Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Bournemouth

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AFC Bournemouth were arguably the best story in world football last season, as the tiny south coast club earned their second promotion in three seasons (this time from the Championship, England’s second division) and third in six.

[ MORE: All of PST’s season previews ]

As Bournemouth prepare for their first-ever season in the Premier League they do so on a budget a fraction of the size of the rest of the team’s expected to finish in the bottom third of the league — let alone that of Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United et al. While reinforcements have been added this summer, the Cherries’ grander plan seems to be to continue operating within their current financial structure, in the event relegation back to the Championship is their inevitable fate.

While Bournemouth don’t have a clear-cut rival in the Premier League (how could they when they’ve been above England’s third tier for just two seasons all time?), fellow south coast side Southampton are just 31 miles away by car. It’s been more than a decade since two south coast clubs have competed in the Premier League in the same season.

Best possible XI:

— Boruc —

— Francis — Elphick — Cook — Daniels —

— Ritchie — Surman — Arter — Atsu —

— Kermorgant —- Wilson —

Transfers In: Tyrone Mings ($12.5 million, Ipswich Town), Christian Atsu (Loan, Chelsea), Filippo Costa (Loan, Chievo Verona), Sylvain Distin (Free, Everton), Adam Federici (Free, Reading), Artur Boruc (Free, Southampton), Joshua King (Free, Blackburn Rovers)

Transfers Out: Brett Pitman (Undisclosed, Ipswich Town), Ryan Fraser (Loan, Ipswich Town), Miles Addison (Free), Benjamin Buchel (Free), Ian Harte (Free), Darryl Flahavan (Free)

Last season: Winners of the Championship, Fourth Round in the FA Cup, Fifth Round in the League Cup — On a budget often times half the size of their Championship competitors, Bournemouth rode the biggest feel-good story in all of England to Premier League promotion. Following a rocky start to the season (15th place after 10 games), Bournemouth finished the season on a run that few would have ever imagined possible — 23 wins from their last 36 games. They reached the top-four on October 25, and from that point forward never fell back below fourth. Forwards Callum Wilson (20 league goals), Matt Ritchie (15), Yann Kermorgant (15) and Brett Pitmann (13) led the way for the Cherries, while midfielders Harry Arter and Marc Pugh (9) both came close to double digits themselves.

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Callum Wilson & Matt Ritchie, AFC Bournemouth

Star player: Matt Ritchie (in photo, on right) — After racking up 15 goals and 17 assists in the Championship last season, Ritchie, who was born in England and lived in the country his entire life, became a Scottish international through his Scottish father. After coming through the Portsmouth youth academy, one of Bournemouth’s local rivals, Ritchie made more than 120 appearances in four seasons with Swindon Town in League One and League Two before moving to Bournemouth for less than $1 million in January 2013. Since then, the 25-year-old has scored 27 goals (all in league play) in 100 games while playing on the right wing.

Coach’s corner: Eddie Howe is not only the now-legendary manager that got the Bournemouth promoted to the Premier League, he’s also a legendary player for the club as well. So much of this fairytale story is to do with the fact that Howe, one of their own youth academy products, is the man leading the club to the promised land after making more than 250 appearances for the club as a player. Still just 37 years old, Howe is in his second stint as Bournemouth manager after leaving for then-Championship side Burnley (Bournemouth were in League One at the time).

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AFC Bournemouth fans celebrate Premier League promotion

PST predicts: It’s always hard for newly promoted teams to survive in the Premier League — the 2014-15 season taught us that, when Burnley and Queens Park Rangers both went back down immediately. It’ll be doubly or triply hard for Bournemouth, a club club so small they play in a 12,000-seat stadium, to do so when competing against the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle United and Leicester City. If you’re the eternal lover of underdogs punching way above their weigh, Bournemouth might just be the team for you this season.

Pearson: ‘I was semi-retired’ before Watford came calling

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Nigel Pearson had come to terms with the fact he would never again manage in the Premier League — or any league, perhaps — before Watford came calling out of sheer desperation last month.

[ MORE: Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings ]

“I was semi-retired, more or less,” Pearson admitted on Friday. He had been out of work for nearly 10 months following an 18-month spell at Belgian side Leuven. That came on the heels of a disastrous five months at EFL Championship side Derby, where he compiled a win percentage of just 21.4 percent — quotes from the Guardian:

“I wouldn’t have been thinking it was possible, of course I wouldn’t. It really is a situation that’s come out of nothing. I was semi-retired, more or less.”

“I’ve been asked whether I was worried about getting a reputation as a ‘firefighter’ and it doesn’t bother me. If that’s how people want to look at it, fine. From my own perspective, coming into a situation like this, it’s just a good opportunity to work back in a league I didn’t think I’d be working in again. In terms of risk to my reputation or anything like that, I’m not bothered about those things. I wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if I didn’t think we had a realistic chance of succeeding.

“It’s just one of those situations where clearly there was a need for something different. So far it’s going OK. I’m pleased with how we’ve started to turn things around but I’m also experienced enough to know that it’s still going to be a tough job to maintain the standards we’ve set and push on again.”

Now at Watford, and back in the PL for the first time since 2015 (Leicester City), Pearson has guided the Hornets to four wins in his first seven games, including five straight without a defeat, and a 17th-place standing ahead of the weekend’s round of fixtures. When he took over, Watford sat 20th out of 20 teams with eight points from 15 games. Less than a month later, they sit a point outside the relegation zone with 22 to their name.

USWNT: Olympic qualifying roster minus five from World Cup team

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The United States’ roster for the upcoming CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament will look very similar to the one that won the Women’s World Cup in France, with notable exceptions.

Alex Morgan, Mallory Pugh, Allie Long, Morgan Brian and Tierna Davidson were on the title team but were left off the 20-player CONCACAF tournament roster announced Friday.

Morgan is expecting her first child with husband Servando Carrasco. Coach Vlatko Andonovski said that Davidson is still recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined her during January camp.

Pugh, a young forward who has shown promise, was one of the most surprising omissions. Andonovski said she has been invited to train with the team even though she didn’t make the roster.

“It was competitive and she did well,” Andonovski said. “But there were other players that I believe that performed better than Mal. Now, I just want to be clear that she is very good, very talented player and she performed well. She has a big future in front of her. So I’m really sure that if she keeps on developing going forward, she will be on this roster.”

The roster includes 18 players who were on the World Cup squad. Newcomers include midfielder Andi Sullivan and forward Lynn Williams.

Sullivan, a former standout at Stanford who plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women’s Soccer League, has 13 appearances with the national team. Williams, who plays for reigning NWSL champion North Carolina, has made 21 appearances with the national team since 2016, scoring six goals.

Carli Lloyd, who will turn 38 before the Tokyo Games, is the oldest player on the roster. Lloyd scored three goals in the 2015 World Cup final against Japan, but last year in France started in just one game as she took on more of a reserve role.

Andonovski, who was named coach of the team last October after Jill Ellis stepped down, praised Lloyd’s work ethic and said that if she continues to play well, he sees “no reason for her not to be a starter.”

Andonovski said Megan Rapinoe, the Ballon d’Or winner who scored six goals in the World Cup, was also nursing minor injuries during January camp.

“In the end, the ones that I believe will give it the best chance to be successful, that will give us the best chance to win the games and qualify for the Olympics, are the ones that made the roster,” he said.

The United States opens qualifying on Jan. 28 in Houston with a match against Haiti. The top two finishers in the eight-team tournament’s two groups advance to the semifinals in Carson, California, on Feb. 7. The final is in Carson on Feb. 9.

Two berths in the Tokyo Games this summer are up for grabs. The United States has made the field for every Olympic tournament since women’s soccer was added to the Games in 1996 and has won four gold medals.

FULL USWNT ROSTER

Goalkeepers: Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Crystal Dunn (North Carolina Courage), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Becky Sauerbrunn (Utah Royals), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride).

Midfielders: Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns), Rose Lavelle (Washington Spirit), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns), Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue), Jessica McDonald (North Carolina Courage), Christen Press (Utah Royals), Megan Rapinoe (Reign), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage).

Bundesliga: Schalke spoils Gladbach’s chance to go top

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) Michael Gregoritsch scored one goal and set up another as Schalke dealt a blow to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Bundesliga title hopes in a 2-0 win on Friday.

In the Bundesliga’s first game of 2020 after the winter break, Gladbach’s defense was frequently overwhelmed by host Schalke’s rapid team moves, especially on the counterattack.

After a string of first-half saves by Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer kept the score 0-0 at the break, Schalke scored twice early in the second half to secure the win.

Gregoritsch took the ball out to the left flank in the 48th minute, stretching the Gladbach defense and opening up space in the middle. He then passed for Suat Serdar to charge through the gap in Gladbach’s back line and score from the edge of the penalty area.

Ten minutes later it was Gregoritsch’s turn to score, finishing off a counterattack which ran almost the length of the field, with a lay-off pass from Benito Raman.

“We had trouble the whole game with Schalke’s movement. They put a lot of pressure on us and it was hard to play the ball out too. We gave them too much room,” Sommer said in televised comments. “We had chances in the first half when we could have scored a goal, but in general we were not good enough today.”

As well as his key role in attack, Gregoritsch also made a key intervention in defense, clearing Marcus Thuram’s header off the line in the 38th in what proved to be one of Gladbach’s best chances.

“When it works like this, it’s really great,” Gregoritsch said, crediting Schalke’s home crowd for the win. “We’re at home and we can hit the gas pedal a bit more with the 12th man here.”

Starting in goal for Schalke due to a suspension for first-choice Alexander Nubel, Markus Schubert made a good reaction stop to deny Gladbach’s Patrick Herrmann just before the break.

Gladbach stays two points behind leader Leipzig and can be overtaken by third-place Bayern Munich on Sunday if Bayern beats Hertha Berlin.

Gladbach was the surprise leader earlier in the season as its fans started to dream of a first German title since 1977, but it’s started to stall, having won just one of its last five games in all competitions.

Schalke moves up one place to fourth, overtaking its fierce rival Borussia Dortmund, which visits Augsburg on Saturday.

Chelsea’s Lampard prepared to go without January signings

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Frank Lampard is not only prepared for, but almost seems to prefer that, Chelsea make no new signings this month despite the club’s transfer ban being reduced to allow the Blues to sign players in January.

[ MORE: Report: Bruno Fernandes to Man United after Lisbon Derby ]

It’s not that Lampard believes he has the perfect squad, but he fears upsetting the balance and good vibes for a young group of players who have performed admirably thus far. Signing players for the sake of signing players would be “a knee-jerk reaction,” according to Lampard — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t want to comment on those deals because I think it’s easy with hindsight. … I think the idea of January being a time to buy players, it’s difficult for everybody: for players coming in — especially if they’re coming from a different league — for the club and for the settlement of the group. I think that’s why we have to think ultra-carefully.

“I don’t want to make some knee-jerk reaction to say: ‘Here’s my first big signing’ because we couldn’t sign anyone in the summer. No, I want to do the right thing for the club. That’s why if I do it I’ll try to consider all things. Hopefully it’s the best thing for us. Whether that’s more of a short-term option or a long-term option, we’ll also have to consider.”

As for potential outgoing players, West Ham United reportedly made a bid to take midfielder Ross Barkley on loan, but Chelsea rejected the offer and have no intention of letting the player leave Stamford Bridge this month.