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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Everton

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Everton are going for it in a very big way this season.

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In his second season in charge, Ronald Koeman has spent big to rebuild the Toffees after Romelu Lukaku‘s departure to Manchester United. This Everton side now has plenty of depth and attacking talent to push for a top four finish. With rivals Liverpool also pushing hard to return to past glories another golden age could be upon us on Merseyside, especially with Everton boasting a whole host of top young talent.

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Despite not winning a trophy since the FA Cup in 1995, historically they are one of England’s most successful teams with 15 major trophies to their name including nine league titles. The last of those league triumphs came back in 1987 and although the Goodison Park faithful aren’t getting ahead of themselves just yet, excitement is building under Koeman with Wayne Rooney now back at his boyhood club, the core of England’s U-20 World Cup winning side with the Toffees and new stadium plans kicking on.

Best, worst case scenario: If they finish in the top four, win a domestic cup and make a deep run in the Europa League Koeman will delight every single Evertonian. However, another seventh-place finish and no serious push for a silverware may have some wondering what all the fuss is about.

Best possible XI is…


—– Pickford —–

—- Coleman —- Keane —- Williams —- Baines —-

—- Schneiderlin —- Gueye —-

—- Klaassen —- Davies —- Rooney —-

—– Ramirez —–


Transfers in: Jordan Pickford ($33 million, Sunderland), Michael Keane ($33 million, Burnley), Davy Klaassen ($31.2 million, Ajax), Sandro Ramirez ($6.8 million, Malaga), Wayne Rooney (Free, Manchester United), Cuco Martina (Free, Southampton), Henry Onyekuru ($8.9 million, Eupen), Josh Bowler ($1.98 million, QPR), Lewis Gibson ($1.2 million, Newcastle United), Nathangelo Markelo (Undisclosed, Volendam), Boris Mathis (Free, Metz)

Transfers out: Romelu Lukaku ($99.1 million, Manchester United), Gerard Deulofeu ($14 million, Barcelona), Tom Cleverley ($10.5 million, Watford), Aiden McGeady ($330,000, Sunderland), Arouna Kone (Free, Sivasspor)

Last season
7th in Premier League
– FA Cup 3rd round
– EFL Cup 3rd round

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Star player: Davy Klaassen – The former Ajax captain will take some time to adjust to the Premier League but all of the early signs are good. His ability to ghost into space in midfield and attack mean he will slot perfectly into the fluid system Koeman is creating and his link-up play with Rooney and others is already developing well. He may not score 15 goals or grab 15 assists, but the Dutch international has the ability to make Everton tick.

Coaches’ Corner: Koeman has made this Everton squad his team with a summer of heavy spending before Lukaku’s big-money departure was confirmed. That was the correct way to go about this and the Toffees have big hopes for the Europa League plus trying to sustain a push for the top four. Koeman may well play a 3-4-3 system at times this season and he has a big enough squad, littered with talented youngsters hungry for game time, to cope with the Thursday-Sunday demands, but replacing 25-goal man Lukaku is his biggest task. He’s gone for the scatter-gun approach by adding Rooney, Klaassen, Sandro and possibly Gylfi Sigurdsson to all chip in. He loves to build solid defensive units who are also free-flowing in attack and at times last season Everton were one-dimensional with Lukaku and wantaway Ross Barkley in attack. That will no longer be the case.

PST predicts: The top six are ridiculously strong after another summer of heavy spending and keeping their best players, so it will be tough for Everton to push past seventh spot, especially with the rigors of the Europa League. That said, anything less than seventh will be a big disappointment and I think Koeman’s boys will finish in the top six as one of the top clubs will slip up. Expect a deep run in the Europa League too.

Lacazette gives Arsenal first leg in Greece

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Alexandre Lacazette scored the lone goal as Arsenal beat hosts Olympiacos 1-0 in the first leg of a Europa League Round of 32 tie on Thursday.

The second leg is Feb. 27 at the Emirates Stadium, four days after the Gunners host Carlo Ancelotti and Everton in Premier League play.

Lacazette now has eight goals in 24 appearances for Arsenal this season.

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Lacazette missed a big early chance from close range, Gabriel Martinelli deprived of a near-certain assist.

Fortunately for Lacazette, he got a second bite at the apple and smashed it home with a vengeance. Bukayo Saka continued his impressive debut season by assisting the goal.

It was an even match, as Olympiacos continued its habit of steady defense but was unable to produce any attack. The Greeks weren’t credited with the creation of any big chances.

Bernd Leno made three saves and was very good in distribution on the day, with Saka, David Luiz, Shkrodan Mustafi, and Sokratis Papastathopoulus continuing steady defense under Mikel Arteta.

Wolves clobber Espanyol, Neves scores another magnificent volley

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Diogo Jota had a hat trick and Ruben Neves scored a very Ruben Neves goal as Wolves took a 4-0 lead over Espanyol on Thursday after one leg of Europa League Round of 32 action.

Raul Jimenez, Joao Moutinho, and Matt Doherty recorded assists for Wolves, who will visit the Portuguese side on Feb. 27.

Espanyol had 57 percent of the ball and put four shots on target to Wolves’ five.

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Wolves came out of the gates with a show of strength, taking six shots to Espanyol’s zero over the first 25 minutes.

The goal came off an Adama Traore-won corner, Raul Jimenez flicking on to Jota.

Neves’ goal came straight from his area of expertise, a beautiful bit of control with his chest before smashing home from distance.

The 23-year-old Jota scored the first, third, and fourth goals of the contest to give him two Europa League hat tricks this season. He has 12 goals and five assists in 33 appearances across all competitions this season.

Solskjaer, Mata react to Man Utd draw: ‘We can play better’

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Manchester United got an away goal in a 1-1 first leg draw with Europa League foes Club Brugge in Belgium on Thursday.

The goals were pretty individual, a big chip of Sergio Romero followed by Anthony Martial’s powerful dribble to equalize for the Red Devils.

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United outshot the hosts 16-10, but fell short in big chances created by a 3-1 margin.

Here’s Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, via the BBC:

“It was a game with difficult conditions out there. It was almost like an astroturf. The ball was very quick and lively,” Solskjaer said. “We got the away goal. It was a very good individual goal, worked hard to win the ball and finish so we are happy with that but we know we can play better.”

The second leg is Feb. 27 at Old Trafford, four days after a Premier League encounter with Watford in the same building.

United midfielder Juan Mata had a busy day, winning the majority of his tackles and creating one key pass. He expected better from his team but sees the game for what it is.

Here is Mata, from The Manchester Evening News:

“They scored a goal we shouldn’t concede. We scored a goal from their mistake. we wanted to win, obviously, 1-1 is not a very bad result, but we always want to win,” Mata said. “We just couldn’t find spaces, they defended very well with five plus four. We tried to play a few times through the middle, which we didn’t succeed to do that. Then we scored that goal and from then we played a bit better.”

Solskjaer kept Bruno Fernandes, Fred, Daniel James, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the bench to start the match. Fernandes and Fred came on late.

FC Cincinnati adds Ajax midfielder Siem de Jong

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FC Cincinnati got a much-needed bit of good news toward the end of a rough week in Southern Ohio.

Longtime Ajax attacker Siem De Jong has joined a talented FCC attack ahead of the club’s second MLS season.

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De Jong, 31, came up through Ajax’s vaunted academy before transferring to Newcastle United, where he suffered through a series of miserable injuries including two collapsed lungs in 18 months.

He’s been capped six times with two goals for the Netherlands in his career and will join a revitalized Cincinnati attack with Jurgen Locadia and Yuya Kubo.

“The system they want to play is quite similar to the Dutch system, and yeah, Ajax is probably one of the team’s that perfected it,” de Jong said. “Over the years I played there, I’ve learned a lot about this similar philosophy and trying to build up from the back in the Dutch style of play. That was one of the reasons why FC Cincinnati was a good fit for me. Hopefully I can help with the experience I’ve had over the years playing this style of football.”

De Jong scored three times in nine matches this season for Ajax, all of the goals coming in a cup match against third-tier Spakenburg. His other eight matches combined for just 118 minutes.

He may not be with FCC when the season starts as he waits on visa approval.