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Season Preview 2018 – Part 2 07/08/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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CARDIFF CITY

INS: Greg Cunningham (Preston North End, Undisclosed), Josh Murphy (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Bobby Reid (Bristol City, Undisclosed), Alex Smithies (QPR, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Matty Kennedy (St Johnstone, Free), Ben Wilson (Bradford City, Free), Rhys Abbruzzese, Frédéric Guonongbe, Greg Halford,  Ogo Obi, Connor Young, Mark Harris (Newport County, Six Month Loan), Craig Bryson (Derby County, End of Loan), Liam Feeney (Blackburn Rovers, End of Loan), Marko Grujić (Liverpool, End of Loan), Armand Traoré (Nottingham Forest, End of Loan), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest, End of Loan), Yanic Wildschut (Wigan Athletic, End of Loan)

OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Matthew Connolly

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: An aggravating home defeat, a fourth in succession in November 2014 when promotion seemed far from guaranteed and a 4-2 win at the Cardiff City Stadium a month later in which Adlene Guedioura scored a memorable brace.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2014-15 0-1 4-2
2012-13 0-0
2011-12 1-1
2010-11 4-1
2009-10 0-4
2008-09 2-2
2007-08 2-2
2005-06 2-1 3-1
2004-05 0-0 3-0
2003-04 2-1 0-3

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Etheridge
Peltier                    Morrison                 Bamba             Cunningham
Paterson             Ralls         Gunnarsson
Mendez-Laing                     Zohore                                   Hoilett

VERDICT: It’s been a good many years since we watched Eastenders.  In a way I miss it…  it was at least something that we both tolerated, just about, and as such in some sense preferable to the regular impasse (“You want to watch what?”,  “Well if you must….”, “Shall we check out Netflix”,  “No, nothing that you’d like” and so forth).  We chanced on a bit of Eastenders again this week and it was the oddest thing.  The same characters, the same storylines.  Recycled forever.  It was like… we’d never been away.  In twenty years time I expect to see Phil Mitchell lurching pitifully into some wheeliebins and collapsing into a corner to the familiar thud, thud, thud-thud-thudthudthudthud….

Meanwhile, here’s Neil Warnock.  Many years ago I wrote about Warnock bringing “his usual troupe of trolls and mutants to Vicarage Road”.  That was in 2000, and the menagerie were in the colours of Sheffield United but here we are.  Colin will be 70 before the end of the year and has somehow morphed from the bloke everyone hates to something approaching national treasure status but what hasn’t changed a dot is the make up of his charges, a bunch of very tough, very hardworking blokes who are quite unlike anything else the Premier League has to offer.  And a defensive line to strike fear into the stoutest hearts.

Which, probably, constitutes their best hope of survival.  City’s unheralded promotion – which saw them just about hold off a late charge from Fulham – was built off a squad that borrowed prodigiously and most of the significant summer work thus far has been based on securing contracts for out of contract stars and some modest if sensible looking recruits from the cream of the Championship.  Artem Dzyuba’s name has been mentioned, which would obviously be magnificent, perhaps the most Warnock player ever conceived, but it does still look like a Championship squad at the time of writing.  A tough Championship squad mind, and after the successes of last season’s promoted sides you’d be daft to write anyone off, particularly with a consequently larger number of clubs that might be considered to be punching above their station as relegation rivals.   The club does at least seem to be more united and content than when last promoted in the wake of Vincent Tan’s questionable rebranding.  Nonetheless, my guess would be down after making a (very) solid fist of it.

CHELSEA

INS: Jorginho (Napoli, Undisclosed), Robert Green (Huddersfield Town, Free)

OUTS: Jeremie Boga (Sassuolo, Undisclosed), Mitchell Beeney (Sligo Rovers, Free), Isaac Christie-Davis (Liverpool, Free), Matej Delač (AC Horsens, Free), Jordan Houghton (Franchise, Free), Harvey St Clair (Venezia, Free), Cole Dasilva, Wallace, Tushaun Walters, Victorien Angban (Metz, Season Loan), Lewis Baker (Leeds United, Season Loan), Jamal Blackman (Leeds United, Season Loan), Trevoh Chalobah (Ipswich Town, Season Loan), Jake Clarke-Salter (Vitesse Arnhem, Season Loan), Charlie Colkett (Shrewsbury Town, Season Loan), Eduardo (Vitesse Arnhem, Season Loan), Reece James (Wigan Athletic, Season Loan), Todd Kane (Hull City, Season Loan), Kenedy (Newcastle United, Season Loan), Jacob Maddox (Cheltenham Town, Season Loan), Matt Miazga (Nantes, Season Loan), Mason Mount (Derby County, Season Loan), Kasey Palmer (Blackburn Rovers, Season Loan), Mario Pasalic (Atalanta, Season Loan), Fikayo Tomori (Derby County, Season Loan)

OUR EX-BLUES: Nathaniel Chalobah

THEIR EX-ORNS: Danny Drinkwater, Gianfranco Zola (Assistant First Team Coach)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Defeat at Stamford Bridge, in a game in which we yet again looked like beating Chelsea for a bit and then didn’t, and a Deulofuelled win at the Vic in which we looked like chucking a win away again, and then didn’t.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 4-1 2-4
2016-17 1-2 3-4
2015-16 0-0
2014-15 0-3
2009-10 0-5
2008-09 1-3
2003-04 2-2 / 0-4
1999-00 1-0 1-2
1981-82 3-0
1969-70 1-5

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Courtois
Azpilicueta         Rüdiger     Christensen         Alonso
Kanté               Jorginho            Barkley
Willian                     Giroud                    Hazard

VERDICT: So the home win over this lot was, in isolation, clearly one of the highlights if not the highlight of the season.  In the wake of which I contacted a Feyenoord supporting colleague to share joy at Daryl Janmaat’s contribution in particular.  His reply was in no way intended as mean spirited, but did tarnish the goal for me thenceforth.  Please skip over the next paragraph if you don’t want your memory of the goal similarly spoiled, skip over the next paragraph.

“Defending wasn’t very good, was it?”.  That was it.  Inoffensive, uncontroversial statement of fact.  No.  Whatever part we played in the goal, not least the wresting of the direction of travel of the game back in our favour, Chelsea’s defending wasn’t very good.  Which spoils it a bit.  Let’s not pretend we’re going to get precious about different ways of beating Chelsea 4-1, but “because their defending’s not very good” wouldn’t be high on my list.

Times were that the very statement would be perverse, when the likes of Carvalho, Cech and the charmless Terry made Chelsea’s defending as good as anyone’s.  There’s a lot changing at Stamford Bridge though, and more than merely a(nother) new head coach.  The unusual Sarri achieved great things in some style at Napoli but first and foremost achieved what he achieved by improving what he had rather than going out and spending loads of money (his words, repeated over the last week or two).  From a Chelsea point of view this could mean one of two things, perhaps a combination of the two:  a change in the cautious policy with regard to employing highly regarded youth products, and a change in Chelsea’s spending power.  It’s been a few years since Chelsea were THE moneybags club of course, and a reported £57m for Jorginho is hardly peanuts but he is their only first-team signing at the time of writing.

It might all work out for the best, of course.  But as it stands three of Chelsea’s stars – Courtois, Hazard and Willian – are heavily linked with moves and a good number of players including the two Belgians as well as the pivotal Kanté are only back in training this week.  You’d be concerned about Chelsea’s attacking options – neither Giroud, Morata or Batshuayi is entirely convincing as a first choice line leader – and of course all of this is happening whilst trying to shift from a cautious 3-at -the-back to a 4-3-3 that will be unforgiving to a slow start.  Big margin of error around any predictions here…  I’ll say fifth place again but it won’t be dull.

CRYSTAL PALACE

INS: Cheikhou Kouyaté (West Ham United, Undisclosed), Vicente Guaita (Getafe, Free), Max Meyer (Schalke 04, Free)

OUTS: Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong (Aldershot Town, Free), Yohan Cabaye (Al Nasr, Free), Andre Coker (Maidstone United, Free), Damien Delaney (Cork City, Free), Diego Cavalieri, Victor Fundi, Lee Chung Yong, Bakary Sako, Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Manchester United, End of Loan), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea, End of Loan), Erdal Rakip (Benfica, End of Loan), Jaroslaw Jach (Caykur Risespor, Season Loan)

OUR EX-EAGLES: Adrian Mariappa, Hayden Mullins

THEIR EX-ORNS: Ray Lewington (Assistant Manager), Jordon Mutch, Andros Townsend

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Further demonstration that there are no end of creatively miserable ways to lose at Selhurst Park, and a goalless draw at the Vic which, as these things go, was a stormer.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 0-0
2016-17 1-1  0-1
2015-16 0-1  1-2
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:

Guaita
Ward              Tomkins             Sakho            Van Aanholt
Milivojević     Kouyaté     Meyer
Zaha                           Benteke                  Townsend

VERDICT: The difficult thing about writing these pieces, particularly this season with the transfer deadline effectively three weeks closer in than normal and the frantic stuff about to hit, presumably, is that you’re aiming for a moving target. I’m writing this piece a good ten days at least before you’re going to read it and lots can change in the interim whilst I’m away on holiday.

In Palace’s case Wilfried Zaha is the great unknown, with rumours suggesting that Zaha wants out with Spurs and Chelsea circling the gravitationally challenged, quicked footed forward.  With four years left on his contract one imagines that he’ll fetch a hefty wedge which would completely change the Eagles’ transfer outlook – currently particularly frugal on the back of high investment in previous windows – but with only a couple of weeks at best left to invest in the squad and replace the Eagles’ talismanic player.

It’s not as simple as Zaha or nothing, this is a decent starting eleven but he’s the star man, certainly the difference between, probably, mid-table security and a relegation scrap (although Palace have also lost the likes of Cabaye, Fosu-Mensah and Loftus-Cheek since last season and will do well to match those kind of loans just to tread water).   However the squad is particularly thin and there are a number of individuals – Zaha most obviously, Sakho and Milivojevic too – who would leave a massive hole if injured.  It will take a good deal of luck for Palace to match last season’s comfortable finish.  Relegation outsiders.

(Edit:  Max Meyer.  See?  See?)

EVERTON

INS: Lucas Digne (Barcelona, £18,000,000), Richarlíson (Watford, Undisclosed), João Virginia (Arsenal, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Davy Klaassen (Werder Bremen, £12,000,000), Joel Robles (Real Betis, Free), Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal, Undisclosed), Wayne Rooney (DC United, Undisclosed), Jose Baxter (Oldham Athletic, Free), Sam Byrne (Dundalk, Free), Calum Dyson (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Conor Grant (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Louis Gray, David Henen, Luke Garbutt (Oxford United, Season Loan), Kevin Mirallas (Fiorentina, Season Loan), Henry Onyekuru (Galatasaray, Season Loan), Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic, Season Loan), Shani Tarashaj (Grasshoppers, Season Loan), Ashley Williams (Stoke City, Season Loan)

OUR EX-TOFFEES: Tom Cleverley, Gerard Deulofeu

THEIR EX-ORNS: Pedro Conceição (First Team Coach), Antonis Lemonakis (Technical Scout), Hugo Oliveira (Goalkeeping Coach),  Richarlíson, Marco Silva (Manager), João Pedro Sousa (Assistant Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A shambolic collapse at Goodison Park and a win at Vicarage Road thanks to Troy’s thumping drive.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 1-0
2016-17 3-2
2015-16 1-1 2-2
2006-07 1-2
2000-01 1-2
1999-00 1-3 2-4
1983-84 0-2

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Pickford
Coleman        Jagielka        Keane            Digne
Gueye              Davies
Walcott                  Sigurdsson            Richarlíson
Tosun

VERDICT: And here’s one I’ve left until the last minute.  Quite a lot of this is easy and has been regurgitated on these pages several times…  so in brief, yes Everton were utterly graceless in tapping up Marco Silva last season, yes it disrupted our year entirely.  That it did so wasn’t entirely Everton’s fault;  if Silva did well he was always going to garner interest and turned his head as soon as someone fluttered their eyelashes at him.  Yes it’s reasonable for us to be pissed off, continuing to make an issue out of it is perfectly reasonable as long as it’s not hurting us and for as long as the authorities give every indication that they’d rather the issue just went away.  There are rules to prevent tapping up for a reason and Everton should be held to account.

Right.  That’s done.  As for Everton…  there’s little doubt that he’s taken on a bit of a job, since last season’s eighth place finish was flattering and achieved with an ageing squad that wasn’t about to push on this time.  So… a lot of players have been shipped out, relatively few have been shipped in.  The centre of defence looks a state and hasn’t looked any better in pre-season…  both Barcelona and Yerry Mina are doing their best to capitalise on his eye-catching World Cup (and why not); you do have to fancy that in both parties’ interests is to attract a bigger fish than Everton.  This leaves the Toffees a little bit desperate, since there are precious few options in the squad as it stands with the disappointing Williams having dropped down a division to join Stoke on loan.

Up front looks far more impressive, and whilst we’ve got a good deal in selling Richarlíson for however many squllion you want to believe there’s no doubt that Everton might end up looking back fondly at the deal too.  Might.

Because the big unknown remains whether the Emperor is wearing any clothes.  The truth is that he wasn’t really at Hull or Watford for long enough for us to know, definitively.  At both places he galvanised a squad and got them performing beyond what had been imagined possible.  For a bit.  But much as its impossible to remove the Everton thing from our season, you’d have to wonder whether we might have tailed off anyway.  The combination of high intensity and a tendency to rely on the same players would have the same effect on an Everton squad that isn’t exactly spoiled for cover.  Either way, a rebuilding season at Goodison.  No higher than seventh.  No lower than twelfth.

 

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