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Season Preview: Can Bournemouth build on last season?

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It’s been a quiet summer in the south of England.

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Coming off a 12th-place finish in last year’s Premier League season, manager Eddie Howe has been patient in the transfer market, instead preferring to work with the players already at his disposal. Now in the club’s fourth-straight season in the Premier League, Howe has developed a side that plays free-flowing soccer at times as well as having a strong defense, with some players catching the eye of bigger clubs.

Lewis Cook is a Tottenham transfer target and with Bournemouth reportedly ready to break its transfer record to sign Colombian Jefferson Lerma, Cook could be allowed to leave. With two more friendly matches before the start of the season, Howe could put the finishing touches on his squad ahead of the August 9 deadline, as Bournemouth looks to rebound from a slightly disappointing season last year.

One good piece of news for U.S. Men’s National Team fans…Emerson Hyndman has been a full participant in Bournemouth’s preseason training and this may be his year to break into the first team for good.


Bournemouth will finish in the top ten because….Lerma, Nathan Ake, Asmir Begovic and Harry Arter play at the level that they have shown in flashes in the past. Although Bournemouth is a small club, the amount of talent on the books is impressive and if the team gels together and finds goals from new sources (with Benik Afobe off to Wolverhampton), the team can certainly push into mid-table territory, if not even challenge for the Europa League.

Bournemouth will barely survive relegation because…Jermain Defoe, who turns 36-years old in October, can’t be relied on anymore. Callum Wilson and Joshua King continue to struggle in front of net and while the defense is solid, it’s no match for the top-6 clubs. Bournemouth is in the thick of the relegation struggle but Howe manages to guide his team to safety, but only just. The lack of major signings in the summer comes back to haunt Howe, especially if the club can’t get the Lerma signing over the finish line.


Best possible XI: List the team’s strongest lineup for this season when everyone is fit

——————–Begovic———————–

—–Francis——–S. Cook————–Ake——

-Fraser—–L. Cook———-Gosling——–Daniels–

–Arter————–Wilson———–Mousset—

Transfers In: David Brooks (Sheffield United, $13 million), Diego Rico (Leganes, $14 million)

Transfers Out: Benik Afobe (Wolverhampton, $10 million), Max Gradel (Toulouse, undisclosed), Adam Federici (Stoke City, undisclosed), Lewis Grabban (Nottingham Forest, undisclosed)

Ranking their offseason: C+. It’s hard to tell so far how the new signings Brooks and Rico will do in the Premier League, with Brooks coming from the Championship and Rico from a small club in La Liga. The departures won’t hurt the club very much but if Bournemouth want to push on from where it finished last year, the current signings may not have been enough. Especially if the team loses Lewis Cook. 

(Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images,)

Star player: Asmir Begovic: The Canadian-raised Bosnia and Herzegovina goalkeeper has literally saved many points for Bournemouth since joining in 2017. If Bournemouth pushes into the top ten again, it will be thanks to strong goalkeeping from Begovic. 

Coaches’ Corner: With Arsene Wenger now gone, Howe is currently the longest-serving manager with his club in the Premier League. The former Bournemouth defender has drawn praise from across the world for keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League and playing an exciting brand of soccer. At times over the last three seasons, Bournemouth didn’t back down from the Premier League giants, and against other clubs lower in the table, the team was able to express itself more freely and control possession. Howe has done a terrific job, but it will be interesting to see if he’s taken Bournemouth as high as it can go, or if he can lead the club to new heights. 

PST predicts: We predict that Bournemouth will again be fighting relegation. As things stand, the club is not much improved since last season and other than the two new signings, – and potentially others before the transfer window shuts – the squad doesn’t seem like it’s improved more than the one that recorded just 44 points last season. There’s plenty of pressure on Howe to keep the team in the Premier League this season and return the club to the top ten.

Newcastle not apologizing after smash-and-grab win

Isaac Hayden on Newcastle's late winner
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Just how fortunate was Newcastle to beat Chelsea on Saturday?

Their stoppage time match-winner thought he was being subbed off minutes earlier, and wasn’t even supposed to be forward for the decisive set piece.

Isaac Hayden opened the day at center midfield and prepared to sub out of the match when he learned he was moving to right wing back for an exhausted Emil Krafth.

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“I thought I was coming off,” Hayden said, via the BBC. “I didn’t have a clue what was happening but he said just do a job for the team and I’m pleased to have done that.”

The former Arsenal and Hull City man, by the way, also hadn’t scored in about a year when he defied orders to join the fray for a stoppage-time corner kick.

That set piece was only partially cleared, but Hayden nodded in a wonderful Allan Saint-Maximin cross to win it for the Magpies.

“I wasn’t supposed to go up for the corner. I was supposed to stay back and be the last defender but I was on a yellow card so I couldn’t foul anyone so I thought I might as well go up.”

Newcastle was all grins after the match, with manager Steve Bruce having a dig at Matt Ritchie for doing a post-match television interview.

“It was a dreadful corner from Matt Ritchie and then he has the cheek to go on the telly,” Bruce said.

The manager said Newcastle is close to “one or two signings” and may have to add left back to its shopping list, saying Jetro Willems‘ in-game injury “looks serious.”

He also said their tough, packed-in approach on defense must now be joined by an uptick in quality.

Newcastle’s 29 points are seven clear of the Bottom Three and also four away from a Europa League spot. Bruce adds that the club is still in a race to avoid relegation rather than looking at higher goals.

“I’d love to give them a day off but we are in tomorrow. Always for a team in the bottom half, it’s always the accumulation of points over the year and let’s get to 40 points as soon as possible. I make no apology for that.”

Newcastle stuns misfiring Chelsea in stoppage time

Newcastle United stuns Chelsea
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Chelsea couldn’t find a clinical edge and Isaac Hayden scored in stoppage time as Newcastle United beat Chelsea 1-0 at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

The visitors had 70 percent of the ball and a massive edge in shots, but couldn’t capitalize on the few chances they found behind the back line.

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Isaac Hayden powered a header home off a stoppage-time set piece to give the Magpies a shocking win and 29 points, seven clear of the Bottom Three.

Chelsea stays on 39 points, five ahead of fifth-place Manchester United. The Red Devils play Liverpool on Sunday.


Three things we learned

1. Fortunate Magpies get big payoff late: Hayden had not scored in a year and turned Saint-Maximin’s desperate cross of a poorly-cleared corner kick past Kepa Arrizabalaga. A solid if unspectacular midfielder, Hayden has dealt with a lot and might’ve left the Northeast due to family reasons. He’s stayed, Steve Bruce has him confident, and the Magpies have a win against all odds.

2. Newcastle’s low block heroics highlight Chelsea need: Frank Lampard‘s attackers were limited to shots from distance, as Steve Bruce’s men might be even better than they were under Rafa Benitez when asked to defend deep. A lot of this is due to spending on attackers who keep defenders honest, but that doesn’t excuse Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi‘s inability to produce much. The former had Dubravka beaten but failed to find finish on the day.

The defense-first style can be boring to, well, everyone including the home fans and managers loathe when it’s employed against them. But Newcastle has now beaten Chelsea, Spurs, and Manchester United this year, also drawing Man City. The expected goals table says Newcastle is having one of the luckiest seasons on record, but don’t bother the Geordies with that right now.

3. Lampard waits for Abraham: Related to point No. 1, Lampard showed faith that his struggling striker would show up late. After all, the 22-year-old has 13 goals and three assists this year. Abraham got behind the Magpies back line twice and also flicked a ball off the bar, but it was the right move to get Michy Batshuayi out there. Alas, it probably should’ve come before the 80th minute.

Man of the Match: Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez were the key parts of the aforementioned low block, and we’d give the honors to Clark. But Hayden, man.


Newcastle loan star Jetro Willems are stretchered off the pitch with his head in his hands are an innocent play out wide, a new worry for the injury-ravaged Magpies.

Then Isaac Hayden pulled up lame after being stretched in a 50-50 with Mason Mount.

The best scoring chance of the early stages came in the 22nd minute, as Kepa Arrizabalaga may have got a finger to Joelinton‘s header off the bar.

Chelsea took hold of the match at the half-hour mark, an offside Tammy Abraham flicking off the bar before Martin Dubravka saved N’Golo Kante’s effort in the 34th.

Newcastle held firm against the attack through five minutes of stoppage time.

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The Magpies opened up a little bit in the second half, and Willian missed a chance to open the scoring in the 53rd.

Cesar Azpilicueta was lively in both halves, and hammered a shot to Dubravka in the 55th.

Newcastle’s physical and aggressive back line held firm, big challenges and clearances from Ciaran Clark and Federico Fernandez on show.

Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin teamed up to tee up Joelinton, but the Brazilian drove his 88th minute shot wide of the goal.

Soon after, Saint-Maximin sent a half-desperation, half-pinpoint cross to the back post for Hayden to turn past Arrizabalaga. Insane.

Nuno proud of Wolves comeback; Hasenhuttl fumes at VAR

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It is safe to say that the managers of Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers had contrasting emotions after the dramatic 3-2 victory for the visitors at St Mary’s on Saturday.

Saints led 2-0 at half time but a stunning second half comeback, led by Mexico’s Raul Jimenez who scored twice, grabbed Wolves all three points.

With his squad banged up and missing Ruben Vinagre, Willy Boly and Diogo Jota among others, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was beaming at the final whistle after a lengthy celebration with the Wolves fans in the away end.

“It was amazing, the second half,” Santo smiled. “They [the players] realized the first half was not good. They reacted very well. I am very proud of the players and I was proud even in the first half because I am very aware of how we were doing things. Let’s keep on going.”

As for Southampton’s perspective, Ralph Hasenhuttl was not a happy man.

But not because of how his team played. He was fuming at the officials and VAR due to the decision to award a penalty kick to Wolves for their second goal. Referee Darren England didn’t award a penalty kick as Jonny went down in the box under contact from Cedric and then Jack Stephens but VAR intervened and awarded the spot kick.

“For me it is absolutely not a clear wrong decision. I think the referee was right in that moment,” Hasenhuttl fumed. “Cedric was in front of him and it wasn’t a clear wrong decision, in my opinion. The referee was right. I don’t know why they overruled in that moment. I cannot understand it. I really can’t. Cedric was in front of the ball so he [Jonny] had no chance to get to the ball. You can give it, yes, but it is not a clear wrong. I heard that VAR was overruling when it is clearly wrong. For me, it was not clearly wrong. This is what I cannot understand.”

Cedric’s nudge on Jonny probably wasn’t a foul and although Stephens didn’t make contact, his challenge was reckless. Hasenhuttl is perhaps looking to detract a little of the attention away from his players who crumbled after leading 2-0.

In truth, that lead was flattering in a pretty even game that Wolves had dominated early, and although Southampton’s incredible run of form (six wins in nine PL games before this) is over, they are still six points above the relegation zone.

This was a big moment in the season for both teams. Had Saints won they’d have been level with Wolves but a massive comeback victory now propels Nuno’s boys up to sixth and in with a chance of a top four finish.

That will surely persuade their owners to spend money in the final days of the January transfer window as their tired and stretched squad will also have to cope with the latter stages of the Europa League in the coming months.

U.S. teen Vassilev makes Premier League debut for Villa

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Look closely at Jack Grealish‘s equalizer for Aston Villa on Saturday and you’ll find an American making a run to create space.

That’s Indiana Vassilev, who made his Premier League debut in the 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex Stadium.

Vassilev, who turns 19 next month, was credited with seven touches in 23 minutes, connecting on 3-of-4 passes.

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The Georgia-born left winger made his FA Cup debut versus Fulham on Jan. 4 and his League Cup debut versus Leicester City on Jan. 8.

He has six goals and two assists in 13 appearances for Villans’ Premier League 2 side.