Getty Images

Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Bournemouth

Leave a comment

AFC Bournemouth’s story is one of the most heart-warming in world soccer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A tiny club from a sleepy seaside town on England’s south coast, Bournemouth almost went out of business seven years ago as a fourth-tier team. Young manager Eddie Howe led them all the way through the leagues and last season was their first-ever in the top tier of English soccer.

[ MORE: Every PL season preview ]

They play an attractive brand which is easy on the eye and they comfortably secured a second-straight season in the Premier League with some big wins thanks to plenty of talented youngsters who are flourishing under Howe’s trendy tutelage.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL game live ] 

Bournemouth’s bubble will burst and they’ll be relegated because… a sophomore slump, if you will. They will be hit by injuries early in the season to key players and Howe will be tempted to take on a bigger job come December time with the Cherries struggling.

Yet, they do have a chance of doing something special: That’s right, they actually do. With Howe’s boys having a year of PL experience under their belt and some exciting attacking additions in Jordon Ibe and Lys Mousset this summer, they might just surprise everyone and push for a top 10 finish. Underestimate the underdogs at your peril. This is a very good squad which is now two-strong in every spot.

Best possible XI

—– Boruc —–

— Francis — A. Smith — S. Cook — Daniels —

— Ibe — Surman — Arter — Gradel —

— Afobe — Wilson —

Transfers In: Emerson Hyndman (Free, Fulham), Jordon Ibe ($29 million, Liverpool), Brad Smith ($3.9 million, Liverpool), Lys Mousset ($7.1 million, Le Havre), Mark Travers (Free, Cherry Orchard), Mikael Ndjoli (Free, Millwall), Lewis Cook ($9.2 million, Leeds United)

Transfers Out: Tommy Elphick ($3.9 million, Aston Villa), Matt Ritchie ($15.8 million, Newcastle United), Lee Tomlin ($3.9 million, Bristol City), Josh Carmichael, Sylvain Distin, Jon Muleba, Jayden Stockley, Mason Walsh, Josh Wakefield, Stephane Zubar (All released), Glenn Murray (Loan, Brighton and Hove Albion), Joe Quigley (Loan, Gillingham), Harry Cornick (Loan, Leyton Orient)

Last season: In their first-ever season in the top-flight Bournemouth did themselves proud with a 16th place finish. Despite a slow start they were never in real danger of relegation and pulled off shock wins against Manchester United and Chelsea. A season to remember for a team who play attractive, attacking soccer.

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29: Callum Wilson of Bournemouth celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Leicester City at Vitality Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Star player: Callum Wilson – He burst onto the scene early last season but then suffered a horrendous knee injury. Battled back well to get some minutes late in the 2015-16 campaign and has looked incredibly sharp over preseason. Expect the powerful striker to cause plenty of problems.

Coaches’ Corner: Eddie Howe is Mr. Bournemouth. The youngster manager in the PL at 38 years old, he has taken the Cherries on a dramatic ride from League Two to the Premier League. The former Bournemouth defender has a clear philosophy of open, expansive soccer and they didn’t stray away from that during difficult spells last season. His teams are fun to watch and Howe was touted as a contender to be the next England manager over the summer. Luckily for Bournemouth he’s still around and he’s now aiming to take this project to the next level.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 26: Eddie Howe Manager of Bournemouth applauds the supporters after his team's 1-2 defeat in the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Britannia Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, United Kingdom. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)
(Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

PST predicts: Many will expect Bournemouth to be struggling around the relegation zone but given the amount of money they’ve spent and the fact that their current squad has had a full year to acclimatize to the PL, you get the sense they’ve flown under the radar in recent months. If Ibe, Wilson, Gradel and Afobe click early in the campaign then Bournemouth has the potential to finish in the top 10. That said, PST believes they will finish safely in midtable and have some good runs in the cup competitions.

Report: No money in January for Mourinho

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho will have to deal with the squad he has for the rest of the season, according to a report the Guardian.

The report states that Tottenham isn’t making any money available for signings in January, meaning that Mourinho won’t have the chance to add to his Spurs squad. Usually, when a new coach comes in, they’re given at least a transfer window to bring in one or two players, especially mid-season, to stabilize the squad.

[READ: Mourinho speaks for the first time as Spurs manager]

It’s certainly an unusual move from Tottenham. It leaves Mourinho in a bad spot in terms of the five first-team players who will be out of contract in June. If any of them, including Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, leave on transfer, perhaps Tottenham can use those funds towards new signings. However, it’s more likely at this point that all five will finish the season at White Hart Lane and leave, setting up a massive summer for Mourinho.

At the same time, Tottenham has shown financial austerity for the past few seasons, as it struggles to pay back the loans it took to renovate its stadium. Pochettino didn’t make a single signing for the entirety of the 2018-2019 season and while the club broke its transfer record to sign Tanguay Ndombele, there wasn’t investment throughout the squad.

Considering Tottenham’s financial behavior, it does question why Mourinho took the job in the first place. But with his reported eight-figure salary, and the chance to work with Harry Kane, Mourinho may have decided it’s worth it, even if he can’t sign his players and mold the squad in the way he wants.

Looking Ahead: Mourinho’s first 10 games

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Tottenham’s stunning week continued on Wednesday with the appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager.

Taking in his first day of training, Mourinho can now get to grips with not only his squad, but what’s ahead for Spurs. Here’s a look at what Mourinho will be up against in the next two months.

[READ: 5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham]

Game 1: Tottenham at West Ham, Saturday, Premier League

Mourinho’s first game in charge is a London derby, which is a pretty tough way to start life at the club. Coming on the road, you can expect a packed house, tons of media attention, and possibly a re-energized squad. That’s what Mourinho will be hoping for, anyways.

Sebastian Haller has struggled recently, and with just four goals in 11 Premier League games, he could be looking at this matchup as a way to get back on the scoresheet. It will be up to Mourinho to re-organize a want-away defense.

Game 2: Tottenham v. Olympiakos, Nov. 26, UEFA Champions League

Game 3: Tottenham v. Bournemouth, Nov. 30, Premier League

Game 4: Tottenham at Manchester United, Dec. 4, Premier League

Mourinho only has to wait three weeks before his first trip back to Old Trafford. Even though it’s coming soon, it’s not a guarantee that it will be Mourinho v. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is under a lot of pressure himself. Things haven’t improved at Man United much since Mourinho was sacked, and a win for him on the road would be the kind of grudge match he lives for.

Game 5: Tottenham v. Burnley, Dec. 7, Premier League

Game 6: Tottenham at Bayern Munich, Dec. 11, Champions League

If the Champions League stopped today, passed Go and went directly to the knockout rounds, Tottenham would be in. Despite all the Premier League troubles, Spurs have done well enough to stay ahead of Red Star Belgrade and Olympiakos in the standings. Should Tottenham beat Olympiakos in November, and Red Star loses to Bayern Munich, it will be set. However, if Tottenham hasn’t secured a place in the knockout round by then, it may need a result against Bayern at home. That will be one of Mourinho’s biggest tasks moving forward.

Game 7: Tottenham at Wolves, Dec. 15, Premier League

Game 8: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Dec. 22, Premier League

Tottenham opens the busy holiday period against Mourinho’s other Premier League former club, and the place where he made his name in England. At this point, Mourinho will have been with Tottenham for an entire month and if things are going well, Tottenham could challenge Chelsea in this match. If Tottenham remain at its current level, Chelsea could certainly win a match like this on the road at the new White Hart Lane. Another side plot will be Mourinho facing his former star midfielder, Frank Lampard.

Game 9: Tottenham v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Dec. 26, Premier League

Game 10: Tottenham at Norwich City, Dec. 28, Premier League

Mourinho will have to navigate some tough matches, including big six derbies against Chelsea and Man United, plus a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, it certainly could have been worse for Tottenham. Spurs has five home games, along with matches against Burnley, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite 10 games in the rest of 2019, and a busy holiday period, Mourinho has a shot to turn Spurs’ season around and put them in contention for fourth place by May.

UEFA investigates player’s claim of racial abuse in Romania

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA has called for further investigations into allegations by a Sweden player he was racially abused by Romania fans at a European Championship qualifying game.

After Alexander Isak reported his claim to the match referee last Friday, play in Sweden’s 2-0 win was briefly stopped to broadcast a warning to fans in Bucharest. The stadium will host four Euro 2020 games in June.

[READ: How the USMNT found and kept Sergino Dest]

UEFA says it opened a disciplinary investigation, and also charged Romania’s soccer federation for separate incidents of an alleged “illicit banner” and “illicit chants.” Those charges will be judged on Dec. 12.

Romania faces more severe UEFA action because it was already under one year’s probation for previous incidents of offensive fan behavior.

Only accompanied children were allowed to attend Romania’s home qualifier against Norway last month.

The next UEFA punishment could affect Romania’s next game in the Euro 2020 playoffs round in March.

Report: Austin FC hire Reyna as sporting director

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Months after locking in Josh Wolff as head coach, Austin FC is reportedly on the verge of naming one of MLS’ best sporting directors to the same role.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has hired Claudio Reyna from New York City FC to be the expansion club’s new sporting director. It’s the second expansion club that Reyna is working for since he joined NYCFC in 2013 as its first director of soccer operations.

[READ: MLS takes big step with All-Star game update]

If true, it’s a shrewd move by Precourt to bring in a man who knows MLS like the back of his thumb, and to pair him with a former teammate from the U.S. Men’s National Team. Wolff’s spent almost his entire career in professional soccer in MLS too, so the club now has two influential individuals who are knowledgable about the league and it’s various roster mechanisms.

Austin FC doesn’t enter MLS until 2021, so locking in Reyna now gives him more than a year of runway towards building an MLS-ready roster. Precourt has surely seen the best-case scenario – Seattle, Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United – where a team loaded with top-heavy talent and good role players can make a deep playoff run in its expansion season. But he’s likely also seen the worst-case scenarios – look at Minnesota United in the past and FC Cincinnati this year.

Bringing in Reyna certainly makes it more likely that Austin FC’s future will lie in the former category.