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Season Preview 2018 – Part 1 06/08/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.

Football!  Splendid. Four today.  Four tomorrow.  And so on…


INS: Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria, £26,000,000), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient, £8,000,000), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen, Undisclosed), Sokratis Papasthatopoulos (Borussia Dortmund, Undisclosed), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus, Free)

OUTS: Chuba Akpom (PAOK, Undisclosed), Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Angers, Undisclosed), João Virginia (Everton, Undisclosed), Marc Bola (Blackpool, Free), Vlad Dragomir (Perugia, Free), Aaron Eyoma (Derby County, Free), Yassin Fortune (Sion, Free), Ryan Huddart (Boreham Wood, Free), Chiori Johnson (Bolton Wanderers, Free), Hugo Keto (Brighton & Hove Albion, Free), Tafari Moore (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Jack Wilshere (West Ham United, Free), Santi Cazorla, Alex Crean, Per Mertesacker, Matt Macey (Plymouth Argyle, Season Loan), Kelechi Nwakali (Porto, Season Loan)

OUR EX-GUNNERS: Tommie Hoban (youth)

THEIR EX-ORNS: Héctor Bellerín

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A dramatic 2-1 win at the Vic fuelled by Troy Deeney’s cameo off the bench and capped off by Tom Cleverley’s winner, and a mundane 3-0 defeat at the Emirates which could have gone another way when Troy took a penalty at 2-0 down but didn’t.


2017-18 2-1
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


Bellerín          Mustafi        Sokratis        Monreal
Ramsey                 Torreira                   Xhaka
Mkhitaryan                     Aubameyang                             Özil

VERDICT: It seemed inevitable that when Wenger eventually left Arsenal there would be a period of adjustment, and a very difficult job for whoever replaced him after 20+ years (see also, to varying degrees and in different ways, Alex Ferguson, Brian Clough, GT….).  As has been observed elsewhere however, by hanging around so long Wenger almost solved the problem for them, since even those defending the manager’s position in the seemingly endless and fist-chewingly tedious debates on his custodianship will surely have conceded that Wenger’s most successful days were in the past.  There is less of a sense of “what will we do without Arsène” than there might have been.

So… a new man, and the “what will the new guy bring” experience alien to many Gooners (run with it guys, you’ll get the hang of it, trust us…).  That he’s not taking Arsenal over at a highpoint is demonstrated by the twelve point gap to the Champions’ League in last year’s final table, let alone the 37 points to be made up on City (Arsenal were some seven points closer to the relegation places, though this reflects City’s dominance as much as Arsenal’s failings).

As far as early portents go, the recruitment of both Stephan Lichtsteiner and Sokratis addresses the failings notoriously highlighted by Troy last season.  Both are hard bastards.  Less positively both are at the tail end of their careers, and Sokratis is the third former Dortmund man brought in by recruitment guy Sven Mislintat.  If you’re going to focus on one source then Dortmund isn’t a bad one but the three in question – Sokratis, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan – effectively cost around £100m between them (albeit Mkhitaryan came in a swap deal) and none is younger than 29.  That’s a lot of money for some short-term stability.

Emery’s arrival should bring some unity to the Emirates, but it’s a long and difficult climb back to anywhere near the summit.  Champions League an outside possibility if that defence gets sorted.


INS: Diego Rico (Leganes, £10,700,000), David Brooks (Sheffield United, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Benik Afobe (Wolves, £10,000,000), Adam Federici (Stoke City, Undisclosed), Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest, Undisclosed), Max Gradel (Toulouse, Undisclosed), Ryan Allsop (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Baily Cargill (Franchise FC, Free), Oliver Harfield (Dagenham and Redbridge, Free), Sam Matthews (Bristol Rovers, Free), Joe Quigley (Maidstone United, Free), Patrick O’Flaherty, Rhoys Wiggins, Mikael Ndjoli (Kilmarnock, Six Months Loan)


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

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A thoroughly enjoyable victory on the south coast crowned by Richarlíson’s full debut and opening goal and rounded off by Étienne Capoue’s piledriver, and yet another draw with the Cherries at the Vic courtesy of losing yet another late goal.


2017-18 2-2
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


Francis            S.Cook               Aké             Rico
L.Cook           Surman          Gosling
King                            Wilson                                Ibe

VERDICT: One of the things about a World Cup like this summer’s is that it can genuinely convert a whole new tranche of supporters.  I have a friend whose attitude to football has wandered between the indifferent and gently scornful in the past, but who is now enthused not by a temporary burst of nationalism or of a new fascination with tactics and formations but by the manifestation of different traits from national team to national team, of differing codes of behaviour despite the steady homogenisation of the world game.

She’d have a wild old time with Bournemouth.  To what extent our picture of the Cherries is a self-fulfilling thing, that we selectively choose to focus on the bits that fit with the narrative, is difficult to tell… there must be an element of that I guess.  Nonetheless, the narrative came from something and its tempting to suggest that this something is still in charge and that the team won’t change until the head coach does.  Or to look at it another way, not entirely surprising perhaps that Jermain Defoe, by all accounts a thoroughly likeable and honest guy, has struggled to get into the team.

Bournemouth’s strategy, Defoe notwithstanding, has been to recruit young players, if not necessarily British then certainly largely from the domestic market.  There’s a lot too this approach of course, and it’s yielded a couple of gems of the likes of Lewis Cook and Aké (though the latter was hardly a punt or a steal at £20m).  But it’s inevitably going to be a bit hit-and-miss as well.  Going into the new campaign you’d have to worry about that defence, and the age of it (Aké excepted) in particular – the cover doesn’t look terribly impressive.  At the time of writing the signing of Jefferson Lerma appears to be imminent, and again it’s an odd one when The Likes Of Bournemouth are talking about spenidng £25m on a defensive midfielder. The Cherries are some way from one of the worst three sides in the division but it wouldn’t take much for them to struggle… and it would be interesting to see Howe in these circumstances, unfamiliar as he is with a relegation scrap.


INS: Alireza Jahanbaksh (AZ Alkmaar, £17,000,000), Florin Andone (Deportivo La Coruña, Undisclosed), Bernardo (RB Leipzig, Undisclosed), Yves Bissouma (Lille, Undisclosed), David Button (Fulham, Undisclosed), Jason Steele (Middlesbrough, Undisclosed), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns, Undisclosed), Joseph Tomlinson (Yeovil Town, Undisclosed), Leon Balogun (Mainz, Free), Hugo Keto (Arsenal, Free)

OUTS: Sam Baldock (Reading, Undisclosed), Henrik Bjordal (Zulte Waregem, Undisclosed), Connor Goldson (Rangers, Undisclosed), Uwe Hünemeier (Paderborn, Undisclosed), Jamie Murphy (Rangers, Undisclosed), Jiří Skalák (Millwall, Undisclosed), Bailey Vose (Colchester United, Undisclosed), Jonah Ayunga (Sutton United, Free), Tom Dallison (Falkirk, Free), Tyler Hornby-Forbes (Newport County, Free), Dessie Hutchinson (Waterford, Free), Tim Krul (Norwich City, Free), Niki Mäenpää (Bristol City, Free), Reece Myles-Meekums (Bromley, Free), David Ajiboye, Rohan Ince, Mamadou Koné, Rian O’Sullivan, Liam Rosenior, Steve Sidwell,  Steven Alzate (Swindon Town, Season Loan), Ben Hall (Notts County, Season Loan), Aleš Matějů (Brescia, Season Loan), Tom McGill (Worthing, Season Loan), Robert Sanchez (Forest Green Rovers, Season Loan), Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City, End of Loan)



RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A nil nil draw in which we played an hour with ten men after Miguel Britos’ very red card and a miserable 1-0 reverse at the Amex.


2017-18 0-0
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


Schelotto              Dunk         Duffy             Bernardo
Jahanbaksh        Bissouma         Propper        Izquierdo

VERDICT: There’s something a bit weird going on in the Premier League.  Look at our October fixture list for example…  Bournemouth, Wolves, Huddersfield.  We had exactly the same October ten years ago in the Championship.  Probably.  Do you feel a bit cheated?

Looking at the Championship there’s only Aston Villa who really stand out as A Club Wot Ought To Be In The Premier League though.  (West Brom and Stoke at a push.  Anyone who mentions Leeds needs to take a good hard look at themselves….).  So… nothing’s really changed I guess, it was ever thus with seven or eight top sides and everyone else sidling through for a season or six.  And of course if there’s a “problem”, if something’s changed, we’re hardly Premier League royalty ourselves, very much part of it.

But there appear to be a growing number of smaller, well-run clubs like the Seagulls Making A Decent Fist Of It.  Who can tell, really…  Alireza Jahanbaksh, Florin Andone and Yves Bissouma were linked to us a year or two ago, they might be decent, they might be terrible.  But… in as much as it’s possible to judge Albion are doing a good job of building on their successful first season back in the top flight.   This will be their Difficult Second Season of course, and they’ll need to run to stand still…  whilst Swansea provide evidence that a small well-run Premier League club can become just another Championship club pretty damn quickly once the well-run thing fades away.  Nonetheless, Albion should have enough.


INS: Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough, £15,000,000)

OUTS: Tom Anderson (Doncaster Rovers, Free), Scott Arfield (Rangers, Free), Jordan Barnett (Barnsley, Free), Arlen Birch (AFC Fylde, Free), Josh Ginnelly (Walsall, Free), Harry Limb (Kings Lynn Town), Chris Long (Fleetwood Town, Free), Dean Marney (Fleetwood Town, Free), Bradley Jackson, Samuel Layton, Khius Metz, Rahis Nabi, Jamie Thomas, Georges-Kévin N’Koudou (Tottenham Hotspur, End of Loan), Conor Mitchell (St Johnstone, Season Loan)

OUR EX-CLARETS: Nathaniel Chalobah, Andre Gray

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

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A single goal defeat in Lancashire after Marvin Zeegelaar’s red card and defeat snatched from the jaws of a much needed victory at home.


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


Lowton            Gibson                Mee                  Ward
Gudmundsson         Cork               Defour                 Brady
Vokes            Wood

VERDICT: So here’s evidence that one’s point of view can change over time, that a club isn’t permanently painted a certain way in your entirely prejudiced mind’s eye.  As with Bournemouth the root cause of this is a manager;  unlike at Bournemouth, Sean Dyche’s impact is wholly positive.  Much as it’s grossly oversimplifying to say that the club has been moulded in his own image, that we see things that fit the narrative but might have been there anyway, it’s a club and a team that looks honest and tough, focused and disciplined and without any pretension whatsoever.  Even if (whisper it) the man in charge does whine about officiating a bit sometimes.  We’re none of us perfect.

There’s a school of thought which says that if only we’d had a bit more luck with injuries last season we could have been up there where Burnley were.  Well the Clarets weren’t coulda shouldas, they actually did make European competition, just about and despite a long absence to Robbie Brady for example.  Aberdeen might seem like a rather unglamorous reward for their endeavours, but that aside  here’s where the problems begin.

By any reasonable assessment last season was pretty close to the summit of Burnley’s potential, certainly for the moment.  The infrequency with which Champions defend their titles successfully is testimony to how difficult maintaining a peak level of performance is, much less so when faced, potentially, with a busier fixture list, limited strengthening at the time of writing and relatively modest targets discussed with the manager uncomfortably bemoaning the challenges of the market.  Burnley won’t struggle, but a bottom half finish wouldn’t be a huge surprise.


1. Kris - 08/08/2018

I love your season previews Matt. I look forward to them every year. To have all that’s happened in the off-season in one place helps me appreciate the new season more. I realize it must be quite a task compiling all that so a huge thank you for these (and for all other things bhappy).

Burnley is fast becoming my second club in the prem. With Dyche there, I will always have a soft spot, but they seem a well run football club (emphasis on club rather than busines). Now they’ve gone and signed Vydra and I really hope for both Burnley and Matej that he kicks on and takes the premiership by storm. I cannot see them finoshing higher than last season and even 7th again will be tough, but they are sich a solid side that I cannot see them in trouble.

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