Premier League 2014-15 preview: Swansea City

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Swansea City head into the upcoming Premier League season with a clean slate having survived a tumultuous 2013/14 campaign that included a destructive Europa League stint, persistent injuries to talisman Michu and the firing of manager Michael Laudrup.

With Garry Monk firmly installed at the helm the Swans have enjoyed an active summer transfer window where Michu was loaned out to Napoli and replaced by French striker Bafetimbi Gomis, Ben Davies and Michel Vorm were effectively swapped for Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lukasz Fabianski was signed from Arsenal. Other transfers of interest include picking up speedy Ecuadorian winger Jefferson Montero to replace Pablo Hernandez and Ki Sung-Yueng returning from his loan spell at Sunderland.

[Related: Full PL season preview]

Transfers In: Gylfi Sigurdsson ($13.5 million from Tottenham), Lukasz Fabianski (free from Arsenal), Bafetimbi Gomis (free from Lyon), Jefferson Montero ($6.7 million from Monarcas), Marvin Emnes ($2.3 million from Middlesbrough), Ki Sung-Yueng (return from Sunderland loan)

Transfers Out: Ben Davies ($16.9 to Tottenham), Michel Vorm ($7.6 million to Tottenham), Michu (loan to Napoli), Pablo Hernandez ($6.7 million to Al-Arabi), Alejandro Pozuelo (loan to Rayo Vallecano), Jonathan De Guzman (return to Villareal from loan)

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Last Season: Swansea ended up 12th in the Premier League table last year, a finish best described by the saying “looks can be deceiving”. It was touch-and-go for the Swans throughout the season and while they ended up mid-table they were only five points clear of the drop.

source: Getty ImagesStar Player: Wilfried Bony

Of the few positive things to come out of last season, Bony’s impact at the Liberty definitely topped the charts. With 16 goals in the Premier League (and 26 in all competitions), the Ivorian established himself as one of the league’s most dangerous and dependable strikers. Impossible to knock off the ball, Bony devastates opponents with his pace, power and clinical finishing. Arriving in South Wales last summer, Bony wasted no time picking up the slack for the injured Michu beasting opponents and turning the heads of many clubs in the summer transfer market. This year the weight once again fall on Bony’s shoulders to produce the majority of his side’s goals although the arrival of French international Bafetimbi Gomis from Lyon should help reduce the burden.

Coach’s Corner: Garry Monk

Monk is a bit of an enigma when it comes to Premier League managers. He holds his cards tight in interviews, is well controlled during matches and generally flies under the radar. Credit is due for the manner in which he stepped into the managerial role last year when Michael Laudrup was fired. Those were big shoes to fill and the club so easily could have packed it in and tanked into relegation. But Monk kept his squad motivated and continued with the same attractive style of play for which the club has become known. It’ll be interesting to see what he can get out of them this year.

PST Predicts: With a proper footballing style well-ingrained into the club and a roster of impressive talent that includes Bony, Sigurdsson, Gomis, Jonjo Shelvey, Ki and Ashley Williams, Swansea once again will be targeting a Top 10 finish. Re-signing Jonathan De Guzman will be key to making that goal a reality, as will the impact Gomis can have in the Premier League either as a replacement for Bony or, depending on formation, a potential French-speaking strike partner.

Henry, Aguero discuss playing up top under Pep

Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
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One great striker got another one to open up on an up-and-down year at Manchester City.

Thierry Henry — one of the greatest of all-time, it must be said — sat down with Sergio Aguero ahead of Thursday’s Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium, and asked the Argentine about Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Jesus, and more.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

At times, it’s a fascinating discussion on playing lone striker. Even apart from the obligatory questions regarding Jesus’ arrival at City, Henry and Aguero speak their craft in a manner you don’t see too often.

That’s helped by the fact that Henry played for Guardiola at Barcelona, and can relate to the positional demands of Man City’s boss. Consider this exchange, from Sky Sports:

HENRY: When I was at Arsenal, I played up front and if I wanted to drift out to the left, I could. But when I got to Barca, I had to stay out wide and press. Sometimes doing that can be hard.

AGUERO: The thing I’ve found the hardest has been getting into my head the fact that I have to press the centre-back and the goalkeeper in matches. That’s what Pep asks me to do. It may not be a big deal, but in terms of processing it, the two of us speak a lot. He knows what I’m like.

I’ve been gradually learning and adapting to that style of pressing over the last few months. The first thing he taught me was how to press and how to do it well. Obviously there are times when I might drift out of position or I might press in an area where I’m not supposed to be, which might make it hard for the wingers or midfielders.

In the game itself, I may not realise because I’m so immersed and you can’t stop yourself. I’ve learnt a lot from him in terms of zones. He asks me to play as a No 9 and to stay in that position. I often drift out wide during matches and he looks at me and says, “If there’s a player out wide who wants to cross it in, who’s in there? Nobody.”

HENRY: I know all about that, believe you me.

I love this, because it shows how difficult it is for an elite striker to adapt his mentality. Both Henry and Aguero found world-celebrated success by playing in a certain fashion, and Guardiola understood that and still demanded a change. Earlier this season, the manager somewhat famously spoke of improving Aguero.

Aguero has been linked with Real Madrid given the tumult at City.

PHOTO: Liverpool unveils 125th anniversary kit for next season

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Liverpool rolled out its 125th anniversary kit, featuring a special crest to celebrate the occasion.

The Liver bird has 1892 on one side and 2017 on the other, with “125 YEARS” spelled out underneath the club’s emblem.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

The red shirt with a gold crest has a white V-neck and white at the ends of the sleeves. The goalkeeper kit is green.

The jersey will be available on May 19, and was announced last month.

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Jara’s goal lifts Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League crown

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Hirving Lozano’s dipping shot rebounded into the path of Franco Jara, who scored the goal that won Pachuca its fifth CONCACAF Championship early Thursday morning.

The Argentine’s goal was the only one of the win over UANL Tigres, and gave Pachuca its first continental title since 2009-10. USMNT veteran Omar Gonzalez played for the winners, while Jose Torres started for Tigres.

[ PL PREVIEW: Manchester Derby ]

Major League Soccer teams were eliminated in the semifinals, with FC Dallas falling to Pachuca and Vancouver Whitecaps losing to Tigres.

Beginning with the 2017-18 tournament, qualified MLS and Liga MX teams will not enter the tournament until the Round of 16. The entire tournament will be held in the same calendar year.

USMNT: Brooks out with hip strain; World Cup qualifiers loom

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John Brooks is out of Hertha Berlin’s lineup “for the time being” after scans revealed a hip strain suffered in this weekend’s win over Wolfsburg.

That’s all Hertha has said, and that makes it hard to imagine whether American fans should be a little concerned or very concerned ahead of the USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago in early June.

Brooks was unavailable for two weeks with an adductor strain in September, missing a month before returning to the starting lineup.

The U.S. center back pool isn’t teeming after Brooks and Geoff Cameron. Matt Besler, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and Walker Zimmerman were called up for the last World Cup qualifiers, and Gonzalez struggled but is a Bruce Arena favorite from their time in L.A.