DF Previews…

Alex previews his teams upcoming season.

Manchester United

Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Last season: 6th   

key player 

Assuming that Pogba stays at the club for another season (which I personally think he will), he will undoubtedly be our key player for the coming campaign. You can see the difference in our play with him in the team as clear as night and day. He is the main creative force in our side and last season was our top scorer. Hopefully with a few more of the right additions around the rest of the team, we can begin to see greater consistency in his performances across the season and he can re-find the form he showed at the beginning of Ole’s reign. Pogba aside, this is a big season for both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, both of whom are entering their fifth campaign with the first team and it’s likely time we begin to see more big performances from the young forwards. Ole’s playing philosophy and emphasis and quick, young players means that everything seems set for these two, amongst others, to have their best campaigns yet.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

So far this summer we have seen the arrivals of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Swansea and Crystal Palace respectively. It also looks increasingly likely that a deal for Harry Maguire should be tied up before long reportedly for a record fee for a central defender. My personal favourite so far would have to be Wan-Bissaka, statistically the best full back in the league last season he is a clear upgrade on the veteran Ashley Young and fills a gap in our time which has been there for numerous seasons; a specialist right back ready to go straight into the XI and with bags of potential, I think we’ve got a great deal which will benefit us for years to come.

Who TO SIGN

Given that Maguire looks set to arrive at the club, my personal choice for the next signing would be Ruben Neves from Wolves. It baffles me that no top clubs have been reported to have interest in the Portuguese midfielder, he’d be a first class addition to the side who lack depth and quality in the midfield area and could help to free up Paul Pogba. Further up the pitch, I would love to see Jadon Sancho arrive to take up the spot on the right flank. Signing Wan-Bissaka has solved half of our problem don’t the right side of the team, and Sancho would be perfect to fill the long standing void on the right hand side of our attack. He’s young, quick, incredibly technically gifted and would light up Old Trafford whilst also taking some of the creative burden from Paul Pogba.

EXPECTED FINISH

Assuming we make the right additions to the team, I’d say we can hopefully expect a fourth place finish in the league. As United fans we need to be realistic and accept that for the next few seasons we may not be challenging for the top honours, but a return to the Champions League is essential if we are to continue to attract the top talents and keep the talent which we already have.

EXCITING GAME

I’m looking forward to the opening game of the season, despite the form we should at the end of the last campaign, I’m excited and intrigued to see our new players in action and see exactly what Ole and his team have been working on over the summer.

TROPHY?

I don’t expect us to win a trophy this season, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see us get to the latter stages of either of the domestic cups.

@daaawsonn on Twitter.

DF Previews…

Dan previews his teams upcoming season.

Aston Villa

Manager: Dean Smith 

Last season: 5th (Promoted via Play-Offs

key player 

Jack Grealish – our captain, our best player and by far the most influential player on the pitch. He’s at the heart of everything that we do. 

Though you could argue it is now Wesley Moraes, because our new record signing looks to have become burdened with being our primary goal threat this season.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Wesley: £22m

Tyrone Mings: £20m

 Matt Targett: £17m

 Ezri Konsa: £12m

 Anwar El Ghazi: £8m

 Jota: £4m

 Kortney Hause: £3m

 Total: £86m 

Imminent: 

 Douglas Luiz: £15m

 Bjorn Engels: £7m

I, personally, would say that the best piece of business we’ve conducted is Man City’s Douglas Luiz. Though, at the time of writing, the transfer has not been finalised, to sign Brazil’s U-23 captain, the golden ball winner at the recent Toulon Tournament and a player Pep Guardiola wanted in his squad for last season (but for a failed work permit) is a huge coup for just £15M.

Who TO SIGN

We seem to be in the market for a new goalkeeper, but a new, yet proven and well-established right-winger is essential in my eyes. Though El Ghazi and Wesley are both very capable players, they are both very young and inexperienced at Premier League level. To have another player in that front three that we can rely on would be ideal.

We were linked with Pablo Fornals before West Ham signed him. Somebody of that stature is what I have in mind.

EXPECTED FINISH

For any newly-promoted side, survival is the obvious and immediate target. But I truly believe in this squad, the coaching staff and the board, which combined with the fact we look set to spend almost £125M this window, means I think we could place very respectably this year.

EXCITING GAME

We’re back in the big time, after a three-year absence, so I can’t wait to see us square up against the top six once again. Going away to Spurs on the opening weekend is a perfect way to kick-off our campaign.

TROPHY?

No, not just yet. Though if we can guarantee survival early on, a nice run in the FA Cup wouldn’t go amiss.

@_DJMW on Twitter.

DF Previews…

DF previews Arsenal with George.

ARSENAL

Manager: Unai Emery

Last season: 5th  

key player

Alexandre Lacazette. Last years fans player of the season was an integral part of all things attacking, although Aubameyang scored more goals, Lacazette was great at holding the ball up and bringing others into attacks. If he can add another 5 or so goals to his tally this year things will be looking in much better shape.

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Gabriel Martinelli. Only very early days but he scored on his debut in pre season which bodes well, with him being only 18 I can’t imagine him having too much of an input this season though.

Who TO SIGN

The Kieran Tierney transfer looks as though it will rumble on for a couple more weeks but he is someone we desperately need. With Monreal the wrong side of 30 and Kolasinac not impressing defensively, Tierney is a player we desperately need. His track record as a leader for Celtic is something Arsenal are in dire need of. There are other massive musts in the squad that have to be addressed, as always, a commanding centre back is a massive priority. Another central midfielder would be good and of course the other huge problem in the team is wingers. The talk was of Zaha, it would really show some ambition if Arsenal could go and get there man, but with the issues surrounding the wage budget it does seem unlikely.

EXPECTED FINISH

If we don’t address the needs above, 6thor 7th. With the current squad I can see a struggle on our hands this season. The top 4 looks well out of reach at the moment, Manchester United will be stronger next season, I think Chelsea will be rejuvenated under Lampard and we should be worried about teams behind us closing the gap. Wolves will improve if they can beat the teams at the bottom of the league, Everton aren’t shy in the transfer market and Leicester bagged themselves a very good manager in Rodgers.

EXCITING GAME

The game that could be pivotal in the season will be the first game at Tottenhams new stadium. Get a positive result there and it could really put some optimism back into the club, lose there and the gap between the two clubs will only increase.

TROPHY?

I can see the top 2 Manchester City and Liverpool cleaning up domestically. So all eggs are really in the Europa League basket. There are a couple of tough teams, particularly Manchester United,  in there and it all depends on who drops in from the Champions League, but this is the one Emery has to go for to get the club back into the Champions League.

@GeorgeBG123 on Twitter.

DF Previews…

Sean Landin previews his teams upcoming season.

Liverpool

Manager: Jurgen Klopp 

Last season: 2nd

KEY PLAYER

Oxlade Chamberlain – Offers a different dimension to Liverpool’s point of attack for the Liverpool Midfield. If we can get him firing I think it will benefit our counter pressing style of play to a T. 

SIGNINGS SO FAR

Van Der Berg – Not seen anything of him and is only 17 so don’t expect much from him this season! 

WHO TO SIGN

Ryan Sessignon – Left Back/Forward player. Would be ideal cover and rotation player for Andy Robertson. He is entering his last year of his contract at Fulham whom were relegated so I feel this could improve our squad and challenge Robbo. 

EXPECTED FINISH

1st

Klopp now has the team playing the brand of football he wants and has the players he wants to fulfil this and it’s shown with the performances of last season. Winning the Champions League last season was massive for Klopp and the club but with being bitterly close to the Premier League Title last season, it’s crucial he goes and wins it. I think with the squad we have a really strong opportunity, Lallana, The OX and Brewster are like new signings for us, but I think if we can keep hold of Harry Wilson he can play a vital part in securing us the Premier League.

EXCITING GAME

Man United at Anfield – Absolutely despise the club! The one team I want Liverpool to batter every season and hopefully this happens at home! 

TROPHY?

Premier League – I think this will be the main focus for the team especially coming so close last season! Retaining the Champions League would be class but I think the club has its eyes set on removing City from their podium. 

@seanlandin11 on Twitter.

Arnie x China

Arnie x China. Nǐ hǎo.

It’s been a whirlwind week in the life of a West Ham fan, as one time crowd-favourite Marko Arnautovic handed in a transfer request before being sold to the Chinese Super League for a figure reported to be around £22million.

The move sees the Austrian’s 6 year stay in England come to an end. A period that saw him spend four years at Stoke City before making a £25million move to the Hammers.

It was July 2nd when the news of Arnautovic’s transfer request broke, but it will have of no surprise to Hammers fans and hierarchy alike. The enigmatic forward has form in this area, having done the same at Stoke forcing his move to the London Stadium, before repeating it in January of this year when rumours of a £35million bid from Guangzhou Evergrande came to light.

Arnautovic uses his brother as his agent, an approach much lamented by Stoke and West Ham fans alike, with many predicting that Danijel (the brother) is behind the immature nature of the transfer negotiations with only his own financial interests at heart.

He played a total of 210 games in England, with 145 for Stoke and 65 for West Ham scoring 48 goals. A goals per game ratio of one goal every 4.3 games, a lacklustre tally for such an arrogant forward.

It does however mean West Ham are left with only two out and out first team strikers in Jordan Hugill and Javier Hernandez. Andy Carroll was released at the end of the season when his contract expired and Lucas Perez joined Arnautovic in gaining a move abroad when he moved back to Spain.

A move for Celta Vigo striker Maxi Gomnez fell through over the past few days. Manuel Pellegrini looked set to add the forward to his ranks for a club record £45million, but the clubs failed to agree a payment structure and now Gomez looks set to move elsewhere.

Zaha x Palace

Zaha x Palace. Goodbye, again.

In an unsurprising move, Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has told the South London club he wants to leave and Arsenal are the front runners for his signature.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the mercurial talent said “I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it.”

It doesn’t take a genius to see why the Gunners are interested in the Ivory Coast international. In fact he was 1st in the Premier League rankings of forwards for dribbles attempted (224) and penalties won (6).

However, for Zaha it would be a brave move. Having left Palace in 2014 for pastures new at Manchester United, it turned sour for him. The winger only made two appearances for the Red Devils before returning to Palace in 2015.

In the season just passed, Zaha scored 10 goals in 34 appearances for Palace. His best goalscoring season in the Premier League to date.

With a £100million price tag on his head, it’s. difficult to see Zaha moving anytime soon unless Crystal Palace loosen there resolve on the price. It’s reported a £40million offer from Arsenal has been rejected by the powers that be at Selhurst Park.

Lukaku x United

Lukaku x United. Forza.

The rumour mill keeps on churning and a prominent product of its work this summer is the rumour of Romelu Lukaku swapping Manchester for Milan and joining Antonio Conte at Inter.

The Belgian, who joined United from Everton in 2017, hasn’t had the best of luck at Old Trafford and fans of the Red Devils are quickly losing patience with the big man. In fact 15 goals in 45 appearances last season makes it one of his worst seasons in recent history. A stark change in fortunes from his first season in the North where he scored a staggering 27 goals in 51 appearances.

Perhaps his form with Belgian shows what big Rom can do when he is given the correct service, he’s scored 48 goals in 81 appearances for his country, more than one goal every two games.

It’s easy to blame Lukaku for his poor form but are his teammates and manager just as much to blame? United are crest-fallen since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson from the dugout and not even the ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho, could bring the Premier League title back to the red side of Manchester. Instead only managing a second place finish during his time in charge, which ended earlier this year.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revived United, at least for a short time, and with that came a confidence boost for Lukaku and his team mates. Rom got nine goals in 16 games under Solskjaer , as oppose to his measly six in 22 under Mourinho. Transforming his minute per goals involvement from a sky high 234, to an impressive 84.

Had Lukaku have kept up the 84 minute stat, he would have scored double what Sadio Mane scored. The Senegalese international had an impressive goal every 150 minutes of football he was involved in, meaning he scored in at least every other game.

If Lukaku is to depart United, then it could be a chance for Rashford to step into the main forward role. Or maybe the overly disappointing Alexis Sanchez could show Manchester United fans even a glimpse of the form that once saw him carry Arsenal on his own back.

Benitez x Newcastle

Benitez x Newcastle. Adios.

On Monday (24th June), Newcastle United announced that manager Rafa Benitez is set to leave his role as manager upon his contract expiration on Sunday 30th June.

Understandably, Magpies fans are distraught with the news. Benitez is undoubtedly one of the best managers the Toon army have seen in years. He managed the difficult task of navigating Newcastle back into the Premier League at the first ask, a feat rarely achieved.

He then went on to secure their top flight status and all under extremely different circumstances. With owner Mike Ashley always rumoured to be selling the North East club.

So, just how well did Benitez perform under the circumstances?

  • Games: 96
  • Won: 40
  • Drawn: 21
  • Lost: 35
  • Win Percentage: 41.67%

Benitez’s win percentage is the best in 10 years, where Chris Hughton managed a 55.71% win percentage, which also saw him get Newcastle back into the Premier League.

It’s a sorry state of affairs up in Newcastle at the moment, with fans and staff alike seemingly still in limbo about the club of the future I would argue that the managers job won’t be an attractive proposition. In fact, I would go as far as saying at the moment with a lack of direction, little to no transfer budget and an atmosphere as negative as you’ll see anywhere else following the announcement; the job is a poisoned chalice.

Citizens X Money

Citizens x Money. Ballers.

Back to back Premier League champions Manchester City have accumulated a staggering 198 points in two seasons, but we all know that isn’t enough for the perfectionist Pep Guardiola.

From the outside looking in, one must think that you don’t need to improve and add to a squad that won the first ever domestic treble in England, however watching the Blues closely you can see a couple of areas that could easily benefit from improvement.

Here are my suggestions on who Manchester City should sign this summer.

RODRIGO

According to various sources the transfer is just days away from being confirmed, as City look to trigger the Spaniards release clause of £63million.

Rodrigo is a tall central midfielder currently playing for Athletico Madrid and after just one season in the Spanish capital he could be on his way out already.

‘Rodri’ is just 22 years of age and could be the perfect direct replacement for the ageing Fernandinho (34) in that holding midfield role, directly behind the likes of De Bruyne and David Silva.

If he is to join City he has big shoes to fill with Fernandinho being a first team regular since he arrived in 2013 and judging from his track record so far with club and country Rodrigo Hernandez seems the perfect pick for Pep.

Guardiola is rumoured to have beaten his former side, German champions Bayern Munich to the signing of the central midfielder.

ANGELINO

Manchester City are reportedly just moments away from announcing the signing of one of their old academy players, Angelino, who has a £12 million buy back clause in his contract.

The Spaniard left for Manchester for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven for just £5 million in 2018, and since then has been included in the Eredivisie team of the season two seasons on the showing glimpses of the player City expected him to be when playing on loan at various clubs in Europe.

Left back is clearly a problem area for the Citizens; Benjamin Mendy joined from AS Monaco in 2017, but having only played 17 games for the club many of City’s fans are starting to get tired of his off-field antics and injuries.

Then there is Oleksandr Zinchenko who filled in for Mendy for most of the 18/19 season. A season that saw the once central-midfielder transition to the left-back position and impressed us all massively and some might say he deserves that spot for good. However, the signing of Angelino could provide a much needed headache for Guardiola.

JOAO CANCELO

City seem nailed on to sign Portuguese right-back Joao Cancelo from Italian Champions Juventus for around £50 million.

It is perhaps a surprise to most that City are linked with Cancelo as both Kyle Walker and Danilo. Already occupy that position with enough quality.

But, it seems it will be Danilo who will make way for Cancelo which would make sense given that Kyle Walker has just signed a contract extension and Danilo is reportedly desperate for more playing time.

The issue with this transfer is I don’t believe either Walker or Cancelo will be happy with being on the bench for most of the season, but with City competing in the Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Champions League there are plenty of games for both players to feature in.

City want to include Danilo as part of the deal to lure Cancelo to Manchester but new manager Maurizio Sarri isn’t keen on Danilo, instead he wants the £50million to bolster his squad.

A CENTRE BACK

After club captain Vincent Kompany left this summer to become player-manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht, there is set to be a Belgian shaped hole in the back line of the Blues.

City are now lacking that one player who got them through the hard and times and cropped up with very important tackles and goals, but who could possibly replace their long time captain?

For me it has to be Maththijs De Ligt of Ajax. A young, strong centre back who is hungry for success.

At just 19 years of age he captained Ajax to the Dutch Eridivisie, Dutch Cup and the Champions League semi-final in the 2018/19 season.

De Ligt won’t come cheap though, with Ajax reportedly demanding no less than £60 million, which, considering the amount of years he has to play, his leadership qualities and his undeniable talent are enough to persuade me that it’s a long term investment.

Finley White

Lampard x Chelsea

Lampard x Chelsea. Reunited.

In what could be the most nostalgic moment of the sporting calendar this year, it looks like Derby manager Frank Lampard could make a return to Chelsea in the dugout in the coming weeks.

The Englishman who made over 400 appearances for the London based club, has just guided his Derby side to the play-off final where he eventually lost out to Dean Smith’s Aston Villa side; resigning the Rams to another season in the second tier of English football.

Lampard has gained many plaudits this season, most notably for his perceived over achievement with an average Derby side made up of young, inexperienced players. Perhaps the reason for their downfall at Wembley not too long ago.

With Maurizio Sarri recently announced as manager of Juventus, it leaves a vacancy in the hot seat at Stamford Bridge that Lampard has long been touted to take. But could it be a step too far too soon for the Chelsea icon?

It is perhaps understandable that people may question Lampard’s managerial ability after only one season in the Championship. However, it must be remembered that he took over a Derby side that under former manager Gary Rowett played in a very different style to the one Super Frank implemented, yet within the ‘transitional’ season Lamps still guided them to a top six finish.

The rumours continue to float about on social media and in the INTERNATIONAL press, but time will tell. If Frank takes the job, it is likely he’ll be given the rarely afforded (especially at Chelsea) gift of time and guide them back to the dizzy heights of the top of the Premier League with the same ethics and style he has so heavily relied on at Derby.