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Season Preview 2017 – Part 3 09/08/2017

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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LEICESTER CITY

INS: Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City, £25,000,000), Harry Maguire (Hull City, £17,000,000), George Thomas (Coventry City, £500,000), Sam Hughes (Chester City, Undisclosed), Vicente Iborra (Sevilla, Undisclosed), Eldin Jakupović (Hull City, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Ron-Robert Zieler (VfB Stuttgart, £4,000,000), Marcin Wasilewski, Callum Elder (Wigan Athletic, Season Loan), Bartosz Kapustka (SC Freiburg, Season Loan), Molla Wagué (Udinese, End of Loan)

OUR EX-FOXES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Danny Drinkwater

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A startling win at the Vic, our first over reigning Champions for 30-odd years, and a miserable, bad-tempered defeat at the KP in the run-in.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 2-1 0-3
2015-16 0-1 1-2
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
Simpson       Maguire            Huth             Fuchs
Mahrez                 Ndidi               Iborra              Albrighton
Vardy            Iheanacho

VERDICT: I wonder whether there’s a small part of your average Leicester fan that’s secretly happy about slipping back into the pack.  Not that winning the title wasn’t marvellous and extraordinary but… it’s a bit like going on a lavish holiday and eating great food and seeing wonderful places and actually quite enjoying being back on your sofa with a cup of tea.  I guess.

So what happens this season.  Very much after the Lord Mayor’s Show is the danger of course… no longer Champions, no longer in the Champions’ League, now having to cope with a set of circumstances for which there is no blueprint.  How does a fair to middling club cope with the backdraft of an unexpected and, probably, isolated burst of real success? Harry Maguire looks a good start if I’m any judge, absolutely in the template of big, solid central defenders that Leicester have fielded in recent years.  But you can’t help but worry about Craig Shakespeare…  the story of a popular and highly competent coach replacing an unpopular manager and getting a bounce before dropping like a stone isn’t a new one.  And with Leicester, whilst there should be no danger of them struggling particularly given the impressive capture of Iheanacho, you’d have to worry about how the team, the club would cope with a bad start borne of injuries, bad luck, whatever.  Being cool about no longer contesting the title and sitting in mid-table is one thing.  Being cool about a relegation scrap something else.  Eleventh.  Probably.

LIVERPOOL

INS: Mohamed Salah (Roma, £34,000,000), Andy Robertson (Hull City, Undislcosed), Dominic Solanke (Chelsea, Tribunal)

OUTS: Lucas Leiva (Lazio, £5,000,000), Ryan Fulton (Hamilton, Undisclosed), Kevin Stewart (Hull City, Undisclosed), Andre Wisdom (Derby County, Undisclosed), Tom Brewitt (Middlesbrough, Free), Madger Gomes (Leeds United, Free), Pedro Chirivella (Willem II, Season Loan), Shamal George (Carlisle, Six Month Loan), Connor Randall (Hearts, Season Loan), Alex Manninger

OUR EX-REDS: Jerome Sinclair

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A humbling at Anfield and a more mundane defeat at Vicarage Road including some odd acrobatics from Emre Can.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 0-1
2015-16 3-0
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         Matip       Lovren    Robertson
Henderson              Wijnaldum
Mané                      Coutinho               Lallana
Firmino

VERDICT: I don’t know whether Jürgen Klopp will ever win the Premier League with Liverpool but he’s already made them halfway likeable so you wouldn’t put anything past him.  The Gegenpressing thing is great of course (unless it’s being done to you in which case nothing is terribly attractive) and in the recruitment of Mo Salah there will be at least one more option with focused pace, meaning that not quite so much relies on Sadio Mané.

But it’s the signing of Andy Robertson that tickles me.  A concentrated review would probably reveal that, actually, Big Clubs make more signings of this ilk than you’d credit but it certainly feels like an anachronism.  Not since the eighties have Liverpool gone shopping in the second tier (OK, recently relegated) for left backs called Andy.  Something is right with the world.

As for Liverpool, the return of the Champions (sic) League might put pressure on a squad that’s reliant on kids in places; they’ll do well to match last season’s finish but might have some fun getting wherever they get to.

MANCHESTER CITY

INS: Benjamin Mendy (AS Monaco, £49,200,000), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur, £45,000,000), Bernardo Silva (AS Monaco, £43,000,000), Éderson (Benfica, £34,700,000), Danilo (Real Madrid, £26,900,000), Douglas Luiz (Vasco da Gama, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City, £25,000,000), Enes Unal (Villarreal, £12,000,000), Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town, Up to £10,000,000), Nolito (Sevilla, £7,900,000), Aleksandr Kolarov (AS Roma, £4,400,000), Fernando (Galatasaray, Undisclosed), Oliver Ntcham (Celtic, Undisclosed), Rubén Sobrino (Alavés, Undisclosed), Bruno Zucolini (Hellas Verona, Undisclosed), Willy Caballero (Chelsea, Free), Jesús Navas (Sevilla, Free), Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham United, Free), Gaël Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Aleix Garcia (Girona, Season Loan), Angus Gunn (Norwich City, Season Loan), Joe Hart (West Ham United, Season Loan), Rodney Kongolo (Doncaster Rovers, Six Months Loan), Douglas Luiz (Girona, Season Loan), Marlos Moreno (Girona, Season Loan), Ashley Smith-Brown (Hearts, Season Loan)

OUR EX-SKY BLUES: Costel Pantilimon

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Shudder.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 0-5
2015-16 1-2 0-2
2001-02 1-2 0-3
1996-97 1-3

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Éderson
Kompany      Stones     Otamendi
Walker                  Fernandinho                 Mendy
Silva                           de Bruyne
Agüero             Jesus

VERDICT: You remember how, when you were a kid, old people always complained about how it was all about money “nowadays”, that money was ruining the game?  Wind forward however many years and Man City are spending £120 million on three full-backs.  And there will be kids going, “yeah, whatever”.

The speed of acceleration of transfer fees has got to the point that it’s not remotely possible to evaluate what a player is “worth”.  Not that evaluating a player’s value ever had any meaning when things were a bit more stable but… it’s like what my Gran tells me about queuing for bread in Germany after the war.  You got to the front of the queue, the price had doubled.

City finished third without a goalkeeper, and have bought a very good one AND just spent £120 million on three full-backs.  City will win the League.

MANCHESTER UNITED

INS: Romelu Lukaku (Everton, £75,000,000), Victor Lindelof (Benfica, £31,000,000), Nemanja Matić (Chelsea, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad, £9,800,000), Josh Harrop (Preston North End, Free), Wayne Rooney (Everton, Free), Zlatan Ibrahimović, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Leeds United, Season Loan), Dean Henderson (Shrewsbury Town, Season Loan), Sam Johnstone (Aston Villa, Season Loan), Regan Poole (Northampton Town, Season Loan), Devonte Redmond (Scunthorpe United, Season Loan)

OUR EX-RED DEVILS: Craig Cathcart, Tom Cleverley

THEIR EX-ORNS: Ashley Young

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A stonking, dramatic win early in the season crowned by Troy bootering a penalty decisively past de Gea, and an unremarkable defeat at Old Trafford.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
20016-17 3-1
20015-16 1-2  0-1
2006-07 1-2
2001-02 0-3
1999-00 2-3 1-4
1984-85 5-1
1978-79 2-1
1968-69 0-2

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

De Gea
Valencia      Lindelof       Bailly              Blind
Matić             Herrera
Mkhitaryan               Pogba                          Mata
Lukaku

VERDICT: I don’t know what it is about United that makes me think “oh sod this” every time I get to this stage of the preview.  It’s not that it’s United in particular, not any more…  the time when United were The dominant club is fading in the same direction as Liverpool’s golden era in the eighties.  Perhaps it’s just being halfway through this slog and recognising that there’s not a lot I can tell you that you’ve not read a million times elsewhere.  Lukaku, strength and mobility, check.  Matić letting Pogba play a bit further forward, check.  Back in the Champions League, check.

I quite liked the fact that Mourinho prioritised the UEFA Cup (or whatever it’s called) over the Premier League, even if it was simply as the likeliest avenue to the Champions’ League.  Prioritising, you know, winning a trophy over jostling for position. United have a big enough squad to carry that.  Won’t win the League though.  Third.

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Comments»

1. Ray knight - 09/08/2017

luv your well researched and balanced musings. Merson could take s leaf out of your book. Hope you keep your reports coming this season…could be interesting!

2. Mr Anderson - 09/08/2017

Matt, your clear antipathy towards writing the Man Utd preview made me smile. A quick note to let you that you make the lunch hour something to look forward too, for me and doubtless many others. Thanks for taking the time to do this after all these years :-).

Matt Rowson - 09/08/2017

Thanks 🙂

3. Peter van Niekerk - 09/08/2017

As an ardent long time Hornets fan from South Africa, I find this so refreshing and balanced. I’m looking forward to more.

4. Simon Caldwell - 09/08/2017

I’ll second (or third) that. Even now that I’m not as devoted to football as I was, getting to the week before the season starts and reading your preview is a thoroughly entertaining and informative ritual. This year of course made even better by seeing the Aston Villa report and picture!

Matt Rowson - 09/08/2017

🙂 :). Long time no see.

You even played a walk on role in the Villa report…

5. Mick - 10/08/2017

Fully agree about the ridiculous transfer fees now demanded and paid.
But not sure about the reference to inflation after the War.
The hyperinflation in Germany occurred in 1923.


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