Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Swansea City

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The only Welsh side in the Barclays Premier League, Swansea City is a team on the rise.

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After a season in which Swansea had it’s best finish and set a record points tally, the Swans have made some key summer signings that should help Garry Monk’s men continue their upward trend. Monk is one of the brightest young managers in the Premier League and had Swans playing some beautiful football last season, which saw him rewarded with a contract extension keeping him at the Liberty Stadium until 2018.

With wins last season over Manchester United, Arsenal, and Southampton, Swansea City is a team to watch out for.

Best possible XI:

— Fabianski —

— Naughton — Fernandez — Williams — Tabanou —

— Cork — Ki. S.Y. —

— Dyer — Sigurdsson — Ayew —

— Gomis —

Transfers in: Andre Ayew (Free, Marseille), Eder ($8 million, Braga), Franck Tabanou ($5.5 million, Saint-Etienne), Kristoffer Nordfeldt ($1 million, SC Heerenveen)

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club ]

Transfers out: Jazz Richards ($775,000, Fulham), Nelson Oliveira (End of loan, Benfica)

source: Getty Images
Gylfi Sigurdsson is one of the best free-kick takers in the PL.

Last season: Eighth in the Premier League — Swansea started last season with a win away at Manchester United, and they never looked back. The Swans had their best season in the Premier League, finishing in their highest position (8th) and with a record points total (56). The Welsh side pulled off the double over both Manchester United and Arsenal, and if it wasn’t for two losses in the final two matches of the season, the Swans would be playing in Europe this season.

Star player: Gylfi Sigurdsson — The Icelandic midfielder had a brilliant campaign for the Swans last season, finishing the year with seven goals and ten assists. The only two players to have more helpers were Cesc Fabregas and Santi Cazorla, so Sigurdsson is in quite good company. The midfielder established himself as one of the best free-kick takers in the league, and any dead-ball situation from within 40 yards will be coming off of his foot and headed for goal. With the additions of Andre Ayew and Eder as well as Bafetimbi Gomis becoming more comfortable in his role, Sigurdsson will have more options to spread the ball to.

Monk’s work earned him a three-year extension this summer.

Coaches’ Corner: At 36-years-old, Garry Monk led Swansea to a record campaign in just his first full season as manager. Monk has been with the club since it’s League Two days, playing as a center-back for ten seasons before taking over on the touchline in 2014. One of the best young minds in the game, Monk had the Swans impressing many with their flowing game, but also knew how to grind out a win when needed.

PST predicts: Swansea City should not only be looking for another top-ten finish, but they should be pushing for another record setting season. Garry Monk now has a year of experience under his belt and has more options on the attack, as Andre Ayew should play a big role for the Swans. Their finish could depend on Bafetimbi Gomis, who will need to become a more consistent scorer to help Monk’s men push for European football.

VIDEO: Breaking down some celebrated Premier League derbies

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The kickoffs aren’t coming back soon, so we’re finding solace in anticipating the biggest matches on the Premier League calendar.

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Certain rivalries are circled on the fixture list when it arrives each summer, the sort of games that seem to level the playing field regardless of the gulf in class.

Is Arsenal struggling? No better way to bounce back than Spurs.

Liverpool sliding a bit? It’ll snap back to form when Everton hits Anfield.

PST lead writer and editor Joe Prince-Wright has prepped up for several of these derbies over the years, and here’s a cheat sheet for those new and a tasty summation for those missing their hated foes.

Liverpool-Manchester City

Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur

Liverpool-Everton

Manchester City-Manchester United

Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur

Bournemouth’s Howe takes voluntary pay cut, first PL manager to do so

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Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe is the first Premier League manager to take a pay cut due to the coronavirus suspension.

Howe joins Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake, first team technical director Richard Hughes, and assistant manager Jason Tindall in taking “significant, voluntary” pay cuts.

Howe is the longest-serving manager in the PL. He started with Bournemouth’s academy in 1994 and spent just a few short seasons away from home (Portsmouth and Swindon Town) during his playing career.

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The club has also furloughed employees throughout the organization. From a Bournemouth statement:

There is no script for moments like this. No tactics and no set plays to find a winning formula. But as a board we are continually looking at ways to ensure the future of the club and our employees is protected when the season returns.

We have also advised a number of staff across all areas of the club that they will be temporarily furloughed, as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

These measures have been taken to safeguard the financial stability of the club during what is such an uncertain period, not only in football but for businesses in all industries across the world.

Surely Howe won’t be the last during this uncertain time for clubs and businesses all over the world.

Ex-Marseille president first coronavirus-related death in Senegal

Pape Diouf
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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) Pape Diouf, a former president of French soccer club Marseille, died Tuesday in Senegal after contracting the coronavirus. It was the West African country’s first COVID-19-related death, according to the health ministry. He was 68.

Diouf, who was president of Marseille from 2005-09, had been treated since Saturday in intensive care in Dakar, health minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr said.

Senegal President Macky Sall wrote on his official Twitter account that he had followed Diouf’s health closely after he was admitted for treatment.

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“I pay tribute to this great figure in sport,” Sall wrote. “I pay tribute to the medical staff at Fann Hospital who spared no effort to save him.”

Relatives said Diouf was meant to be moved to France. He had recently traveled to several countries in the West Africa region.

In its most recent count, Senegal has reported 190 cases of the coronavirus, with 45 of those having recovered.

Diouf was a charismatic and popular leader who was close to the fans and players at Marseille, the only French team to win the European club title.

“Pape will forever remain in the hearts of Marseille people and (is) one of the great architects of the club,” Marseille wrote under a photo of Diouf.

Shortly before his time at the club ended, Diouf signed Didier Deschamps as the new coach and Deschamps won the French league title and League Cup in his first season in charge. It was Marseille’s first league title in 18 years.

Deschamps, who coached France to World Cup success two years ago, described Diouf as “a man of convictions, a spirited man, passionate about football” adding that his “sudden and brutal death deeply saddens me.”

“I could measure his popularity, which was immense with the Marseille people whose hearts he had won,” Deschamps said on L’Equipe’s website.

The French soccer league called Diouf’s death “a moment of immense sadness for French soccer.”

Diouf was born in Chad to Senegalese parents. After arriving in Marseille at the age of 18, he became a sports journalist and then a players’ agent.

Diouf was not afraid to take risks in signing unheralded players, such as the diminutive Mathieu Valbuena from third-tier side Libourne in 2006 when he was 21.

The 1.67-meter (5 feet, 5 inches) Valbuena went on to prove Diouf right, and all the doubters wrong, playing 52 times for France.

“A great man with a great heart,” Valbuena said. “We were hypnotized by his speeches, he had a lot of charisma.”

Diouf was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal in 2012, one of the country’s highest honors.

Pugmire reported from Paris. AP reporter Babacar Dione in Dakar, Senegal contributed.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Griezmann plus cash could finally get Neymar back to Barcelona

Neymar
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Neymar’s long-rumored return to Barcelona hasn’t quite reached the point of exhaustion, but it’s close.

A new report has said Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain may be coming to terms with what’s been a fairly obvious swap deal for some time.

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According to Sky Sports, PSG would send Neymar to Barcelona in return for French hero Antoine Griezmann and money.

The $167 million price tag attached to Neymar is significantly more than the $110 million on Griezmann, and there’s no doubt the former is more of a gamechanger at this point on their careers.

While Neymar gets both the #whenhealthy and #whenavailable tags to his rep, he’s scored 18 times with 10 assists in 22 matches across all competitions this year.

Before the full phrase ‘Ligue 1’ exits your lips, he’s scored against Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic, Galatasaray, Liverpool, Anderlecht, and Red Star Belgrade in his three seasons with PSG.

Griezmann is a full year older than Neymar and, while one of the world’s elite attackers, he’s a step below the Brazilian’s tier. He’s also said to want to keep finding his way at Barca, with Gerard Pique and others ready to lend support.