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Season Preview 2018 – Part 4 09/08/2018

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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MANCHESTER CITY

INS: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City, £60,000,000), Philippe Sandler (PEC Zwolle, £2,600,000), Claudio Gomes (Paris St.Germain, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Angus Gunn (Southampton, £13,500,000), Joe Hart (Burnley, £3,500,000), Angelino (PSV Eindhoven, Undisclosed), Jacob Davenport (Blackburn Rovers, Undisclosed), Olarenwaju Kayode (Shakhtar Donetsk, Undisclosed), Rodney Kongolo (Heerenveen, Undisclosed), Pablo Maffeo (VfB Stuttgart, Undisclosed), Will Patching (Notts County, Free), Erik Sarmiento (Espanyol, Free), Pawel Sokol (Korona Kielce, Free), Sadou Diallo, Demeaco Duhaney, Yaya Touré, Marcus Wood, Tosin Adarabioyo (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan), Brandon Barker (Preston North End, Season Loan), Bersant Celina (Swansea City, Season Loan), Paolo Fernandes (NAC Breda, Season Loan), Jack Harrison (Leeds United, Season Loan), Erik Palmer-Brown (NAC Breda, Season Loan), Matt Smith (Twente, Season Loan)

OUR EX-SKY BLUES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: An extraordinary game at the Vic in which we played quite well and lost 6-0, and a more mundane defeat in Manchester in January.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 0-6
2016-17 0-5
2015-16 1-2 0-2
2001-02 1-2 0-3
1996-97 1-3

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Éderson
Walker        Stones     Laporte       Mendy
Fernandinho
Silva                           de Bruyne
Sterling             Agüero                 Sané

VERDICT: There’s surprisingly little to say here.  Fundamentally last season there was City and there was everyone else;  their performance at the Vic was one of the best team performances I’ve ever seen and they did that to teams quite a lot.  Over the summer they’ve brought in Mahrez and have Mendy fit, effectively a new signing having missed all but the opening weeks of last season.  There’s the question of how easy it will be to replicate last season, how defending titles is such a difficult thing.  Perhaps of how much the likes of Fernandinho (33), David Silva (32), even Agüero (30) have got left in them.  But then you look at the players queuing up behind them – Delph, Bernardo, Jesus.  The only real question is how many points they will win the title by.

MANCHESTER UNITED

INS: Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk, £52,000,000), Diogo Dalot (Porto, £19,000,000), Lee Grant (Stoke City, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Daley Blind (Ajax, £14,100,000), Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion, £6,500,000), Max Johnstone (Sunderland, Free), Ilias Moutha-Sebtaoui (Anderlecht, Free), Joe Riley (Bradford City, Free), Michael Carrick, Jake Kenyon, Devonte Redmond, Theo Richardson, Charlie Scott, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson (Scunthorpe United, Season Loan), Dean Henderson (Sheffield United, Season Loan), Joel Pereira (Vitória Setúbal, Season Loan), Axel Tuanzebe (Aston Villa, Season Loan), Matty Willock (St Mirren, Season Loan)

OUR EX-RED DEVILS: Craig Cathcart, Tom Cleverley, Ben Foster

THEIR EX-ORNS: John Alexander (Club Secretary), Ashley Young

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: An almost comeback under floodlights in which Will Hughes’ hamstring popped and a final day defeat in which Nathaniel Chalobah finally returned to the fold.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2016-17 3-1
2015-16 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              Young
Matić             Fred
Lingard                  Pogba                          Sanchez
Lukaku

VERDICT: It’s old news now, but replacing Sir Alex Ferguson was always going to be impossible.  My own view, for what is was worth, was that Mourinho should have been appointed then.  Arrogant enough not to care about the inevitable comparisons, strong enough to succeed anyway (maybe) but if he failed he’d fail quickly and possibly spectacularly leaving a cleaner slate for someone else. This, in preference to the slower more painful slide under Moyes for instance.

Five years on, Mourinho is in situ and as ever, it’s all about him.  United’s squad looks strong, obviously, if not strong enough to seriously challenge City which is surely the main marker for their support.  But Mourinho’s third season syndrome is notorious, the pattern by which he descends into a funk having alienated too many of his players and colleagues with his peevish bullying and ends up leaving under a cloud.  This happened at Chelsea and at Real Madrid, and to a degree in the third season of his first spell at Chelsea also.

And so this summer is dominated by his whining about United’s levels of investment (one of the highest total spends in the Premier League once again and stratospheric in previous transfer windows), by his criticism of his own team and (particularly) younger players.  It’s a well worn and tragic pattern, and much as United have improved under Mourinho you’d have to wonder whether it’s all really worth it.  Would you rather be managed by someone who was a bit rubbish but a nice bloke who you rooted for, or by a narcissistic bully who has an outside chance of hauling you back to the summit?  Easy for me to be sanctimonious I suppose, not my decision.  But if I’m bored then some United fans must surely be.

Anyway.  Potential for spectacular catastrophe, particularly with the Pogba to Barcelona thing bubbling as I type and other targets mooted before today’s transfer window.  Anything from second to sixth.

NEWCASTLE UNITED

INS: Yoshinuro Muto (Mainz, £9,500,000), Fabian Schär (Deportivo, £3,000,000), Martin Dubravka (Sparta Prague, Undisclosed), Ki Sung Yeung (Swansea City, Free), Kenedy (Chelsea, Season Loan), Salomón Rondón (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan)

OUTS: Alun Armstrong (Blackburn Rovers, Undisclosed), Chancel Mbemba (Porto, Undisclosed), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad, Undisclosed), Aleksandar Mitrović (Fulham, Undisclosed), Matz Sels (Strasbourg, Undisclosed), Kyle Cameron (Torquay United, Free), Stuart Findlay (Kilmarnock, Free), Macaulay Gillesphey (Carlisle United, Free), Alex Gilliead (Shrewsbury Town, Free), Massadio Haïdara (RC Lens, Free),  Jack Hunter (Gateshead, Free), Callum Smith (Hull City, Free), Callum Williams (Spennymoor Town, Free), Yannick Aziakonou, Yasin Ben El-Mhanni, Owen Gallacher, Jesús Gámez, Curtis Good, Mackenzie Heaney, Tom Heardman, Ben Kitchen, Oliver Long, Lewis McNall, Brendan Pearson, Liam Smith, Craig Spooner, Dan Ward, Paul Woolston, Jack Colback (Nottingham Forest, Season Loan), Dwight Gayle (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan)

OUR EX-MAGPIES: Daryl Janmaat

THEIR EX-ORNS: Kenedy, Kevin Richardson (U17s coach)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A ruthless if slightly flattering triumph at St James’ Park and a win on the final home day of the season which was harder work than it needed to be.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 2-1 3-0
2015-16 2-1  1-0
2009-10 1-2
1999-00 1-1 0-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Dubravka
Yedlin                 Lejeune           Lascelles            Kenedy
Ritchie                Shelvey         Diamé           Murphy
Rondón        Perez

VERDICT: In putting this preview together there are a few absolute staples in the research.  One of these is the messageboard post headed “Starting Eleven for opening day” or similar, which tends to spawn discussion not just of the starting eleven but of the side’s strengths, weaknesses, and so forth.  Speaks volumes that in Newcastle’s case there just isn’t one (at the time of writing – feel free to find one for me and prove me wrong, but it’s a bit late now cos I’ve already written it…)

My interpretation of this anomaly is that the geordie fanbase is thoroughly underwhelmed by another frugal summer of spending which leaves the mooted starting eleven above very similar to the one filed at the start of last season and barely indistinguishable from the one that finished the campaign.  That said, this side managed to scrape a hugely credible top half finish, albeit at the top of a very congested lower mid table pack, but consensus is that the squad overachieved under the priceless guidance of Rafa Benitez.  The head coach has spent the summer making ominous portents about the need to strengthen the side;  to what extent this is merely posturing and pressurising his boss or whether Benitez really would walk out is open to speculation but as it is he’s very clearly the difference between a comfortable and an uncomfortable season for the Magpies.  You’d fancy that there’s too much quality here for the side to actually go down, but up front is where the biggest problems are and plenty of half-decent defences have got relegated before through lack of punch.  Sixteenth.

SOUTHAMPTON

INS: Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Mönchengladbach, £18,000,000), Mohamed Elyounoussi (Basel, £16,000,000), Angus Gunn (Manchester City, £13,500,000), Stuart Armstrong (Celtic, £7,000,000)

OUTS: Dušan Tadić (Ajax, £18,000,000), Florin Gardos (Universitatae Craiova, Free), Armani Little (Oxford United), Olufela Olomola (Scunthorpe United, Free), Will Wood (Accrington Stanley, Free), Richard Bakary, Ollie Cook, Jeremy Pied, Sofiane Boufal (Celta Vigo, Season Loan), Guido Carrillo (Leganes, Season Loan), Jordie Clasie (Season Loan)

OUR EX-SAINTS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Ross Wilson (Head of Recruitment)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A crushing win at St Marys and a scrambled point having been two behind after a display of scarves in memory of GT at the Vic in what was Marco Silva’s last home game in charge.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 2-2 2-0
2016-17 3-4
2015-16 0-2
2011-12 0-3
2008-09 2-2 3-0
2007-08 3-2
2005-06 3-0 3-1
2004-05 5-2
2002-03 1-2
1999-00 3-2 0-2
1982-83 4-1
1980-81 7-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

McCarthy
Cédric          Bednarek           Vestergaard        Bertrand
Lemina       Hojbjerg
Elyounoussi         Armstrong            Redmond
Gabbiadini

VERDICT: The accepted narrative, of course, is that Saints were always going to fall foul of selling off the family silver to the highest bidder at some point.  That point seemed to have come last season when four seasons of finishing between 6th and 8th came to an end as some chickens came home to roost, Saints made a bad call with a managerial appointment, Charlie Austin got injured and they plummeted.  I still can’t quite believe that they squeaked out to be honest, particularly with the spectacularly graceless Hughes at the helm.

They did though, and despite an unimpressive pre-season that saw Hughes acknowledge that his charges “needed to step it up a bit” after a flattering 3-0 tonking at Pride Park the locals seem cautiously optimistic.  The 6’6″ Jan Vestergaard seems to tick a box that needed ticking in the middle of the defence, Angus Gunn was much sought after and both Mohamed Elyounoussi and Stuart Armstrong add competition to the squad.

As ever, it’s difficult to comment without knowing the players, but that’s kinda the point.  Elyounoussi might prove a good replacement for Tadic, but only maybe.  Tadic was as reliable a creative force as the Saints had last season and with the occasionally brilliant but more frequently unhelpful Boufal, a dodged bullet for the Hornets, off on loan the loss of a known creative player in favour of a might-work-out replacement in an area of weakness would seem to be the biggest problem.  There’s been a lingering discontent at St Mary’s since Claude Puel’s season that won’t take long to resurface if things go badly, and Saints need the new guys to work to even match last season’s achievements.  Strong relegation candidates for me.

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