragmatic, solid, successful.  This side is flamboyant, flimsy, rudderless…  they’ll still be fine, obvs, although as United have found Not Being In The Champions League doesn’t provide big sides with a passport back automatically.  My guess would be a similar season on the edge of the Champions League places.

AFC BOURNEMOUTH

INS: Nathan Aké (Chelsea, £20,000,000), Asmir Begović (Chelsea, £10,000,000), Connor Mahoney (Blackburn Rovers, Compensation TBC), Jermain Defoe (Sunderland, Free)

OUTS: Ryan Allsop (Blackpool, Season Loan), Callum Buckley, Jake McCarthy, Matt Neale, Lewis Grabban (Sunderland, Season Loan), Jordan Lee (Torquay United, Season Loan), Ben Whitfield (Port Vale, Six Month Loan)

OUR EX-CHERRIES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nathan Aké, Carl Fletcher (Youth Team Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A pair of two all draws in both of which the home side twice came from behind. And no red cards.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 2-2
2015-16 1-1  1-1
2014-15 1-1
2013-14 6-1 2-0
2003-04 1-0
1997-98 2-1 1-0
1996-97 0-1 2-1
1995-96 1-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Begović
Francis            Cook               Aké            Daniels
Fraser               Arter                    Surman          Stanislas
King             Afobe

VERDICT: Two years on, that game against Sheffield Wednesday is still going to take some getting over.  It’s a scar.  Bournemouth weren’t even playing.  So… as we intimated last year it’s difficult to consider the Cherries without twitching.  We’re the ones with the problem, it’s not a rational thing. It’s just there.

So.  The Premier League now boasts Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Burnley, Brighton, Swansea, Watford.  In 1992/93, the first season of the Premier League, we finished the highest of the sixth, an unspectacular sixteenth in the second tier.  The other five were in the third, as were the then perhaps underperforming Stoke and West Brom and seven other sides to have since played in the top flight.  As we’ve discussed often, whilst part of the supposed premise of the Premier League was to benefit the national team a big part of the incentive was conservatism;  hiving off a bigger share of the money was an obvious attraction in the short term but an “anti-competitive” barrier to entry in the longer term.  Harder for oiks like Watford, Wimbledon, Swansea to muscle in if they’ve a big salary gap to make up on promotion.  The same goes for the Champions League.  Gratifying that whatever good and bad has come out of the development the wholly undesirable casting adrift of the Football League hasn’t happened.

Bournemouth, then.  Ninth place last season might be… if not flattering then a little deceptive.  As we know six points separated eighth from seventeenth, the Cherries were one of very many kinda samey kinda decent on a good day of which there were just about enough sides in the bottom half of the table.  Nonetheless, a half-decent side that has supplemented itself with a strong spine over the summer in Begović, Aké and Defoe.  It will be tough for Eddie Howe to maintain his record of improving on the side’s position in every season since his return to the club in 2012, but safely in the morass again is the worst they should expect.  Twelfth.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

INS: Pascal Gross (Ingolstadt, Undisclosed), Josh Kerr (Celtic, Undisclosed), Aleš Matějů (Viktoria Plzeň, Undisclosed),  Mathias Normann (FK Bodø/Glimt, Undisclosed), Mathew Ryan (Valencia, Undisclosed), Markus Suttner (Ingolstadt, Undisclosed), Izzy Brown (Chelsea, Season Loan)

OUTS: Rob Hunt (Oldham Athletic, Undisclosed), Elvis Manu (Gençlerbirliği, Free), Vegard Forren, Tom Dallison (Accrington Stanley, Six Month Loan), Tyler Forbes (Accrington Stanley, Six Month Loan), Oliver Norwood (Fulham, Season Loan), Christian Walton (Wigam Athletic, Season Loan), Sam Adekugbe (Vancouver Whitecaps, End of Loan), Chuba Akpom (Arsenal, End of Loan), Sebastian Pocognoli (West Bromwich Albion, End of Loan), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea, End of Loan)

OUR EX-SEAGULLS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A mundane draw at Vicarage Road and a rather less mundane afternoon in Sussex that launched several thousand hangovers.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2014-15 1-1 2-0
2012-13 0-1
2011-12 1-0 2-2
2010-11 0-1
2005-06 1-1 1-0
2004-05 1-1 1-2
2002-03 1-0 0-4

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Ryan
Bruno              Dunk         Duffy             Suttner
Knockaert      Stephens         Gross        March
Brown
Murray

VERDICT: Brighton getting up, finally, is brilliant.  That’s the first thing.  Not just how close they came to oblivion, there but for the grace of, you know… not just that they survived exploitative owners, playing bloody miles away in Gillingham, playing at an athletics stadium.  That’s all great.

But then as they’ve come back up…  every club has idiots of course, and in any game a tackle, a decision, can cause friction.  But generally going to the Amex has been a joy, an absolute pleasure.  Watford-coloured lightbulbs, welcoming stewards and posters in the away end “before that was a thing”, as the current parlance goes.  Some good games and results there haven’t hurt of course, two wins and two draws in four visits… crowned by that game two years ago.  The last game against Wednesday was an anticlimax, but the Brighton game was the zenith of the season crowned by Vydra’s “we’ve only gone and bloody done it” goal that echoed Allan Smart’s 1999 goal at Wembley in all but that it took a few hours for stuff to be confirmed.   Bit of a shame that they come to us on the August Bank Holiday and we go to them just before Christmas rather than vice versa.

As for this season…  always difficult to assess how well a promoted side might do without having seen much of them, or paid as much attention as we might traditionally have done. However whilst the forums are pragmatic and “look where we’ve come from” prevails the most optimistic aren’t saying more than “we’ll be competitive and have a chance”.  The concern for me looks to be that whilst defensively they might be sound – though keeper Ryan, reputation or otherwise, must be a bit of a risk – and they’ll be competitive in midfield they will struggle for goals.  There’s more verve in this side than in Middlesbrough’s last season, say, but they might suffer from the same problems ultimately.  Got to be relegation candidates, though it’s a fairly open field.

BURNLEY

INS: Jack Cork (Swansea City, up to £10,000,000), Phil Bardsley (Stoke City, Undisclosed), Charlie Taylor (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Michael Keane (Everton, up to £30,000,000), Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest, Undisclosed), George Boyd (Sheffield Wednesday, Free), Rouwen Hennings (Fortuna Düsseldorf, Free), Michael Kightly (Southend United, Free), Joey Barton, Paul Robinson, Brad Jackson (Southport, Season Loan), Aiden O’Neill (Fleetwood Town, Season Loan), Alex Whitmore (Bury, Six Month Loan), Jon Flanagan (End of Loan)

OUR EX-CLARETS: Nathaniel Chalobah

THEIR EX-ORNS: Jack Cork, Sean Dyche (Manager), Tony Loughlan (First Team Coach), Ian Woan (Assistant Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A demoralising capitulation at Turf Moor that stopped anyone getting too carried away with preceding wins over West Ham and Manchester United, and an important home win in which M’baye Niang’s flame was set to “on”.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 2-1 0-2
2013-14 1-1
2012-13 3-3
2011-12 3-2 2-2
2010-11 1-3
2008-09 3-0 0-4
2007-08 1-2
2005-06 3-1 1-4
2004-05 0-1 1-3
2003-04 1-1 3-2
2002-03 2-1 7-4  2-0
2001-02 1-2 0-1
2000-01 0-1 0-2
1997-98 1-0 0-2
1996-97 2-2 1-4

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Heaton
Lowton            Tarkowski                Mee                  Ward
Gudmundsson    Cork             Hendrick             Brady
Vokes            Gray

VERDICT: The Sean Dyche season feels like a lifetime ago.  Actually it was six years ago which sort of seems oddly distant at the same time.  The recipe then, in the end, when it got going, was tough-as-old-boots experience – Nosworthy, Taylor, Iwelumo, John Eustace – supplemented by a bit of magic dust.  My brother missed the second half of that season and has never accepted my version of quite how good Sean Murray was, how he grabbed the plaform he was given and danced all over it.  He’s seen the wistful, not-quite-fittingness that followed and, not having seen what went before, has been irritated rather than disappointed by it.

So anyway.  Tough as old boots.  Incoming: Jon Walters, Phil Bardsley… check, check.  Burnley must be a lot of fun to support, in a backs to the wall, all in it together kind of way.  Magic dust…  not so much, maybe, but enough.  Probably.  At the time of writing the squad is deeper than last season, and has more experience but there’s a Michael Keane-sized hole in the middle of the defence and the wide options in particular look flaky.

Not top of your list of Clubs To Get Relegated.  But certainly in the frame if the breaks go against them.

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