10 things you need to know before new PL season

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Ahead of the 2019-20 Premier League season there are certain things you need to know.

That’s where we come in.

[ MORE: PL season previews ]

As well as clicking on the link above to get the low-down on all 20 teams, below are the 10 things you must know ahead of the new campaign.

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Let’s go!


ICYMI, America has a superstar in the PL…
You may have been living under a rock for the past few months. If so, fair enough. The rest of the world knows that Christian Pulisic is coming to the Premier League. The 20-year-old USMNT star was signed by Chelsea for $73 million in January and loaned back to Borussia Dortmund. The “Pennsylvanian Messi” will be asked to replace Eden Hazard long-term, but in the meantime he is impressing Chelsea legend Frank Lampard who is in his first season in charge of the Blues. Given Chelsea’s ban and Willian arriving late due to his exploits with Brazil in the Copa America this summer, Pulisic has the chance to hit the ground running with Chelsea. Along with Pedro, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Barkley and Mount, he will have to battle hard for a starting spot. He is without doubt ready to be the first bonafide American superstar in the PL and on the planet.


VAR is coming. Get ready.
Okay, get ready for VAR to dominate the majority of your conversations for the next 10 months. The Premier League has already said it will only use VAR for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” when it comes to four occasions: goals scored, direct red cards, penalty kicks being awarded and cases of mistaken identity. There will be delays and a little confusion, but messages will be relayed to fans inside the stadiums and it will be intriguing to see how the system works in the PL. After being used in major competitions and leagues across Europe and the rest of the world over the past few seasons, it is now the turn of the Premier League to embrace technology to help officials out. Let’s see if fans share this sentiment after the first few weeks of the season.


2:45 p.m. ET kick offs on Saturday are now a thing
For a handful of weeks this is a new feature for the 2019-20 campaign and the two seasons after that. Saturday evening games in the UK should see a bit of a party atmosphere take place, and like Friday night games being introduced a few years ago, it gives us another opportunity to make time in our lives to watch the PL. What more can you ask for? On a Saturday you can now get to the pub with your mates at 7:30 a.m. ET and be there until about 5 p.m. ET when the final game finishes. 10 hours of constant PL action on a Saturday is perfection. There is also the small matter of a small winter break, with one round of fixtures in February split over two weeks so clubs can have a little breather after the busy festive period.


Transfer records smashed all over the place
Harry Maguire: $97 million from Leicester City to Man United. Nicolas Pepe: $87 million from Lille to Arsenal. Rodri: $80 million from Atletico Madrid to Man City. Tanguy Ndombele: $80 million from Lyon to Tottenham. What do all those transfers have in common? They all happened this summer and they are all record deals. Maguire’s is the highest fee paid in history for a defender and Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham all broke their transfer records. Add into the mix that Sheffield United, Brighton, Leicester and Newcastle all broke their transfer records this summer too, and it’s clear to see PL clubs are spending big to stay in the top-flight.


Blades, Canaries and Villans
The new boys will all add something a little different to the PL in their own way. Aston Villa have spent big with over $160 million splashed on 12 new players, while Norwich have hardly spent anything and Sheffield United have added sensibly. Villa will entertain and a genuinely one of the biggest clubs in England, while the Blades will be led by a passionate home crowd and lean heavily on the players who have led them from the third tier. As for Norwich, they played scintillating attacking football last season but many are writing them off for instant relegation to underline their status as a yo-yo club. As always, all three new boys are favorites for the drop. Beware of the underdogs.


European glory to continue?
Liverpool are the reigning UEFA Champions League champions and Chelsea won the Europa League. Will we see the PL dominate Europe once again this season? Arsenal, Man United and Wolves will be among the favorites in the Europa League, while Man City and Liverpool will again led the way for the PL in the UCL. Spurs and Chelsea are also favored to reach at least the eight and with some of the big boys in Spain, Italy and Germany struggling a little, there’s a sense we are in the middle of English domination in Europe.


Returning stars could be rested early on
Something to keep an eye on, especially for those who play Premier League Fantasy. The likes of Liverpool and Man City have been impacted over the summer when it comes to star players coming back late from international duty. Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have all missed a huge chunk of preseason for Liverpool, while Sergio Aguero, Ederson, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez have only just returned for City. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will have to manage the minutes of those stars accordingly if they’re going to come good at the business end of the season. Players are not machines and their managers, thankfully, understand that. That won’t help your FPL team, but don’t be so selfish…


Marauding center backs the new norm
With Maguire and Virgil Van Dijk set to take center stage for Man United and Liverpool respectively, there’s a sense that this is the year of the marauding center backs. Given all of the money spent on attacking players, we’ve seen just how important it is to have a solid defensive unit. Man City have John Stones and Aymeric Laporte ready to play out of the back, but are they good enough defensively to lead a title challenge without legend Vincent Kompany organizing alongside them? This will be the season of the center back.


New managers, first full seasons
Chelsea legend Frank Lampard is arriving to take charge of the Blues. Graham Potter is the new man in charge at Brighton. Steve Bruce has replaced Rafael Benitez at Newcastle after the Spaniard left. Brendan Rodgers be Leicester’s coach for a full season (he hopes), while Ralph Hasenhuttl is in his first full season as Saints boss. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also overseeing his first full campaign at Man United. Fresh starts and slates wiped clean are the order of the day.


#PLonNBC on location in England
Don’t forget, we are kicking the season off in the best possible way with our entire crew in England for opening weekend. From Liverpool v. Norwich to Tottenham v. Aston Villa and Manchester United v. Chelsea, our entire broadcast team will be on-site to celebrate the return of the Premier League? Pumped. Yep. Us too.

Reports claim Allegri linked with Manchester United, Spurs

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The international break can be a slow time for news, but what to make of multiple reports claiming that Max Allegri is in discussion with a pair of struggling traditional Premier League powers?

Tuttosport claims that Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have interest in hiring the Italian manager, adding that United has had “intensified” contact with him.

[ MORE: Monster deal for Mbappe? ]

Noise out of Old Trafford continues to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, while there is no real buzz that Mauricio Pochettino is on the verge of leaving Spurs.

The 52-year-old Allegri has won Serie A once with AC Milan and five times with Juventus, claiming a Serie C title with Sassuolo in 2007-08.

Is there anything to it? He’d be a great hire for either side. In United’s case, he’d be a marked upgrade on their current boss.

It’s hard to be humbled. Anything less could cost Berhalter his job

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Wild nights, positive or negative, deserve reflection one day later. Here’s our bid to put the USMNT’s 2-0 loss to Canada in context less than 24 hours later…

The humbling of Gregg Berhalter is one of two distinct hopes for his survival as United States men’s national team coach.

The other is an unreliable route, one filled with long-term health for his best players on some pie-in-the-sky road where he utilizes the same 12-14 players per game for the rest of his tenure.

So, yeah, the first one is pretty key.

Coaches are by nature arrogant, and Berhalter earned his confidence by nurturing a suboptimal Columbus Crew roster into an over-performing playoff mainstay despite owner and former showgirl Rachel Phelps trying to move the club to Miami (Movie reference No.1, achieved).

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings ]

When Berhalter beat out the field of two to lay claim to the USMNT position, he won over the media with Powerpoint slides about Pep Guardiola-inspired possession, which assumed to the delight of the American fan base that the nation had the immediate tools to out-class most of CONCACAF simply by being organized. He even had people handing him cute nicknames and defending the idea of using a Bundesliga regular defensive midfielder as a right back because he was generous with his time. Who needs La Masia when you’ve got the DA?

It should be pointed out that the philosophy’s failure through nine months doesn’t entirely destroy the idea to try it, but Berhalter’s often bizarre player selection and tactical destruction at the hands of Jamaica, Mexico, and now Canada have hastened the end of his honeymoon period almost as effectively as his the federation’s refusal to interview anyone other than Berhalter and Oscar Pareja. I mean, who needs Sergino Dest’s optimism when you can keep trying to jam a Wil Trapp-sized Wil Trapp through an Andrea Pirlo-shaped hole?

So you get what we had last night, a tire fire of a match in which his midfield had no idea what to do with the ball and his forwards might as well have been on a monastic retreat. According to the broadcast, Berhalter thought a miserable first half was due to his men not moving the ball fast enough side-to-side. His answers via subs, even before they were down, were to take off Christian Pulisic and leave creative minds Sebastian Lletget and Tyler Boyd on the bench. After the game, he claimed his players weren’t working hard enough and didn’t match Canada’s desire.

Here’s the problem, though, that’s on Berhalter, too. There were myriad articles out there, including several on this site, detailing Canada’s desperation to get results in the CONCACAF Nations League in order to move into a Top Six CONCACAF spot on the FIFA Rankings and qualify for the Hex.

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

All it takes is a cursory look at the Canada roster to see that their electric attackers were their hope of winning the match, and that pressing their relatively weak group of defenders — one of whom has only been a defender for a year — was probably a great idea.

But Berhalter again stuck with his idea that the United States men’s national team program, even without several of its best players, could implement his system anywhere, against anyone.

And it failed spectacularly.

The thing is that Berhalter is actually quite a decent coach, as he proved in Columbus, but whether or not he lives to show it to this American audience in this particular job depends on his accepting the shortcomings of his depleted roster.

I want to talk to you about Aaron Long, and not because of his “Stranger Things” lifeguard haircut (TV show reference No. 1, achieved).

Aaron Long is a mauler, the sort of player who’d be beloved by many segments of the USMNT community in several generations. He gets stuck in, has a good work rate, and can factor on set pieces in the attacking third.

What he does not do very well — and I’ve covered this a lot in this space — is pass the ball and aid in possession. Since breaking into MLS in 2017, the now 27-year-old center back has completed 76, 69, and 65 percent of his passes with the New York Red Bulls.

[ JPW: What now for Berhalter, USMNT? ] 

Part of that is a function of the Red Bulls’ system; The team doesn’t really care at all about possession, passing at a terrible 68.6 percent, and not one of their players had a completion rate above 80 percent this year. By comparison, 197 players in Major League Soccer completed 80 percent or more of their passes this season (WhoScored).

This is not an argument that Long shouldn’t be in the U.S. system. While he’s had a rough couple of months in the shirt, he’s in the mix for the toughest American center backs in the game.

Might this possession-based idea look a lot better when healthy? Of course, that’s what we mentioned above. John Brooks is by far the best passing center back in the pool, and has been out of the mix for sometime due to injury. The same is true for the side’s best No. 6 in Adams.

But what the Yanks were for so long was difficult to break down, a hassle to play against. Berhalter needs that right now, and he’s got the horses to do it (Watch Jordan Morris’ legs keep moving for 90 minutes if you need proof). Success could then require admitted in front of a microphone that his team can’t hack his system right now, and that he talked down to an entire room last month when they just spit facts his way. That’s humbling, and it’s not fun. But it’s needed.

Adding to the issue is that it’s easy to see the Yanks still emerging from their group by beating Canada in Orlando next month and then walloping Cuba. But if Berhalter hasn’t been humbled and sees victories against the 53rd and 145th ranked teams in EloRatings as validation, well, I’ve got some truly valuable early 1990s baseball cards to sell you for a premium price.

Arrogance does nothing for you if it’s ill-founded. That confidence has felled countless executives, coaches, and players over the years (and yes, even average writers). Being outfoxed by Tata Martino is one thing, but having no reaction to the plan of John Herdman is another (That’s not a shot at Herdman, who had done well with the New Zealand and Canada women, but let’s be real).

We won’t learn whether Berhalter has learned from his errors via results next month, rather by what he does to try and get those results. When Martino beat him in the Gold Cup Final, the rematch two months later was far worse. He gets a second chance to match wits with Herdman next month, and it really cannot get much worse. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice (Movie reference No. 2, achieved).

Last month, I wrote that Berhalter’s duties including the following bare minimum goals.

  1. Qualify for the World Cup
  2. Reach the final of all CONCACAF competitions
  3. Look like an adequate footballing nation in other competitions
  4. Make sure he doesn’t lose any talented dual nationals (also the GM’s job)

No. 1 is still far away, but 2-4… woah. We’re one Alphonso Davies star show away from finishing 2019 without a Gold Cup and no place in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal. Sergino Dest might’ve skipped town for Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands set-up either way, but being shoehorned at left back last month probably helped his decision.

Finally, a number of people on Twitter pointed out that Canada is due plenty of respect for out-dueling the USMNT on Tuesday. Absolutely! But if you think a nation with under 1 million registered soccer players should be absolutely clowning a nation with 4 million-plus, a side they hadn’t beaten let alone dominated in 34 years, then you’re not getting the point. There’s room for Canada and the U.S. to both be good, but the Yanks looked like a steaming hot mug of spoiled milk to Canada’s well-chilled bag of the fresh stuff. No good.

Your move, Gregg. Do what you did last night, and last month, and you’ll get the same results. Your only other option is Voodoo dolls of Alphonso Davies and Scott Arfield.

Mbappe in frame for monster contract offers from PSG, Real

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Kylian Mbappe is one of the most dynamic players in the world and doesn’t even turn 21 until late December.

Paris Saint-Germain has locked the youngster up through 2022, but that hasn’t stopped the biggest names in football from being linked with massive bids for his services.

[ MORE: Pogba, De Gea out ]

Dueling reports out of French outlet Le10 Sport claim that Mbappe is set to be offered a monster new $55 million annual contract from Les Parisiens, with Real Madrid ready to offer the big man almost $40 million per year.

The new PSG figure would give Mbappe the richest deal in football, while Real’s offer would sit below only Lionel Messi (at least until the Barcelona legend gets his new deal this winter).

We’ve argued that, given his age and acumen, Mbappe is the one player in world football worth the outlandish numbers it would take to land his services.

At age 20, he’s already a World Cup winner with 13 goals in 33 caps, and his club numbers are eye-popping: 89 goals and 51 assists in 154 matches between Monaco and PSG. Absurd.

Everton’s Gbamin undergoes surgery, out 3 months

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Everton’s lack of scoring prowess has stolen the headlines as Marco Silva‘s men have wasted a wonderful opportunity to start the season off in style.

But it’s been easy to forget that the Toffees have been without the man they bought to help offset the loss of Idrissa Gana Gueye, perhaps their best player two years running, in the form of Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

[ MORE: Pogba, De Gea out ]

The Ivorian cost a reported $30 million this summer when he arrived from Mainz, and Everton won his only start before an injury sent him to the sidelines.

Gbamin has not suitably improved, and is now set for another three months on the sidelines thanks to surgery on his hamstring.

It’s a sock to the gut for a team already wallowing in misfortune. Now sitting 18th, as close to 20th as they are to 10th, it’s difficult to imagine things getting much worse for a team that held so much promise.

Everton hosts West Ham to kickoff the Premier League weekend at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday.