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.

source: Getty Images
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).

source: Getty Images
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.

Manchester City season restart preview

Manchester City season restart
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Manchester City is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things City when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: City’s two-year spell as defending champions will end very soon, but Pep Guardiola has reason to believe three pieces of silverware could again arrive at the Etihad Stadium. Leroy Sane is now available again, making a Sane-Aguero-Sterling front line a tantalizing possibility, while Aymeric Laporte is healthy, too. That’s an even bigger deal as City is unbeaten in the seven PL appearances Laporte has made this season (6W-1D).

That’s good news considering City is about to miss out on European competition for two seasons pending an appeal next week.

[ MORE: Ranking every Brighton player in 2019-20 ]


Tactical analysis: It’s Pep Guardiola, so it’s all about the ball. Man City’s league-leading 66 percent possession rate sees it having made the most passes (18,927) and the most successful passes (16,817) in the PL. Since Guardiola took charge, Manchester City have averaged 68 percent possession, the highest rate in the PL. How good is that? Second-place Liverpool is six percent behind.


Possible XI (4-3-3) 

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Laporte — Fernandinho — Zinchenko —

—– Gundogan —– Rodri — De Bruyne —

 —–  Sterling—– Aguero —– Sane —–

There’s been a lot of 4-3-3 in City’s 2020 and their forward trident is going to be as venomous as ever. Consider that Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus are having sensational years but will rotate into an attack with Sterling, Aguero, and Sane expected to feature plenty. Rodri may be the straw that stirs the drink, but Kevin De Bruyne’s status as the probably PFA Player of the Year will be one to watch as he approaches the PL single season assist record.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Man City’s chances ]


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Arsenal, Burnley, Liverpool, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Norwich City
Away: Chelsea, Southampton, Brighton, Watford

Predicted finish: Second with a bullet. City has six of its remaining 10 matches at home, including intriguing matches with old pal Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal and a rematch with soon-to-be champions Liverpool. Don’t be surprised if Pep prioritizes the FA Cup and preparing his team for a (probable) August return of the UEFA Champions League. City leads Real Madrid after one leg of the Round of 16.

USL Championship announces provisional July 11 return

USL Championship return
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The USL Championship intends to return to matches with a provisional restart date of July 11, the league announced Thursday.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

The league began its season in March, though three of 35 teams did not play a match while Tacoma and San Diego played two.

There is no indication that the league intends to play at a single location, as MLS reportedly intends with an Orlando restart.

USL Championship sides have been allowed to train in small groups from May 11. USL had previously canceled its League Two season.

Here is the league’s full statement, from USLChampionship.com:

While additional information on competition format, scheduling, broadcast and other important details will be made available in the coming weeks, it’s important to note that the league’s return to play will be conducted in strict alignment with all local and state public health guidelines. USL HQ also remains in regular dialogue with the USL Players Association on all matters concerning player health and wellness protocols and looks forward to continuing those discussions.

To USL supporters across the country, we are grateful for your support throughout this process and look forward to being back in action with you all soon.

 

Manchester United season restart preview

Manchester United season restart
Photo by Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images
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With the 2019-20 Premier League season soon to restart, let’s focus on all 20 clubs and see where they stand ahead of the final nine matches of the season.

Manchester United is next.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Let’s take a closer look at all things Red Devils when it comes to the season restart.


Outlook: Very, very good. While United supporters will feel aggrieved to know their club cannot. catch their two biggest rivals, you wouldn’t laugh off the idea of them finishing as high as third given a wildly straight-forward fixture list and the fact that we are about to see Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford together for the first time. Perhaps those players will have some growing pains, but the club has the depth to finish in the Premier League’s top four, challenge for the FA Cup, and win the Europa League.

[ MORE: Ranking every Man Utd player’s 2019-20 PL season ]


Tactical analysis: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s favorite formation this year has been a 4-2-3-1, though he turned to a 3-4-1-2 in memorable wins over Chelsea and Man City just before the coronavirus pause.

We don’t know his plans to produce an attack with Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, and Marcus Rashford together, but the best possible XI is going to leave out some very good players. Playing Scott McTominay and Fred, both revelations, leaves out either wide players or puts Pogba or Fernades out of position (unless he opts for a 4-4-2 which will ask a lot of Rashford and Anthony Martial).

Since making his Manchester United debut on February 1, Fernandes leads the club in all competitions in shots (33), shots on target (12), assists (4) and chances created (24), and ranks third in goals (3).


Possible XI (4-3-1-2) 

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — B. Williams —

—– Fred — Pogba — McTominay —–

—– Fernandes —–

—– Rashford —– Martial —–

This lineup excludes Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Daniel James, Odion Ighalo, Marcus Greenwood, and Eric Bailly. That’s a very decent bench. Solskjaer could also put a lot of responsibility on Fred or McTominay by putting Fernandes and Pogba in the center of the pitch with him and using a three-man forward line of Rashford, Martial, and another.

[ MORE: The 2 Robbies assess Man Utd’s chances ]


[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

Remaining schedule
Home: Sheffield United, Bournemouth, Southampton, West Ham
Away: Spurs, Brighton, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace, Leicester City

Predicted finish: Depending on your faith in Leicester City, United will probably be favorites if not heavy favorites in seven or eight of their nine matches. Their home matches feature sides both surprising and desperate but it’ll be stunning if a side that found its groove to the tune of a five-match unbeaten run before the coronavirus pause and returns Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford fails to finish in the top four.

Newcastle’s Saint-Maximin, Liverpool’s Lovren speak against racism

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Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin and Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren are speaking out on their squad photos that showed both Magpies and Reds taking a knee against racism at the center circle of pitches earlier this week.

All 20 Premier League clubs and a large number of players and coaches spoke out against racism earlier this week, and players have continued momentum. The gestures were born from the May 25 killing of American black man George Floyd, who died in handcuffs after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes even after he stopped moving and pleaded for air in Minnesota.

[ MORE: Remaining PL schedule in full ]

Saint-Maximin said he was inspired in part by his French youth national teammate Marcus Thuram, who took a knee last weekend after scoring for Borussia Monchengladbach.

“I have one big friend of mine who scored a goal, Marcus Thuram, and he did a great celebration,” Saint-Maximin said, via NUFC.co.uk. “It’s important that everyone knows this is not a joke. You have to claim that this is important. Everybody has to know this doesn’t have to happen again. It’s a difficult time for everyone. Even if it’s not you, or it’s not your brother or sister, you cannot know if this will happen again.”

Saint-Maximin said he experienced racial problems especially in his youth, and admitted that it meant a lot for his teammates to kneel together and make a statement as one.

“Everyone wanted to stay together because we all humans,” he said. “For me, everybody is the same. I have some things I can’t understand and some I don’t want to understand, too.”

As for Lovren, the Liverpool center back has never been shy around microphones.

His words to Sky Sports on Thursday echo Saint-Maximin and many of their peers.

Sky asked him why the Liverpool players took a knee as a team earlier this week.

“I felt we needed to do it. What happened in America is unacceptable. We are all equal and we wanted to share it to the world. We did it and it’s unbelievably great that people are getting this message. Everyone should be treated equally.”

Lovren, whose family became refugees from Yugoslavia when he was young, also stressed the import of footballers using their public platform for good, saying, “I want to be recognized also as a man who is spreading love and positivity. I’m looking at myself and it’s like I have a duty.”