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Premier League 2016-17 season preview: Everton

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The winds of change have blown into Goodison Park and excitement is in the air with a new owner, manager and plenty of changes in the playing staff for the nine-time champions of England.

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British-Iranian billionaire Farhad Moshiri has promised to splash the cash to bring top players to Everton and even though they’ve so far failed to spend big this summer, new manager Ronald Koeman will be able to attract top quality players to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: Every PL season preview ]

Finishing in the top four is always the aim for Everton but over the past two seasons they regressed under Roberto Martinez before he was fired last season. They are a stylish attacking unit but Koeman should add more substance in his debut season in charge of the Toffees. Big things are expected but plenty of pressure comes with the lofty ambitions of Everton’s fans.

A fast start to the season sees Everton challenging for the top four: This could really happen. If you look at Everton’s first seven games, the only game you say they shouldn’t win is against Tottenham at home on the opening day. That means Koeman could get off to a flier and we all know how important it is to have a good start, especially when you’re a new manager coming in. With so many other big clubs in transition, perhaps Everton can shock a few people and push hard for at least a top six finish and maybe more?

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Without Stones and Lukaku, Everton in the bottom half and Koeman under pressure: Now, of course this is all hypothetical but with Stones edging towards a move to Man City and Chelsea’s interest in Romelu Lukaku intensifying, who knows how hard that will hit Everton. They have a month to figure this out but if both leave during the transfer window and Koeman is priced out of other options on the market, could Everton be in an even worse position than last season? It’s certainly not inconceivable and the pressure will be on, especially if Moshiri spends plenty of money on new players late on in the window.


Best Possible XI

—– Robles —–

— Coleman — Williams (?) — Funes Mori — Baines —

— Gueye — McCarthy —

— Deulofeu — Barkley — Mirallas —

—– Lukaku —–


Transfers In: Maarten Stekelenburg (Undisclosed, Fulham), Idrissa Gueye ($9.3 million, Aston Villa), Bassala Sambou (Free, Coventry City), Chris Renshaw (Free, Oldham Athletic), Joe Hilton (Free, Manchester City), Nathan Baxter (Free, Vitesse)

Transfers Out: Tim Howard (Free, Colorado Rapids), Aidan Graham, Tony Hibbert, Felipe Mattioni, Leon Osman, Steven Pienaar, Jindrich Stanek, Jordan Thorniley (All released)

Last season: A pretty awful season for Everton. Martinez was fired as manager before the final game of the season as Everton finished in 11th place. That might not sound bad but with so many poor defensive performances at home and two-straight seasons of finishing outside the top 10 (okay, 2014-15 saw them focus more on the Europa League, which is understandable) something had to give. Everton did reach the FA Cup and League Cup semifinals but lost to eventual winners Manchester City and Manchester United in both competitions.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Ross Barkley of Everton and Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal compete for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Arsenal at Goodison Park on March 19, 2016 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Star player: Ross Barkley – It is time for the Everton academy product to take hold of his team and under Koeman he will be given the chance to thrive. Despite some good numbers, Barkley’s career stalled a little last season but let’s not forget that he’s one of the brightest attacking talents in the PL under the age of 23. He has bags of experience under his belt already but now it’s time to turn that into goals and assists for Everton.

Coach’s Corner: Ronald Koeman – There is plenty of expectation on Koeman’s shoulders after the marvelous job he did at Southampton over the past two seasons. Many were surprised when he quit Saints for Everton but given the huge sums of money said to be on offer from new owner Moshiri, Koeman believes he can have the Toffees challenging for a top four finish. He has plenty of work to do but an easy fixture list to start the season with will certainly elongate his honeymoon period. His solid defensive work coupled with a philosophy to keep the ball should please Evertonians.

facebook.com/Everton/
facebook.com/Everton/

PST predicts: A season of improvement for Everton but it will be tough to break into the top six with so many powerhouses strengthening and having new, talented managers of their own. Koeman should be happy if he guides Everton to a top 10 finish and goes far in both cup competitions. Steady progress will be key but with Stones and Lukaku’s future uncertain, this prediction could change by the end of August if any money coming in isn’t spent wisely on new players.

Everton reportedly set for sale of $28M Lookman

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Will Everton regret its failure to find the right fit for Ademola Lookman at Goodison Park?

The Toffees are set to sell the 21-year-old striker to RB Leipzig this summer for just $8 million more than they paid Charlton for her services, according to Sky Sports.

[ MORE: De Gea wants captaincy ]

Lookman scored five goals with four assists in a half-season loan for RBL in 2018, but could not find regular feature time for the Toffees upon his return.

Yes, the $28 million is still a decent fee, but Lookman is an English striker with U-20 World Cup-winning experience, and was given just three starts from his 21 appearances in the Premier League for Marco Silva‘s men last season (posting two assists in 601 minutes.

Lookman prefers to play left wing, but also operates on the right. Everton has Richarlison, Bernard, and Theo Walcott amongst a relatively deep wing corps.

The stats seem to show that Lookman simply had trouble getting the ball at Everton in comparison to RBL. Maybe he needs to be a bigger part of the show, and we’ll find out whether he can do that with Tyler Adams and Co. in Leipzig.

De Gea hopes for Manchester United captaincy

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Given his seemingly biannual links to returns to Spain and bigger paydays, it might be a bit of a surprise to hear Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea preach up the badge.

Aside from a stumble late last season, however, the 28-year-old has been a dynamo at Old Trafford for several managers.

[ MORE: Chicago adds USMNT hero ]

He’s also been through the wringer from his early days struggling to find his form in the Premier League, and now has 362 appearances in the Red Devils shirt to go with trophies from the PL, FA Cup, League Cup, and Europa League.

So, yeah, he’s qualified to lead. And as we wait for United to announce his new expensive contract, De Gea is speaking out on his delight in captaining the team and hopes of doing so on a full-time basis.

From Sky Sports:

“I need to show that on the pitch and try to help the young guys know what Manchester United means and that’s important. We have to improve a lot. We are Manchester United; we need to fight for trophies.

“When you put on this badge, that’s what it means – fight for everything, give your best and bring the team again to the top.”

Is there a case to be made for anyone else on the current roster? Probably not, at least not in the form of players who will be expected to suit up nearly every match.

Chicago adds 2010 World Cup qualifying hero Bornstein

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There’s probably part of you who thinks Jonathan Bornstein is on an MLS staff somewhere, that he’s about 46 years old, and the news that he’s joined the Chicago Fire means he’s taken a coaching role like Josh Wolff (who is only 42. Don’t age shame).

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

And we’ll admit that “Chicago adds Jonathan Bornstein” gave us similar vibes, because, hey, didn’t this cat score an amazing, World Cup berth-clinching goal against Costa Rica at RFK in 2009? Yes! He was! I was there with my sister and a couple of buddies, and it was awesome.

Bornstein was, however, just 25 then and a member of Chivas USA (That was an MLS team, young bucks). Bob Bradley drafted him out of UCLA and turned him into a left back.

Now 34 and still a left back, Bornstein spent 2010-present outside of the United States. He’s played in Mexico for Queretaro, Tigres, and Atlante, as well as Israel last season with Maccabi Netanya. He won a Copa MX, a Supercopa MX, and an Apertura title while south of the border.

From Chicago-Fire.com:

“We began pursuing Jonathan back in January but, unfortunately, his insertion into the lineup made him too invaluable to his former club,” said Chicago Fire President and General Manager Nelson Rodrίguez. “In addition to providing a steady presence and competition on the field, we believe Jonathan will be an excellent mentor for our younger players.”

As a returning USMNT international, even no caps since 2011, Chicago had to send $50,000 to Columbus for the top spot in the allocation order.

Bornstein will hope to help Chicago turn around a miserable season which began with such promise. Chicago has been extremely unlucky this season, with a difference of minus-11.7 between expected goals and goals scored.

And I will continue to remember nearly throwing my beverage miles into the air from the upper deck at RFK. Thanks for the memories, Jonathan.

Barcelona exec on Neymar: “We aren’t looking at it”

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Neymar’s reported discontent at Paris Saint-Germain has caused rumors to fly this summer about if he could leave, and where any potential destinations could be.

His old club Barcelona is thought to be a major contender to rescue the Brazilian superstar from his misery, but that may be dead in the water after Barcelona vice president Jordi Cardoner again claimed the club has no interest in his return.

“The president already spoke about it,” Cardoner said from Tokyo where the club is in preseason. “There is no Neymar saga. There is a lot of talk and he doesn’t appear happy there but we aren’t looking at it.”

This is not the first time Cardoner has gone public to deny Neymar rumors. Even as far back as last October, Cardoner said “No one on the Barcelona board has talked about the possibility of bringing back Neymar, right now we can’t talk about it because no one has even mentioned it.”

Cardoner is not the only Barcelona member talking down a potential Neymar return. New arrival Antoine Griezmann also made statements claiming the club would struggle to make it happen even if they wanted to. Speaking about possibly linking up with Neymar with Barcelona, the former Atletico Madrid striker spoke highly of Neymar’s playing ability, but admitted it would take some significant time to complete. “We have to get it done first because it is a difficult transfer, but he is a great player,” Griezmann said from Tokyo.

Neymar has had a troubled past 12 months, facing rape charges in Brazil, suspensions in both European and domestic French competitions, and even taking Barcelona to court last year for payments he believed he was owed.