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Premier League 2017-18 preview – Southampton

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When Southampton were promoted to the Premier League five years ago, no one foresaw the south coast club becoming England’s model of structure and consistency, but after four top-eight finishes in a row (8th, 7th, 6th and 8th, beginning in 2013-14), that’s exactly what’s happened.

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How, against all odds, you ask? Simply put, a series of savvy managerial appointments, sky-high-upside dealings in the transfer market, a robust youth academy which has produced numerous first-team stalwarts, and a willingness to cash in on players at peak value.

The 2017-18 PL season could very well be something of a crossroads for Southampton, as they begin their sixth top-division campaign under the guidance of a fifth different opening-day manager, Mauricio Pellegrino.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub

From the day Pellegrino arrived at St. Mary’s Stadium, he’s been fighting an uphill battle to keep star center back Virgil Van Dijk at the club. Liverpool’s dogged pursuit (some have called it tampering) has made life difficult in the build-up to the new season. Though a transfer agreement has not yet been reached, the saga is probably far from over. As for incoming transfer activity, it’s been… well, pretty quiet

Best-, worst-case scenario: Saints’ starting XI is as good as (and, in most cases, better than) any of the non-top-six sides, and what’ll trickle down to the bench (the likes of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Steven Davis, Sofiane Boufal, Josh Sims, Charlie Austin and Shane Long) isn’t half-bad either. If the squad in place buys into Mauricio Pellerino’s philosophy early on, expect Southampton and Everton to fight it out for seventh, albeit a ways back of the big six. Anything down the bottom half of the league table would be a shock, and a huge disappointment.

Best possible XI is…


—– Forster —–

Cedric — Van Dijk — Yoshida— Bertrand—

—- Clasie —- Romeu —-

—– Tadic —– Ward-Prowse —– Redmond —–

—– Gabbiadini —–


Transfers In: Jan Bednarek ($6.5 million, Lech Poznan)

Transfers Out: Jay Rodriguez (West Bromwich Albion, $15.7 million)

Last season

8th place in Premier League
Group stage of Europa League
Runners-up in EFL Cup
4th round in FA Cup

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Star player: Nathan Redmond — Yes, the likes of Manolo Gabbiadini, Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse are better known household names heading into the season, but Redmond seems the obvious choice to become “next Saints player to be transferred for $40 million after one spectacular season.” (See, for examples: Sadio Mane, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne and Victor Wanyama) He checks all the boxes that PL clubs covet: outside-in attacker who does his damage cutting inside from the left wing; English; and, still only 23 years old.

Coach’s corner: Claude Puel was (somewhat) surprisingly fired three weeks after the end of last season, despite an eighth-place finish and a League Cup final appearance in his first season in the PL, and quickly replaced by Pellegrino. The 45-year-old Argentine takes over at St. Mary’s after one season as manager of Alaves, who he guided to a ninth-place finish in La Liga (including wins over Barcelona, Villarreal and Valencia) and a Copa del Rey final appearance in the club’s first season back in the top flight.

PST predicts: Given the money spent by the top-six sides (not only this summer, but in past transfer windows), the gap between the haves and have-nots is wider now than perhaps ever before. 2017-18 will make three managers in three seasons for Saints (Ronald Koeman before Puel), and while that’s bound to cause stress at the most well-run of clubs, Southampton have established themselves as a perennial top-eight side in the PL, which is exactly where they’ll finish once again this year.

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.