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Season Preview 2019 – Part 1 05/08/2019

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

ARSENAL

INS: Nicolas Pépé (Lille, £72,000,000), William Saliba (Saint Étienne, £27,000,000), Gabriel Martinelli (Ituano, Undisclosed), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid, Season Loan)

OUTS: David Ospina (Napoli, €4,000,000), Krystian Bielik (Derby County, Undisclosed), Charlie Gilmour (Norwich City, Free), Aaron Ramsey (Juventus, Free), Bayli Spencer-Adams (Watford, Free), Daniel Ballard (Swindon Town, Season Loan), William Saliba (Saint Étienne, Season Loan), Ben Sheaf (Doncaster Rovers, Six Month Loan), Stephan Lichtsteiner, Danny Welbeck, Petr Cech (retired)

OUR EX-GUNNERS: Bayli Spencer-Adams

THEIR EX-ORNS: Héctor Bellerín

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two profoundly irritating defeats: one decided at the death, the other in the opening minutes.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2018-19 0-1 0-2
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

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Leno
Bellerín          Mustafi        Sokratis        Monreal
Ceballos                 Torreira                   Xhaka
Pépé                        Aubameyang                             Iwobi

VERDICT: There are certainly teams that I dislike more than Arsenal.  Others disagree vehemently, I know, but I find the Gunners amongst the less objectionable of the top six.

Nonetheless…  when a big gun starts to slide and supporters bred, perhaps recruited on the basis of a side that really was the best in the country a fair few years ago now begin to object about their rightful place and so forth, you can’t help but snigger a little bit.  And I know that it’s not all Gunners, empty vessels make the most noise and so forth.  Nonetheless…  with the likes of Özil, Mustafi and Mkhitaryan on too much money to attract a buyer, with skipper Koscielny demanding an exit, further experienced departures unreplaced and despite, in former Watford target Pépé, signing dribbler of the like that the squad desperately needs, this is not a Gunners side that’s about to challenge for the title again.

They’re still a good side, obviously.  Let’s not get carried away.  The two forwards are excellent (if only they could work out how to use them simultaneously) and there are some talented-sounding kids on the edge of the side. The defence is flaky, still. Arsenal will probably finish top six.

But only probably.

ASTON VILLA

INS: Tyrone Mings (AFC Bournemouth, £20,000,000), Douglas Luiz (Manchester City, £15,000,000), Ezri Konsa (Brentford, £12,000,000), Trézéguet (Kasımpaşa, £8,750,000), Tom Heaton (Burnley, £8,000,000), Anwar El Ghazi (Lille, Undisclosed), Björn Engels (Reims, Undisclosed), Kourtney Hause (Wolves, Undisclosed), Jota (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge, Undisclosed), Matt Targett (Southampton, Undisclosed), Wesley (Club Brugge, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Gary Gardner (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Albert Adomah (Nottingham Forest, Free), Corey Blackett-Taylor (Tranmere Rovers, Free), Ritchie de Laet (Royal Antwerp, Free), Tommy Elphick (Huddersfield Town, Free), Jordan Lyden (Swindon Town, Free), Harry McKirdy (Carlisle United, Free), Mark Bunn, Alan Hutton, Mile Jedinak, Glen Whelan, Jake Doyle-Hales (Cheltenham, Season Loan), Andre Green (Preston North End, Season Loan), Rushian Hepburn-Murphy (Tranmere Rovers, Season Loan), Matija Šarkić (Livingston, Season Loan), Tammy Abraham (Chelsea, End of Loan), Axel Tuanzebe (Manchester United, End of Loan), Micah Richards (retired)

OUR EX-VILLANS: Tom Cleverley

THEIR EX-ORNS: David Hughes (U18 Manager), Henri Lansbury

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A nil-nil draw in a friendly celebrating GT, and two 3-2 victories in which Troy filled his boots, Giedrius Arlauskis enjoyed his Premier League career and we snatched an unlikely victory from the jaws of defeat.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2017-18 0-0
2015-16 3-2
1999-00 0-1 0-4
1982-83 2-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Heaton
Guilbert             Mings                Engels                  Targett
Grealish                Luiz                 McGinn
Jota                    Wesley              Trézéguet

VERDICT: The thing about writing these previews is that they can’t all be done at once.  In fact, doing one a day is a challenging enough pace…  chuck in a week’s holiday (of which today ought to be the last, assuming that you’re reading on Monday) and… well you do the maths.  Just be thankful that this preview doesn’t discuss Dion Dublin or Gordon Cowans.

I’m writing on the day that Villa confirm the re-signing of Tyrone Mings for what, even in today’s climate, is an imposing looking £20m fee.  The latest, indeed, of a fairly impressive set of signings since promotion.  The thing is…  Villa’s signings, swapping Wesley in for Tammy Abraham, see them if not running to stand still then certainly suffering from the need to replace the many significant loan signings in a squad that was promoted via the play-offs having finished fifth in the second tier.

Dean Smith has perhaps the toughest job of the promoted managers given this aspect of the summer’s rebuilding and the high expectations which three years in the second tier won’t have dampened.  Nonetheless, there are anxious voices on the Villa messageboards;  as it stands, a month before the season starts and despite significant outlay you’d say that the best Villa can hope for this season is just staying up.  That’s certainly possible in a season where there will be significant competition for the bottom three but a shedload of signings doesn’t guarantee success (ask Fulham).  Sixteenth.  Just about.

AFC BOURNEMOUTH

INS: Phillip Billing (Huddersfield Town, £15,000,000), Arnaut Danjuma (Club Brugge, £13,700,000), Lloyd Kelly (Bristol City, £13,000,000), Jack Stacey (Luton Town, £4,000,000)

OUTS: Tyrone Mings (£20,000,000), Lys Mousset (Sheffield United, £10,000,000), Connor Mahoney (Millwall, Undisclosed), Marc Pugh (Queens Park Rangers, Free), James Boote, Nathan Clements, Jordan Holmes, Tom Parker-Trott, Emerson Hyndman (Atlanta United, Six Month Loan), Michael Ndjoli (Gillingham, Season Loan), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool, End of Loan), Rafal Stefán Daníelsson (Fram, End of Loan)

OUR EX-CHERRIES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nathan Aké, Carl Fletcher (Loan Player Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A calamitous and incongruous hammering at Vicarage Road, and the traditional uneventful trip to Dorset which saw six goals scored before half time.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2018-19 0-4
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

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Begović
Smith          S.Cook               Aké             Kelly
Billing           Lerma           Brooks
Fraser                            Wilson                                King

VERDICT: So run with this a second.  Let’s just say that Eddie Howe’s star is waning.  That he’s getting itchy feet.  Not quite as focused as he once was.  Kind of narked that nobody’s moved in on his obvious genius, going through the motions.  That Bournemouth’s patchy recruitment history has a doozy of a summer, that their prolific injury record ramps up, VAR penalises some clubs’ practices more than others, Jefferson Lerma gets a twelve match ban for lamping David Brooks and the season goes downhill from there.

They’d still be too good to go down, probably.  But we can hope.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

INS: Adam Webster (Bristol City, £20,000,000), Leandro Trossard (Genk, £15,000,000), Matt Clarke (Portsmouth, Undisclosed)

OUTS: Markus Suttner (Fortuna Düsseldorf, Undisclosed), Ben Barclay (Accrington Stanley, Free), Matthew Weaire (Colchester United, Free), Matt Clarke (Derby County, Season Loan), Anthony Knockaert (Fulham, Season Loan), Jan Mlakar (QPR, Season Loan), Jayson Molumby (Millwall, Season Loan), Robert Sanchez (Rochdale, Season Loan), Percy Tau (Club Brugge, Season Loan), Christian Walton (Blackburn Rovers, Season Loan), Ben White (Leeds United, Season Loan), Bruno (retired)

OUR EX-SEAGULLS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A Bobby Pereyra-fuelled canter into the season and a very, very cold trip to the Amex in which Ben Foster earned a point.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2018-19 2-0 0-0
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

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Ryan
Montoya              Dunk         Duffy             Bernardo
Jahanbaksh        Bissouma         Propper        Trossard
Gross
Andone

VERDICT: It’s true that for almost every football fan there’s your lot, and then there’s everyone else.  The differentiation between the everyone else’s is dancing on a pinhead really.  But as “other lots” go, there’s less to dislike about Brighton than most others in the top flight.  A great away trip, a welcoming ground (even when it’s bloody freezing, as last season).  One of those clubs who belong in the “The Likes Of…” box cited by your Leeds, Derby, Sheffield Wednesday fans as usurping the rightful places of Big Clubs in the Premier League.  This by virtue of being well run and having good football teams, as if that was a substitute for being, you know, Massive and that. Kindred spirits in that sense.

You’ve got to like the look of Graham Potter too.  Ken Sema’s boss at Östersunds of course, before that an unremarkable second tier left back (glancing back through the records reveals he played against us in our last trip to Stoke’s Victoria Ground in 1996 as GT’s return failed to pick up speed sufficiently quickly, the days when BSaD reports were just getting going sadly).

He’s the sort of bloke you want to do well at the sort of club you want to do well, with the caveat of this not being at our expense.  Following his remarkable and unconventional success in Sweden his star has risen very rapidly but he’s got a job on here.  Chris Hughton’s doughty, defensively solid side ended the season with three points and three goals from their final nine games, no win since beating Palace in early March.  Potter’s come in to Sort It Aht, but his side’s recruitment at the time of writing is perceived to have addressed areas of strength in bringing in centrebacks Matt Clarke (frequently mentioned in Watford dispatches in recent years) and Adam Webster (perhaps to replace Lewis Dunk) and winger Trossard.  Our recruitment has been similarly limited but we’re starting from a higher base and not overhauling our playing style.

The hope and expectation amongst Albion fans is that during the (as I write) three weeks before the opening game, problem positions will have been addressed – right back, central midfield, attack.  If so you may see those incoming names updated above.  But even if that proves the case it will be a huge ask of Potter to get his new charges sorted by our opening fixture.  Beyond that is anyone’s guess.  You’d hope mid table (just behind us, well ahead of Palace).  But this is a relegation scrap squad as I write.

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