Wilfried Zaha

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Who’s in line for surprise early season run?

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Bournemouth rivaling Liverpool for the Premier League lead in August? Everton in September?

The Premier League schedule makers set some clubs up for potentially hot starts, as some non-traditional Top Four candidates look to mirror Watford’s fun beginning to the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: Full PL schedule ]

We already laid out that Liverpool was blessed with its first four matches, and — sorry for the Merseyside jinx — Everton is in even better shape.

The Toffees will not meet a Top Six sided from last season until late September.

Marco Silva‘s men open at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace, which is no simple task, but the Eagles may be testing new pieces in the post-Wilfried Zaha and (maybe) Aaron Wan-Bissaka era.

A visit from Watford is next before a trip to Villa Park to meet new boys Villa. A tricky Wolves head to Goodison Park next, followed by Bournemouth away and Sheffield United at home.

When Everton hosts Man City on Sept. 28, could it be for Top Four positioning? Over to you, Marco Silva.

Bournemouth, as we mentioned, is fortunate to draw two newly-promoted clubs at the start of its season. The Cherries host Sheffield United on Aug. 10 before visiting what’s sure to be an electric Villa Park a week later. Man City, Leicester City, and Everton follow, so… it gets tougher!

One side note: Few are expecting a ton from Brighton and Hove Albion this season, but new manager and reputed tactical wizard Graham Potter may be looking at August as his opportunity to make a top-flight splash.

The Seagulls open at Watford, no easy feat but doable, before hosting West Ham United and Southampton. Not one of those matches is simple and Brighton will likely be expected to sit 0-2 before Saints visit the Amex Stadium… but consider this forewarning of a very dark horse.

Report: Man United to make improved bid for Wan-Bissaka

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Manchester United reportedly made a $51 million bid for rising England right back Aaron Wan-Bissaka of Crystal Palace over the weekend.

After Crystal Palace reportedly said no, Man United appear ready to up the ante.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup

Sky Sports reported late Monday evening that Manchester United are ready to make a second transfer bid for the 21-year-old pacy right back. The report claims that Crystal Palace’s asking price is more than $76 million, meaning that Man United have a long way to go before getting close to that spot, or finding a middle point for Crystal Palace to drop down to.

Wan-Bissaka was on the fringes of the Crystal Palace first team as recently as March 2018, only to be inserted into the lineup due to an injury crisis and become one of the club’s most exciting players. He was named Crystal Palace Player of the Year this past season for his performances down the right wing, defending one-v-one and delivering three assists on the season.

He played 35 games this past season, finishing with a 70% tackle rate and a 21% cross rate, as well as covering a large amount of ground. Along with Wilfried Zaha, Wan-Bissaka has been the other highly coveted player from this Crystal Palace squad.

Wan-Bissaka would certainly step right into Manchester United’s lineup and create some competition at right back, with Antonio Valencia on his way out and Diogo Dalot still growing as a player. Man United have a number of areas to improve in, but a signing like Wan-Bissaka could mean that right back is taken care of for the next decade or longer at Old Trafford.

Transfer rumors: Man Utd bid $51M for Wan-Bissaka

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The rumor mill is humming on Sunday morning, with the back and front pages mentioning some intra-Premier League moves as well as some imports from Serie A.

Crystal Palace entered the transfer window hoping to hold onto its two top stars, but is having its reserve tempted by big name suitors.

Wilfried Zaha is being chased by a number of teams in his search for UEFA Champions League football, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka‘s outstanding 2018-19 season has alerted any team in search for an answer at right back that could last a while.

Sky Sports says that Manchester United has made a $51 million for Wan-Bissaka, who led Palace in tackles and interceptions in an exceptional season at Selhurst Park. Palace is in a strong position, with three years left on its deal with AWB.


Liverpool’s wealth of attacking options means it is able to sell young Harry Wilson, and are listening to offers regarding the $27 million winger.

Wilson, 22, starred on loan to Derby County last season, as Frank Lampard‘s Rams came up short in their bid to win the Championship playoffs.

Newcastle, Southampton, and Brighton are being linked with Wilson. Aston Villa and Rangers were linked in a separate report, with more surely monitoring the situation.

The Welsh international has two goals in nine caps, and scored 15 goals in the Championship last season.


Dennis Praet (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Getty Images)

Arsenal is said to be close to taking a pair of players from Serie A’s Sampdoria.

Dennis Praet has been in the rumor mills for a while, often linked to Newcastle United only to see Rafa Benitez not allowed to pay for the midfielder.

And now the Gunners are reportedly trying to bring the 25-year-old Praet and his 23-year-old teammate Joachim Andersen, a center back, to the Emirates Stadium.

It would cost Arsenal around $53.5 million. Belgium’s Praet posted two goals and three assists last season, while Danish back Andersen played 2880 minutes for the mid-table Serie A side.

Just how wrong? Revisiting Premier League predictions

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Own it.

That’s how I look at Premier League predictions. When you’re right, be happy about your good fortune. When you’re wrong, raise your hand.

But there’s another level to it: Why was I right or wrong? Did a team let me down, or did I vastly overrate/underrate their potential?

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Twenty months ago I pegged Burnley to get relegated with an almost record-low amount of points. The Clarets qualified for the Europa League, and I ate my words (even if Sean Dyche‘s men seemingly out-performed every metric on Earth in spite of stats, like some old man claiming Man City wins because of “better chemistry, not talent”).

Cardiff City
Predicted finish: 20
Actual finish: 18

How wrong was I? Not. As much credit as the Bluebirds got for grinding every week, and as much of a difference as the late Emiliano Sala could’ve been to their fortunes, they completed passes at an almost absurdly-bad 63.9 percent rate while having just 39.1 percent of the ball. It was bad.

Huddersfield Town
Predicted finish: 19
Actual finish: 20

How wrong was I? Not. Huddersfield Town managed a league-worst .4 attempts per game from inside the six-yard box, and were one of only five teams to attempt less than six shots per game from inside the 18.

Watford
Predicted finish: 18
Actual finish: 11

How wrong was I? Pretty wrong. Javi Gracia‘s men were strong against bad teams — for the most part — but never sprung another real upset after beating Spurs to go 4-0 early in the season. Record against the Top Six? 1W-0D-11L.

Bournemouth
Predicted finish: 17
Actual finish: 14

How wrong was I? Eh. The Cherries were never really in trouble thanks to a 6-2-2 start, but man did they ride their luck.

Burnley
Predicted finish: 16
Actual finish: 15

How wrong was I? I’ve learned my lesson. Regardless of how much talent appears to be on a Sean Dyche roster, he’s a rich man’s Tony Pulis and should not be doubted.

The face Sean Dyche makes before he fist fights an entire village. Terrifying. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Southampton
Predicted finish: 15
Actual finish: 16

How wrong was I? With respect to Mark Hughes, I thought Saints’ season would come down to when he was sacked and who they identified to replace him. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s in a good place.

Brighton and Hove Albion
Predicted finish: 14
Actual finish: 17

How wrong was I? A bit wrong, and I pretty much blame Pascal Gross, who back slid from 7 goals and 8 assists in his Premier League debut to just three and three in Year No. 2. The Seagulls didn’t score a single goal from outside the 18.

Wolves
Predicted finish: 13
Actual finish: 7

How wrong was I? It’s not simply about buying players — see: Fulham — but about acquiring hungry players. Raul Jimenez, Diogo Jota, and several others had points to prove, and Jimenez especially made it well.

Newcastle United
Predicted finish: 12
Actual finish: 13

How wrong was I? To be honest, this went about as I expected given the brutal fixture list to start the season. Had I known Miguel Almiron would’ve transitioned so nicely from MLS to the PL, I might’ve had them 10th.

 (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Fulham
Predicted finish: 11
Actual finish: 19

How wrong was I? Very, but to my defense so were most people. On paper, the Cottagers improved more than even Wolves.

Crystal Palace
Predicted finish: 10
Actual finish: 12

How wrong was I? The stats kinda back me up, and it may be worth noting for next season that the Palace’s results didn’t match its performances. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Luka Milivojevic, and Wilfried Zaha gave them difference makers in all thirds of the field, and it’s surprising they didn’t push a bit higher on the table.

Leicester City
Predicted finish: 9
Actual finish: 9

How wrong was I? Not. The Foxes were pretty infuriating all year. Maybe Brendan Rodgers‘ ego and power will match the player power that’s run the club since they won the title. That said, the inconsistency and tumult shouldn’t be a surprise in a season the club had to deal with its owner dying on a match day.

West Ham United
Predicted finish: 8
Actual finish: 10

How wrong was I? Not really. I thought it would take Manuel Pellegrini some time to put his men together, but I didn’t predict the Irons would get a total of 37 appearances from Andriy Yarmolenko, Jack Wilshere, Manuel Lanzini, and Carlos Sanchez.

Everton
Predicted finish: 7
Actual finish: 8

How wrong was I? It took Marco Silva longer than expected to get his men humming, but think of this: If Jordan Pickford doesn’t give Divock Origi a derby winner, Everton is going to Europe. I know, I know… chaos theory. But still.

Richarlison (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur
Predicted finish: 6
Actual finish: 4

How wrong was I? Like many, I was stunned that Spurs didn’t spend this summer and thought injuries would hurt them. They did, but only to the extent that Tottenham wasn’t able to sustain a title challenge. Spurs rarely gave the ball away, and the only teams that averaged fewer “times dispossessed” than Tottenham’s 9.2 per 90 were teams that never had the ball: Brighton, Cardiff, and Burnley.

Arsenal
Predicted finish: 5
Actual finish: 5

How wrong was I? Spot-on. It was going to take time for the Gunners to come together following a first managerial change in ages, but Arsenal had the offense to challenge for the Top Four. Surprisingly for Arsenal, they averaged just eight dribbles per game, 12th in the PL. Unai Emery had them more cautious than usual.

Chelsea
Predicted finish: 4
Actual finish: 3

How wrong was I? Not. Maurizio Sarri is not for everyone, but he knows how to get results. Granted Gonzalo Higuain was his guy, but he did it without a top striker.

Liverpool
Predicted finish: 3
Actual finish: 2

How wrong was I? Well, considering the Reds had one of the best runners-up finishes of all-time, quite wrong. Mostly, I didn’t expect Mohamed Salah to deliver again and he mostly did (save for a late winter slump).

Manchester United
Predicted finish: 2
Actual finish: 6

How wrong was I? Real wrong. Almost as wrong as United looks for canning Jose Mourinho. The manager needed to leave town, but there was a reason he was playing so packed-in. Ask yourself this: If Ed Woodward gave Mourinho the use of Toby Alderweireld, would Spurs and United be flipped?

Manchester City
Predicted finish: 1
Actual finish: 1

How wrong was I? On point. How good was City? For a club that ranked No. 1 in possession, they were only dispossessed 10.3 times per match. That was the 8th fewest total in the league.

Five players Man United should sign

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Manchester United need a massive rebuild this summer.

Everybody knows it.

Their manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward have both spoken publicly about their desire to strengthen the squad, with Solskjaer aiming to bring in young, hungry players to the club. Something drastic has to change.

But which five players should United make their top targets this summer as they aim to push their way back into the top four of the Premier League?

Even though United have been through struggles in recent seasons, the allure of playing for one of the most popular clubs on the planet and dragging them back to the top of the game will attract plenty of players. So too will the fact that United’s finances allows them to pay top dollar.

Here’s a look at five players they have to sign this summer to complete the dramatic rebuild they need.


Joao Felix (Benfica, release clause of $133 million)
The 19-year-old attacking midfielder will provide goals and assists and he has shone in Portugal. The last time United were off the pace a little in the PL, they plucked a bright young talent from Portugal called Cristiano Ronaldo. That worked out pretty well. Felix may never reach Ronaldo’s heights, but the fact Man City and Real Madrid want to sign him says it all.


Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham, release clause of $32 million)
Doesn’t really fit into the “young and hungry” category, but the Belgian defender would add a steadying influence to United’s defense. At 30 years old Alderweireld is set for one big final pay day in his career and that is why he has such a small release clause in his contract after Spurs had to trigger a one-year extension. His displays for Spurs over the past few years have been consistency excellent.


Harry Maguire (Leicester, valued at $100 million)
At 26 years old Maguire is still to enter his prime. That is wild considering how well he has played for Leicester and England over the past two seasons. He almost joined United last summer but decided to stay at Leicester, and another great season has seen his value rise by $25 million. Maguire and Alderweireld at center back would be a great partnership, but it is likely only one of them will arrive. Maguire is more expensive but would be a long-term purchase to build United’s defense around.


Declan Rice (West Ham, valued at $60 million)
His meteoric rise has seen him become a star for West Ham and make his England debut. Shows so much poise in the holding midfield role and if Rice, still just 20 years old, arrived then it could help Paul Pogba out as he will win the ball back and feed the Frenchman in good areas. West Ham will reluctantly sell, and Rice should be a top priority to shield United’s shaky defense.


Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace, valued at $60 million)
Ashley Young has been handed a one-year extension and Antonio Valencia is leaving, so United are looking a little weak at right back. Wan-Bissaka, 21, has been sublime for Crystal Palace and is a solid defender as well as adding an attacking presence. Palace will be reluctant to sell both AWB and Wilfried Zaha in the same summer, which could be an issue. Right back is an area where United need to strengthen. Now.