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Season Preview 2021 – Part 3 11/08/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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LEEDS UNITED

INS: Junior Firpo (Barcelona, €15,000,000), Lewis Bate (Chelsea, Undisclosed), Jack Harrison (Manchester City, Undisclosed), Kristoffer Klaesson (Vålerenga, Undisclosed), Sean McGurk (Wigan Athletic, Tribunal)

OUTS: Oliver Casey (Blackpool, undisclosed), Ezgjan Alioski (Al-Ahli, Free), Ouasim Bouy (Al Kharaitiyat, Free), Barry Douglas (Lech Poznań, Free), Pablo Hernández (Castellón, Free), Gaetano Berardi,  Cole Gibbon, Niklas Haugland, Eunan O’Kane, Matthew Turner, Kiko Casilla (Elche, Season Loan), Leif Davis (AFC Bournemouth, Season Loan), Laurens de Bock (Zulte Waregem, Season Loan), Ryan Edmondson (Fleetwood Town, Season Loan); Alfie McCalmont (Morecambe, Season Loan), Ken Temenuzhkov (Real Union, Season Loan)

OUR EX-WHITES: Mattie Pollock, Danny Rose

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

GOOD THINGS: Marcelo Bielsa.  That midfield in 1992, Strachan/McAllister/Batty/Speed.  The lads who shook our hands as we emerged from the ground in Cardiff in 2006 (yes, a recurring theme, sue me). Kalvin Phillips.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2015-16 1-0
2014-15 4-1
2013-14 3-0
2012-13 1-2
2011-12 1-1 2-0
2010-11 0-1 2-2
2005-06 0-0 1-2 3-0
2004-05 1-2 2-2
1999-00 1-2 1-3
1992-93 2-1

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Meslier
Ayling          Llorente        Koch              Firpo
Phillips
Raphinha       Dallas        Klich         Harrison
Rodrigo

VERDICT: I vaguely remember a strip cartoon from a comic as a kid.  The central character… I can’t remember.  There might have been a UFO involved, or maybe a flash of light or some other go-to “something’s going down, run with it it’s a comic” trope.  Either way… our hero comes to and finds that everything suddenly there’s a new child in the family.  A toddler with a demonic look in their eye who wasn’t there before and whose presence everyone else seems to think is normal.  Pretty dark shit for a kid’s magazine.

Aaaaand here’s Leeds, six years since our last League encounter.  The last time we met there was no prospect of this; Leeds were just another carcass with unrealistic pretensions.  In the interim there’s been a makeover and Leeds are not only decent but, whisper it, almost likeable.  At least from a distance.  Perhaps like old skool Wimbledon they’re less fun when you actually have to play them.  I guess we’ll find out.

LEICESTER CITY

INS: Patson Daka (RB Salzburg, £23,000,000), Boubakary Soumaré (Lille, £17,000,000), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton, Free)

OUTS: Josh Knight (Peterborough United, Undisclosed), Admiral Muskwe (Luton Town, Undisclosed), Christian Fuchs (Charlotte FC, Free), Matty James (Bristol City, Free), Daniel Iversen (Preston North End, Season Loan), Callum Wright (Cheltenham Town, Season Loan), Wes Morgan (retired)

OUR EX-FOXES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Brendan Rodgers (Manager)

GOOD THINGS: 2016. Vichai. The atmosphere at the stadium – ferociously partisan but about supporting them not being anti-you.  The VfL Bochum fans that we met in Leicester in 2015 who also supported City because they “wore blue and never won anything , like us” (how’s that going?). Any number of epic encounters and late, dramatic wins (not just that one)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2019-20 1-1
2018-19 2-1
2017-18 2-1 0-2
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
Justin              Söyüncü           Fofana             Castagne
Ndidi        Tielemans
Ricardo                   Maddison                  Barnes
Vardy

VERDICT: If 2016 was remarkable then the last couple of years, hanging around the top of the table (if twice missing out on a return to the Champions League) and winning the FA Cup isn’t a bad encore. It begs the question…  what will/would it take for Leicester to be recognised as one of the “big six” (or five, or seven, or whatever).  In terms of recent trophies they’re well clear of Spurs, say, or Everton.  Leicester is not one of the biggest cities in the country, but it’s a one-club city with a commuter belt of around 900,000 people.

And the team and squad look ridiculously deep, with quality and cover across the squad.  Quite whether their recent success can be sustained or built on this season might depend to some extent on quite how good Patson Daka is.  Jamie Vardy is a remarkable specimen but will turn 35 in January;  a footballer whose bursts of pace form such a big part of his game is not going to have an indefinite shelf life, 17 goals last season rather disguises 4 since Christmas (2 pens).  I’ve been stung too often by Kelechi Iheanacho in our Fantasy League (two opportunities to switch players out of your squad per season, purchase with care) to have any great faith there.  Two ridiculously prolific seasons for Salzburg bode well for Daka, though unless the Austrian league has improved dramatically in the last twenty-odd years he’ll find the standard tougher in England.

There are sides whose elevation to the top echelon, whatever that means, however much it matters, you’d resent more.  In any case, as the famous 1881 banner suggested, Leicester continue to provide a bridge between where we are and the completely unattainable.

LIVERPOOL

INS: Ibrahima Konaté (RB Leipzig, £36,000,000)

OUTS: Harry Wilson (Fulham, £12,000,000), Marko Grujić (Porto, £10,500,000), Kamil Grabara (Copenhagen, Undisclosed), Liam Millar (Basel, Undisclosed), Liam Coyle (Accrington Stanley, Free), Georginio Wijnaldum (Paris St. Germain, Free), Paul Glatzel (Tranmere Rovers, Season Loan), Joe Hardy (Accrington Stanley, Free), Adam Lewis (Livingston, Season Loan), Sepp van den Berg (Preston North End, Season Loan); Ozan Kabak (Schalke, End of Loan)

OUR EX-REDS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Alex Inglethorpe (Academy Director)

GOOD THINGS: John Barnes (though never the same player once he left Herts…). Anfield (though not the away end concourse, which is horrific). Klopp.  Jordan Henderson. Round of applause from the Kop after the win in 1999 (so I’m told, hrrrmph)

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2019-20 3-0
2018-19 0-3
2017-18 3-3
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:

Alisson
Alexander-Arnold        Matip        Van Dijk                 Robertson
Henderson              Fabinho
Salah                  Keita                   Mané
Firmino

VERDICT: The funny thing is, Liverpool were so good two years ago that you kind of expected it to go on indefinitely.  Defending a title is harder than winning it of course, and then there was Van Dijk’s injury and a load of others and so on and so forth.  Nonetheless.  Third place last season was achieved on the back of an eleven game unbeaten run at the tail end of the campaign, disguising the fact that for quite a while it looked like a far more alarming drop-off all round.

Van Dijk and Gomez are reportedly nearing fitness as the season approaches but another year on this is beginning to look like quite an old team.  Henderson is 31, Van Dijk and Thiago both 30, Matip an the front three all 29.  Konaté and Jota’s signings suggest a succession plan of sorts, but an overhaul is a hard thing to judge and execute at the best of times, let alone in the wake of a pandemic when the transfer market is… sluggish.

It’s possible that Van Dijk’s return sets everything back to rights, that with a much more robust defence behind them the front three are at greater liberty to attack and Liverpool will be formidable once again.  Either way our annual stuffing at Anfield is surely a given.  But I wouldn’t bank on the former.  Lots of “ifs”.  Top four, but that’s all.

MANCHESTER CITY

INS: Jack Grealish (Aston Villa, £100,000,000), Scott Carson (Derby County, Free)

OUTS: Jack Harrison (Leeds United, Undisclosed), Lukas Nmecha (VfL Wolfsburg, Undisclosed), Sergio Agüero (Barcelona, Free), Eric García (Barcelona, Free), Daniel Grimshaw (Blackpool, Free), Louie Moulden (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Free), Adrian Barnabe (Parma, Free), Gavin Bazunu (Portsmouth, Season Loan), Callum Doyle (Sunderland, Season Loan), Lewis Fiorini (Lincoln City, Season Loan), Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Anderlecht, Season Loan), Alexander Robertson (Ross County, Season Loan), Matt Smith (Hull City, Season Loan), James Trafford (Accrington Stanley, Season Loan)

OUR EX-SKY BLUES: Tom Dele-Bashiru

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nathan Aké

GOOD THINGS: Sergio Agüero. That twitter clip of their end appreciating our defiant flag waving at Wembley.  Inflatable bananas. Raheem Sterling

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2019-20 0-4
2018-19 0-6
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        Dias       Cancelo
Rodri
Gündoğan         de Bruyne
Mahrez             Sterling          Grealish

VERDICT: Oh good.

You know this, but let’s reiterate it anyway.  Five seasons in the top flight…  Arsenal:  7 points from 10 league games (plus a cup quarter final win).  Leicester: 10.  Liverpool: 7.  United: 6.  Spurs: 6.  Chelsea: 5.  None of these records great but, you know, these are the top teams (plus Spurs).

City.  None.  No points, not even many near misses really.  Including the Cup Final that’s played eleven, lost eleven, scored 4, conceded 41.  The 4-0 at the Vic in the dying embers of our relegation season was only the fifth worst defeat of the five year spell; City one of only two Premier League opponents that we didn’t beat at least once last time around (who were the other, kids?).  Not a pair of fixtures that we’ll be banking on points from you suspect.

Meanwhile City continue to gravitate towards Pep’s ideal of eleven small, mobile, highly technical midfielders interchanging rapidly, and this was far too good for the rest of the division last season.  The purchasing power is supplemented by a brutal harvesting of young talent, Tomas Galvez taking the Jadon Sancho path this summer.  I’m sure we’re not the only ones and whilst we shouldn’t pretend that it wasn’t always ever thus, wealthy teams pinching players of less wealthy teams, nor pretend that the boot isn’t often on the other foot sometimes it’s still a pisser to lose talent before it’s been realised.

Anyway.  Champions again, probably, or thereabouts.

Comments»

1. sheeplauncher - 12/08/2021

City one of only two Premier League opponents that we didn’t beat at least once last time around (who were the other, kids?).

Sheffield United?

Matt Rowson - 12/08/2021

Yup


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