Premier League 2014-15 preview: Southampton

1 Comment

Southampton’s summer has been riddled with uncertainty as one of the largest and most shocking fire sale’s in Premier League history has taken place at St. Mary’s. Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovren, Calum Chambers and Rickie Lambert have all left the South Coast club, as they followed manager Mauricio Pochettino out of the exit door. Those incredible sales raised over $175 million and the rebuild is well and truly underway.

A new era is on the horizon for Saints with Dutch legend Ronald Koeman their new manager and the the club will once again look to its famed academy to churn out players for the future. Southampton’s odds to be relegated have been slashed from 40-1 to 4-1 by the bookmakers and there is a real sense of doom and gloom when it comes to how Saints have been ruthlessly broken up. One of the PL’s most attractive teams in 2013-14 may be fighting for survival this season.

[RELATED: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Dusan Tadic (FC Twente, $19 million), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, $14 million), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, Loan), Saphir Taider (Inter Milan, Loan)

Transfers Out: Luke Shaw (Manchester United, $55 million), Adam Lallana (Liverpool, $45 million), Rickie Lambert (Liverpool, $9 million), Calum Chambers (Arsenal, $19 million), Dejan Lovren (Liverpool, $35 million), Dani Osvaldo (Inter Milan, Loan)

Full PL schedule | Watch Saints live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: The Saints enjoyed their best-ever finish in the Premier League in eighth place and recorded their best ever points tally. Under former boss Pochettino they played a high-pressure game and talented English youngsters such as Shaw, Lallana and Jay Rodriguez stole the show. The South Coast club were third after the first few months of the season and there was serious talk about a top-six finish however a spate of injuries around the festive period but that to bed. Overall, one of the most successful seasons in club history, hence why so many of their players were cherry picked by England’s top clubs.

source:
Source: Southampton FC

Star player: Dusan Tadic

Tadic, 25, has been signed from Twente with big boots to fill but the Serbian international is more than capable of doing so. With Lallana off to Liverpool, Tadic is tasked with being Saints’ chief creator from midfield and he’s already has a promising preseason under his belt. He has scored 16 goals in each of his last two seasons in Holland and also led the Eredivisie in assists last year. If Saints deal with the players they’ve lost smoothly, Tadic’s play will be a big reason for that. If Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin remain at Saints, they will also be hugely important.

Coaches’ Corner: Ronald Koeman

Getting Koeman to leave Dutch giants Feyenoord was something of a coup for the ambitious club as the former FC Barcelona star has ushered in “Ronald’s Revolution” with wholesale changes. Koeman led Feyenoord to Champions League qualification last season and turned the Rotterdam club around after their were left in financial ruin. His status as one of the most respected defenders in European soccer during his playing days is undoubted and his high-profile should see plenty more new signings arrive between now and the end of August at St. Mary’s. Plus, his new assistant coach is his brother, Erwin, so there’s that. And he loves to Tweet.

PST predictsIt what has been an offseason of turmoil for the Saints it is very hard to predict how this will go. In many people’s eyes the dramatic exodus sees the club as one of the favorites for relegation but in truth they still have plenty of top class internationals on the books. If players like Schneiderlin and Rodriguez stick around and the $175 million they raised by selling players is spent wisely, they should be midtable at worst. That said, the dreaded “R” word is being whispered at St. Mary’s.

Dempsey, Sounders steal a point on wild night in Portland

Pete Christopher/The Oregonian via AP
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): An entire game can change in the blink of an eye. For the Seattle Sounders, that blink came in the 44th minute of Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers. Up 1-0 by way of Joevin Jones’ opener in the 27th minute, the defending MLS Cup champs were poised to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage and every belief imaginable that they’d been the better team for the entire first half. Blink. Brad Evans wrapped his legs around Darlington Nagbe, giving away a penalty and earning himself a red card, just like that, in the blink of an eye. Fanendo Adi stepped up to convert from the spot, but it still was to be a hard-fought 1-1 scoreline from Seattle’s perspective. Then, Dairon Asprilla got loose, completely unmarked atop the six-yard box, on a corner kick, and it was 2-1 after four minutes of first-half stoppage time. 45 more minutes pass, and the Timbers… blink. Clint Dempsey, 34 years old but fresh off the bench 40 minutes earlier, out-leaps everyone in the box and heads past Jake Gleeson to steal a point for Seattle.

[ MORE: San Jose fire Kinnear after 2.5 seasons ]

Three Four moments that mattered

27′ — Jones gets two chances, puts the second away — It’s a classic case of “I dropped my controller” from Alvas Powell, who just stops as Jones cuts across the penalty area. There’s no reason Jones should get a second look on this one.

44′ — Evans brings down Nagbe in the box, sees red — Goodbye, lead. Goodbye 11 versus 11. Things would unravel very quickly for Seattle.

45+4′ — Asprilla rises above to make it 2-1 — Seattle’s marking of Asprilla was nonexistent, and the Colombian showed off some serious hops to get his head to David Guzman’s corner kick.

90+4′ — Dempsey heads home deep in stoppage time — A costly turnover by Asprilla, a hit-it-and-pray cross by Roman Torres, and Dempsey snatches a point at the death.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Cristian Roldan

Goalscorers: Jones (27′), Adi (45′ – PK), Asprilla (45+4′), Dempsey (90+4′)

Russia has reasons for optimism despite Confed Cup exit

Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) When the anger subsides after another group stage exit and another goalkeeping blunder, Russian fans might find they can be proud of their team at the Confederations Cup.

Russia failed to reach the knockout rounds of a fourth major tournament in a row, but there’s no shame in losing by one goal to European champion Portugal and North American champion Mexico.

“We will move on,” coach Stanislav Cherchesov said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Mexico. “We have won (the fans’) hearts and minds to a certain extent in this month that we have been together … I think that we have given some reasons to feel optimistic about us.”

If Russia’s fans agreed with Cherchesov that Russia had done well to limit Portugal to a single Cristiano Ronaldo goal, there was frustration that Russia hadn’t done better against a poor Mexican side.

Russia wasted chances to exploit Mexico’s ragged defending and add to Alexander Samedov’s opener, while goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev performed an inexplicable lunge which allowed Hirving Lozano to head in the winner. Akinfeev was lucky not to be red-carded, too, after his foot caught Lozano in the chest.

Akinfeev was the immediate scapegoat for Russia’s exit, with fans and newspapers calling for his removal.

The most-capped player in the squad – the Mexico game was his 101st international appearance – Akinfeev’s bulletproof consistency in the Russian Premier League has kept him the undisputed national-team No. 1 for years.

When the world is watching, though, he gets flustered and makes mistakes.

Against South Korea at the 2014 World Cup, an innocuous long shot slipped from his grasp and went in, paving the way for another early Russian exit from the tournament. There have been more than a few blunders in the 43 games since Akinfeev last kept a clean sheet for CSKA in the Champions League, too.

But it’s hard to see who could replace him. The naturalized Brazilian reserve keeper Guilheme is agile but injury prone, while Vladimir Gabulov is a solid but unspectacular veteran. Zenit St. Petersburg’s Yuri Lodygin challenged Akinfeev for a while, but was brought low by his own tendency for embarrassing errors.

On the positive side for Russia, defender Georgy Dzhikiya was solid in all three group games after having only made his debut on June 5, and Cherchesov’s three-man back line was mostly reliable.

Less successful was Cherchesov’s attempt to bolster the midfield by starting Roman Shishkin – usually a defender – in a defensive midfield role against Portugal and Mexico, while 33-year-old ex-Chelsea winger Yuri Zhirkov did his World Cup hopes no favors with a red card Saturday.

Russia’s run of injuries before the tournament weakened the midfield in particular, with Alan Dzagoev and the promising Roman Zobnin both missing out. Forward Artyom Dzyuba’s absence left Cherchesov relying heavily on Fyodor Smolov, who showed touches of class but missed a good chance against Portugal.

Perhaps the biggest damage from Russia’s Confederations Cup exit will be to Russian pride.

Officials have often bragged that the home advantage for next year’s World Cup could drive Russia to new heights, perhaps a repeat of South Korea’s charge to the semifinals in 2002. Those expectations are now being reviewed.

Just one World Cup host in history – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to get out of the group stage. Avoiding a repeat may be the most Russia can hope for.

FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers host Sounders in PNW showdown

Photo by Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images
Leave a comment

They don’t get much bigger, or more heated, than this one in MLS — it’s Portland versus Seattle, the Timbers versus the Sounders, tonight at Providence Park (10 p.m. ET).

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers vs. Sounders ]

To keep up-to-the-second informed on proceedings in Portland this evening, hit the above link, or click right here.

Seattle won the first meeting between these sides, 1-0 back on May 27, on their home turf at CenturyLink Field. Cristian Roldan, who’ll depart for U.S. national team camp following Sunday’s game, scored the only goal that afternoon in Seattle, a 4th-minute header from three yards out.

Mustafi: Arsenal players powerless, hope “brilliant” Sanchez will stay

Photo by Mike Kireev/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Shkodran Mustafi admits that he, along with his Arsenal teammates, feels helpless with over the ongoing transfer saga of Alexis Sanchez.

[ MORE: Sunday’s transfer rumor roundup | Saturday | Friday ]

The Chilean superstar is linked with a move away from Arsenal this summer, as the Gunners fell out of the Premier League’s top-four and the 28-year-old’s contract is set to expire next summer. Perhaps most importantly, Sanchez hasn’t so much as publicly stated a desire to remain at the club, which, from the outside, appears to have left his future in even greater doubt.

Mustafi admits he hasn’t a clue how things will shake out in the coming weeks, but he’s quick with a pleading sales pitch for Sanchez to stay — quotes from Goal.com:

“I have no idea. Obviously the other players cannot make that decision, he has to make that decision.

“I’m not too much involved. I hope he stays because he is a really brilliant football player but there’s nothing in my hands that I can do.”

[ MORE: De Boer set to be named new Crystal Palace boss ]

Arsenal would likely have to double (if not more) Sanchez’s current $180,000 weekly wages in order to convince him to forego a season in the UEFA Champions League and commit his long-term future to a club presently trending in the wrong direction.