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August 5, 2019

2019-20 Premier League Preview: Southampton, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, and Watford Are Just Happy to Be Here (UPDATED)

Chops August 5, 2019

AUGUST 6TH UPDATE

So far, we’ve looked at the recently promoted Premier League teams and relegation candidates.

Today, it’s the largest group we’ll review at once. The Flotsam and Jetsam squads. The teams that exist in the Premier League simply just to exist: Southampton, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, and Watford.

2019-20 Premier League Preview: Southampton

Last Season: 16th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2011-12
Stadium: St. Mary’s Stadium
Nickname: The Saints
Manager: Ralph Hasenhüttl
Key Additions: Che Adams, Moussa Djenepo
Best Player: Nathan Redmond

Why isn’t Nathan Redmond on Liverpool yet?

Southampton, Liverpool’s AAA affiliate, frankly deserves better than this.

This is a proud club that, while short on trophies, identifies talent and develops players as well as anyone in England. Seriously, they’re German-esque in their player development.

Current Premier League players who have made a name for themselves while at Southampton include Virgil van Dijk, Sadio Mane, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. And that’s just on Liverpool’s roster! Seriously, those Southampton transfers as a team could compete for a top 6 spot.

Ajax’s Dušan Tadić and New York Red Bulls Bradley Wright-Phillips have come through Southampton as well.

So they’re good at selling talent. Do they have enough to stay in England’s top tier?

A bit of Southampton history:

  • Another club with a loooong history, as they were founded in November of 1885 (for perspective, Grover Cleveland was President then).
  • They have no first division titles. However, they have one runner-up finish in 1983-84.
  • They’re 3x second division champs, most recently in 2011-12.
  • In 1975-76, they won the FA Cup. It’s their only major trophy.

Why you should like Southampton:

  • If you’re a Liverpool fan, you should always be cheering for / following them as their talent pool is practically a direct pipeline to Anfield. Seriously though, they are great at identifying and developing talent. It’s a shame they can’t hold on to them.
  • And Southampton itself is very pretty and slightly less dreary than Liverpool or Manchester. Players should want to stay there!
  • Their chant, When the Saints Go Marching In, you already know and is easy to get behind.

Southampton betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +100000
  • To finish top 4: +10000
  • To finish top 6: +3300
  • Relegation: +450

Southampton Outlook:

Southampton needs goals. While partly due to injury, no player scored more than 7 times for the Saints last year.

Making Danny Ings’ loan from Liverpool permanent helps. So should the acquisition of Che Adams from Birmingham (22 goals last year in Championship).

Expect more of the recent same though from Southampton. They’ll sometimes over-perform, sometimes under-perform. They’ll end up in that 14-17th friend-zone again.

Newcastle United 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 13th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2016-17
Stadium: St. James’ Park
Nickname: The Magpies
Manager: Steve Bruce
Key Additions: Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin, Jetro Willems
Best Player: Fabian Schär (though it’ll be someone else this year)

Don’t let Fabian Schar around your girlfriend or wife. He cannot be trusted.

Newcastle, what the hell are you doing?

The club in constant ownership upheaval has had an interesting summer.

Regardless of the circumstances or truth behind his leaving, losing Rafa Benitez is a massive blow for the Magpies.

Conflicting reports indicate that Benitez didn’t want to make the Joelinton transfer at that price / was frustrated with ownership’s frugality / was bolting anyway for big China money. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Regardless, the club wasn’t very good before he got to St. James, and they were much better after he arrived.

Now they’ve hired local lad Steve Bruce as manager. In 10 seasons as a professional manager, Bruce’s teams have had a win percentage over 46%…once. He’s a mediocre at best manager following one of the best.

But! They have spent some money this year and assuming no sales take place, will have more talent on the field than last season.

But! But! They sold key pieces too! Key pieces they should’ve kept. So are you a buyer or a seller, Newcastle? And if there’s sufficient talent in place, the question is: does anything in Steve Bruce’s recent past suggest he can make the most of it?

A bit of Newcastle history:

  • The club was founded in December 1892.
  • On 10 different occasions they’ve been England’s most supported club per attendance.
  • In fact, they were the first ever English club to attract 1,000,000 fans in a season (1946-47).
  • They’ve won England’s top division 4 times, with the last being in 1926-27.
  • They’ve also won the second division 4 times, with the last being 2016-17.
  • Newcastle has won the FA Cup 5 times, with the last being in 1955.
  • For fans of Sunderland ‘Til I Die, their natural derby rival is Sunderland.

Why you should like Newcastle:

  • It’s a proud club with a lot of local support. Newcastle is passionate about their club.
  • HPS contributor Carl Cort played there!
  • Their entrance song, “Local Hero,” was written by Newcastle native and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Mark Knopfler.
  • Fans of MLS will note the importance of former Atlanta United star Miguel Almiron. He provided an immediate impact for the squad last year and proves a solid model of how MLS can “graduate up” stars.
  • USMNT defender DeAndre Yedlin is a starter for them (when healthy).

Newcastle betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +100000
  • To finish top 4: +12500
  • To finish top 6: +4000
  • Relegation: +200

Newcastle Outlook:

While this feels like a cop out, much of Newcastle’s success this season will depend on health.

The squad doesn’t have enough depth to lose key pieces for any significant stretch. Can Miguel Almiron, Sean Longstaff and Joelinton not just improve this campaign, but play at least 32 games? If the answer is “yes,” they should remain in the top division. If not, they’ll give Brighton a run for relegation.

Despite the massive downgrade in manager, there’s enough talent in place that Newcastle (again barring injuries) should stay afloat. For the Magpie faithful who deserve better, let’s hope they stay healthy.

Bournemouth 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 14th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2014-15
Stadium: Dean Court
Nickname: The Cherries
Manager: Eddie Howe
Key Additions: Arnaut Danjuma, Philip Billing, Lloyd Kelly, Jack Stacey, Harry Wilson (Loan)
Best Player: Ryan Fraser

Ryan Fraser will lead Bournemouth to a respectable finish that you won’t even notice.

Do you really care?

Seriously, do you know one single Bournemouth fan? Just one?

Bournemouth is the quintessential Flotsam & Jetsam club. If you follow the Premier League closely, the past few years before the season starts, if you’re scanning last year’s table, are you like, “Oh yeah, Bournemouth.”

Here’s the thing though: Bournemouth isn’t that bad.

They have some real players and added decent depth (which they overpaid for, but whatever) to their squad this year. Shit on Bournemouth all you want, ignore Bournemouth at your own peril. Bournemouth is an OK team.

And with the addition of Liverpool’s Harry Wilson on loan, they got better.

A bit of Bournemouth history:

  • The club was founded in 1899 but was named Boscombe back then.
  • They changed permanently to Bournemouth in 1972.
  • Maxim Denim, their owner, is one of those rich Russian guys. With that name, he probably also fights crime at night vigilante style.
  • They really don’t have much history to speak of…although, they won the Championship division in 2014-15🤷‍♀️
  • They have a super tiny stadium that holds just over 11,000 people.

Why you should like Bournemouth:

Bournemouth betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +100000
  • To finish top 4: +10000
  • To finish top 6: +3300
  • Relegation: +500

Bournemouth Outlook:

Bournemouth has real players. Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson are legit. If Liverpool bought either of them, I would not be sad.

Jefferson Lerma, Steve Cook and Nathan Ake are completely serviceable pieces of a backline.

They did good business this summer, selling high on Tyrone Mings (is he even good?) and buying players at positions of need like Arnaut Danjuma (wait, actually, is he even good?). As noted, they got Harry Wilson. Jurgen Klopp respects Eddie Howe, which is party why Liverpool is shipping players his way. That has to mean something, right?

Bournemouth will land in that 11-14 range, collect their Premier League TV rights distribution check, and be totally fine with it. But of the Flotsam & Jetsam crowd, this is one club clearly trending in the right direction.

Crystal Palace 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 12th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2012-13
Stadium: Selhurst Park
Nickname: The Eagles
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Key Additions: None 
Best Player: Wilfried Zaha (assuming he’s not off to Everton or Arsenal)

Will Wilfried Zaha start the season for Palace?

Financially, this was a great summer for Palace.

They sold their star right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Manchester United for $63M(!!!). That’ll leave a mark, both good (in their bank account) and bad (on the pitch).

Their only buying move was making Jordan Ayew permanent. So their net profit was $60M. They also managed to keep their best player in Wilfried Zaha (at the time of this writing, at least, that could change tomorrow). 

Otherwise, nothing to see here. 

A bit of Crystal Palace history:

  • Palace has been around since 1905. 
  • Eddie Izzard is a fan. 
  • While it feels like Palace has been in our lives forever, they have no first division honors to speak of and only two second division titles (the last being in 1993-94). 
  • They do have two FA Cup runner-ups, including that 2015-16 run.

Why you should like Palace:

  • Palace is one of those teams that is hard to make a case to like or dislike. Maybe if you’re a Barcelona fan, their kits are somewhat similar?

Crystal Palace betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +100000
  • To finish top 4: +10000
  • To finish top 6: +3300
  • Relegation: +500

Crystal Palace Outlook:

Oddsmakers see no difference between Palace and Bournemouth, but I disagree. Bournemouth will be better this campaign.

Here’s how Palace’s season will go: it’ll start off terribly. They need a third attacking option and some defensive support. 

They either realize that in the winter transfer period and buy some reinforcements…or they don’t and hover just above the relegation zone. 

This feels like a step back year. Expect Palace to finish in that 15-17 range, offload Zaha next summer (if not much much sooner), and invest in loads of young talent. 

Watford 2019-20 Premier League Preview

Last Season: 11th in Premier League
Last relegated season: 2014-15
Stadium: Vicarage Road
Nickname: The Hornets
Manager: Javi Gracia
Key Additions: Craig Dawson
Best Player: Etienne Capoue

Manchester United could’ve spent half the money on Etienne Capoue and gotten a better player.

TURN DOWN FOR WATFORD!

Watford exceeded expectations last season, particularly early on. That 2018 success provided a good cushion for the Hornet to cruise into a respectable mid-table finish by May 2019.

But seriously, back to TURN DOWN FOR WATFORD. How hasn’t their marketing department made that a thing? How is that not their intro song and chant? (More on what that is in a moment). Somebody in the Premier League should buck whatever their tradition is and modernize. Just see how that flies. Bring in new, young fans who didn’t just inherit a love for the club. Why not Watford?

A bit of Watford history:

  • Watford claims to have been founded in 1881.
  • Elton John became their freaking chairman in 1976. True story.
  • They’ve never won a first or second division title. They were first division runner-ups in 1982-83.
  • They do have two FA Cup runner-ups, the last of which was this past season.
  • If you’re into non-sequiturs / things that don’t add up: their crest has a moose but their nickname is the Hornets.

Why you should like Watford:

  • TURN DOWN FOR WATFORD
  • Elton John is obviously a fan. His “I’m Still Standing” became their new entrance song this past season.

Watford betting odds: (odds via DraftKings Sportsbook NJ)

  • To win Premier League: +100000
  • To finish top 4: +10000
  • To finish top 6: +3300
  • Relegation: +600

Watford Outlook:

Watford out-performed expectations most of last season.

They gave up more shots on goal than they took (12.9 to 11.5). Their -7 goal differential was worse than the two teams below them (Palace -2 and Newcastle -6).

Their best players (Etienne Capoue, Troy Deeney) are on the wrong side of their prime. They made no transfer ins of note to strengthen their squad.

This is a step back season for Watford. Not a “plummet-off-a-cliff” season, but a “crap we’re 14-16th” kind of year.

Six Premier League Youngsters Ready to Breakout This Season

August 5, 2019

The start of the Premier League is just days away.

Every year, new starts emerge and shine.

As we’ve seen with Trent-Alexander Arnold, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling’s rise, players are starting to spike at a young age. There’s just no fear or unnerving them anymore. The managers’ encouragement has allowed youngsters to make their breakthrough very early in their careers.

Here are six young players ready for their moment to breakthrough this year.

(Editor’s Note: Christian Pulisic is not included as a breakout player given American soccer fans are very well aware of him–however, he will have a positive impact with Chelsea this season)

Mason Mount

Termed as the “next Frank Lampard”, I don’t think Mason Mount is his manager’s second-coming. He’s a dynamic midfielder in his own right. An industrious figure looking to regain possession while not being shy of putting in challenges, the 20-year-old’s clever work going forward should also please Chelsea fans.

Mount had an exciting season under Lampard at Derby County, scoring 11 goals. He’s already contributed to a few in preseason, looking well synchronized with Christian Pulisic and co. With his tendency to pop up goals or wander into promising positions towards creating chances, I feel the 20-year-old can be Chelsea’s secret weapon.

Reiss Nelson

Reiss Nelson is perhaps the most talented youngster to come out of Arsenal’s academy in recent times. He’s proven his mettle in the Bundesliga, having a profitable campaign at Hoffenheim with 7 goals in just 630 minutes. Nelson has an electric presence, which suits his sizzling knack of running rings around defenders.

Just ask the Bundesliga players he tormented. He really suits Unai Emery’s fast-pace attacking style, under which he impressed in pre-season. Nelson’s got the pedigree to create chaos in the Premier League with his irresistible trickery. Is he ready for the big leagues? I think he is and if Emery allows him to express himself, the 19-year-old will be a breath of fresh air.

Moise Kean

The latest addition to the marquee Premier League youngsters list, Everton’s big summer transfer Moise Kean earned quite the reputation back in Italy. Coming through seven-time reigning Italian champions Juventus’ youth system, he’s almost like the second coming of Didier Drogba. The youngster likes to have fun outside the pitch but means business inside it.

Considering he netted 6 goals in only 13 appearances in his first senior season, he’s bound to get better. The 19-year-old’s a fox in the box, pouncing on chances to score with conviction. Everton probably has their Romelu Lukaku replacement finally. Kean is on the rise as a potential top-quality striker who, for me, will outscore many others in the blue side of Merseyside.

Mason Greenwood

Among the positives from Manchester United’s perfect pre-season campaign was Mason Greenwood’s emergence. Perhaps the most unique striker they’ve had since Zlatan, the 17-year-old’s outplayed those well above his age-grade. Not only did he net his first senior goals in their pre-season tour, but Greenwood’s composure in goal-scoring positions and lethal finishing touch encouraged bright signs.

He’s still raw in some physical aspects, but makes do with his technical expertise in sliding past defenders. It’s looking doubtful United will sign another striker if/when Lukaku leaves. So rather than shifting midfielders/wingers into the centre, I feel Greenwood could produce timely goals when exposed to Premier League soccer regularly.

Rhian Brewster

Liverpool won’t be changing their world-class attacking trio anytime soon. However, that wouldn’t restrict Jurgen Klopp from giving opportunities to youngsters, something he’s done for years. Rhian Brewster’s time has come to shine. The 19-year-old took full advantage of the pre-season, scoring many goals, while also impressing in Liverpool’s less-than-joyful US tour.

He was among the more impressive players from pre-season, with his ability to warp past defenders as well as bang in emphatic goals benefiting his reputation. Brewster’s surprisingly quick, has a bag of tricks in his arsenal and is hard-working, ticking the boxes for being a Klopp favourite. Liverpool have a long season ahead to finally claim the Premier League. A clinical striker like Brewster should, I think, be their ace-in-the-hole.

Phil Foden

At 19 years old, Phil Foden is already a domestic treble winner with Manchester City. But if anyone thinks we’ve seen the best of him, they are very mistaken. He only netted that one goal last season (an important one in the title race), but there’s still loads for him to score. Described by Pep Guardiola as the most talented player he’s ever worked with, Foden’s about to unload tricks people have rarely seen yet.

He’s pacy with the ball, but it’s his incisive passing along with a knack for popping up in prime positions which makes him hard to track. Now a year older, the youngster knows the Premier League inside out. If Pep gives him more than 10-15 minutes of game-time regularly, I feel he’s about to have his breakthrough season very soon.   

Why the Aaron Long Transfer Saga Is Still Going On — and Will Probably Continue Through the Winter

August 5, 2019

With both the Premier League and MLS transfer deadlines nearing, it feels unlikely that Aaron Long will be heading to England this summer. Long will be forced to at least play out the season in New Jersey after the disappointment of nearly going to Europe. His 27th birthday is in October. His window will not be open for a long time.

The New York Red Bulls apparently asked for $15 million in exchange for their prized center back. That figure is intentionally outrageous — it seems to signal their hesitancy to sell in the middle of the MLS season. Only a huge offer would be enough to convince NYRB to sell now, and they’re unlikely to receive such an offer.

Long’s agent got salty on Twitter over the situation, probably a calculated move to show his and Long’s dissatisfaction with the process. These MLS transfer sagas are often difficult for the players, who want to take whatever opportunity they can get to play in a big European league, only to be held back by their club, who lack incentive to immediately sell.

MLS single entity system is a problem

Unless you have a truly high-priced prodigy (think Alphonso Davies or Miguel Almiron), you may be better off milking your star for wins and attention domestically before selling at first opportunity. As Taylor Twellman talked about on an ESPN broadcast this weekend, the single-entity system means MLS takes significant portions of clubs’ transfer profits. The Red Bulls would prefer to see out the playoff run with their defensive rock rather than ship Long to West Ham and only recoup half of the fee.

It’s hard to argue with the Red Bulls’ thinking.

With Long in the lineup, they will have a legitimate chance at navigating a weird and inconsistent Eastern Conference in the playoffs. For years they have missed out on MLS Cup, and as this season trudges on without a whiff of the usual Supporters’ Shield contention, it feels like 2019 has been building up for a playoff run. Even in this post-Tyler Adams transition season, NYRB are gunning for their missing trophy as they edge toward the end of the Bradley Wright-Phillips/Luis Robles era. 

Losing Long could sink their MLS Cup chances. Selling for $4 or $5 million and forfeiting $2 million of that to MLS is not nearly enough of a trade-off. 

By winter, they probably will be more willing to sell, given the opportunity to scout and sign a Long replacement, as well as integrate that replacement into the team.

For Long, though, heading to Europe in the January window is obviously worse than going in August. He would have to break into a Premier League team midseason directly after a long MLS campaign. Injury or bad form in August, September and October could diminish his value or even cancel the sale, a potentially damaging development for both the player and the team.

Cautionary Acosta tale

The recent Luciano Acosta saga is something of a cautionary tale.

D.C. United came close to selling Acosta to PSG in the spring, only for the deal to fall apart at the final hour. It was devastating for Acosta, who wanted the move. As Acosta muddles through a disappointing MLS season, DCU could regret the decision not to sell high — the real Acosta has proven to be closer to the pre-Wayne Rooney version than to the dominant one of last season’s second half. The Argentine’s value has likely taken a hit.

Long is significantly better than Acosta, and is unlikely to spiral if the Red Bulls don’t pull the trigger in the next few days. NYRB will probably be able to sell for a similar price this winter. That won’t satisfy Long, who understandably wants to take his opportunity to make a huge career jump. 

But the Red Bulls want their shot at MLS glory, and there’s no reason to sacrifice that when MLS is going to dip their claws into the transfer fee anyway. 

High Press Pod Now Available on iTunes

High Press 10 August 5, 2019

The High Press Pod is now available on iTunes.

All 18 episodes plus future pods can be downloaded from the Apple podcast center. Please subscribe.

Soccer Podcasts on iTunes

Along with the High Press Pod (and our own HPS MLS Pod), we also recommend giving these a listen:

All of these are also available on iTunes / Apple Podcenter.

Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 17: Harry Maguire to Man U, Kean to Everton, and Jill Ellis Leaving USWNT” on Spreaker.
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