As the calendar turns to August, the 2016/17 soccer season is getting underway. Most of the major European clubs are either knee-deep in preseason tours from China to the US, or are playing friendlies. Some have even begun their European cup journeys. The transfer window is still wide open; rumors and speculation are the order of the day. Instead of another story about Paul Pogba’s supposed medical exam, we thought that you’d rather hear from the fans! So, to get you ready for the new season we asked fans of each club to give you the lowdown on their team’s summer. Today’s very special guest is Brandon Shaver, admin of the World Soccer Discussion Facebook group and more importantly a huge Liverpool fan!
Note: We are running a gallery with this piece, all photos courtesy of Brandon, who attended not one, but TWO preseason matches!
1.Which league do you follow the most? What are some of the major news, interesting stories that caught your eye in the summer? Did you go to any games in person? Do you have something to rant about as far as the league is concerned?
I follow the EPL. Major news and stories include, Pogba to Manchester United (maybe) and Zlatan also moving there, the battle of the managers Pep Guardiola vs Mourinho vs Klopp vs Wenger vs Conte and perhaps Middlesborough’s transfers. I went to Chelsea vs Liverpool and Roma vs Liverpool friendlies in the US, both part of the ICC. I took loads of pics.
My biggest rant about the league is the influx of money from the television deals are making transfer fees unreasonably high (Mane 35m, Pogba 120m, Sane 35m) I feel like the prices have reached a point where they need to plateau, because they are already high enough, any higher and the league will become a joke.
2. How would you describe your team’s summer (transfers, major news, etc) and preparations for the new season?
As you might have guessed, my team is Liverpool. This summer we have brought in Sadio Mane from Southampton for 35m GBP, Georginio Wijnaldum from Newcastle United for 24m from England.
The Kloppo Bundesliga raid continued as we picked up Joel Matip from Schalke for nothing, Ragnar Klavan from Augsburg for 4m, a great young goalie in Loris Karius from Mainz for 5.2m and veteran GK Alex Manninger of Augsburg for free. Not a bad haul for just 68 million!
The club also shipped out Joe Allen to Stoke City, Jordan Ibe to Bournemouth, Martin Skrtel to Fenerbahce, Joao Teixieria to FC Porto, Brad Smith to Bournemouth, Sergi Canos to Norwich City, while Kolo Toure was released and then signed by Celtic. Per Transfermarkt, that’s about 37m for basically fringe players and spot starters.
I’m sure more moves are coming, with Christian Benteke (would he really move to Everton?) and Mario Balotelli (come on China, you got this!) both getting sold, and more youth players going on loan.
The signings of Matip, Karius, and Klavan provide much-needed defensive cover. Our current goalkeeper Mignolet is error-prone and Karius provides pressure and ensures competition that can make Mignolet work harder or lose his spot. Ever since Jamie Carragher retired, our CBs have been struggling with leadership, so Matip is a great “ball-playing CB” that adds a bit of defensive style, aerial challenging defensively/offensively, and leadership we don’t have. Matip may prove to be our best signing for this season and could also be our greatest FREE signing of all time. (2 CBs were shipped out –Skrtel to Fenerbache –Kolo Toure released (now at Celtic)).
Our attack in the past 2 seasons hs lacked goals and pace. Jurgen Klopp has addressed that issue by bringing in Mane and Wijnaldum who are known for their pace and were the second and third highest goal scoring midfielders in the EPL last season behind Alexis Sanchez.
After a disappointing 8th place finish last season and losing 2 finals (Capital One Cup and Europa League) in Klopp’s first season with us, we look to fight for a top 4 spot and with no European football to distract us, we can make a solid run this season.
Sadly we have some major injury news: Karius broke his hand in the friendly against Chelsea (punched CB Dejan Lovren in the head on a clearance). All other injuries are minor and most players will be available at the start of the season.
If Liverpool can start scoring goals and tighten up defensively (18 pts lost last seasons on defensive errors) they will be the hardest team to come up against this year. Beating big teams last season but losing to easy teams became the norm and I personally believe Klopp won’t let that happen. Expect an extremely competitive team this season from Liverpool and a final position of 3rd or better.
3.Season predictions for Top 4, including winner? Who will get relegated?
Season predictions: All of the top 6-7 positions are a toss-up, it could literally be anyone’s league this year. Manchester United have a good chance of winning with the inclusion of Mourinho, Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but the question is: will the defensive style of Jose Mourinho help or hurt them as a team? Chelsea and their new manager Antonio Conte will also take a defensive approach. He has said that the team has a lot of growing to do and they have been fairly quiet in the transfer window. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal team has yet to provide an attacking option for the team, a position in which they are lacking but are looking at Alexander Lacazette from Lyon as a possible choice. Liverpool can make a good run with the lack of European competition, but have failed to start firing on all cylinders. However I believe that once the goals come the squad will be feared. Man City have improved their squad with Gundogan and Leroy Sane but haven’t looked like they are making signings that will help them win the league. Then again, they got the Pep factor. Tottenham and Leicester City had great runs last season but look like they will miss out this season with the influx of the other big teams and their willingness to buy in this window. West Ham are a dark horse to do well this season.
Top of the Table 1) Manchester City 2) Manchester United 3) Liverpool 4) West Ham 5) Tottenham 6) Chelsea
Relegation teams Sunderland, Hull City, Burnley
4. Which teams/players are you looking forward to watching? Who will be a surprise (player/team) or disappointment?
Looking forward to Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United with all new managers (Klopp’s first full preseason and season with Liverpool). West Ham United with be the biggest surprise team in the league as they always quietly go about their business and beat big teams. Biggest surprise player will be Tottenham’s newest striker Vincent Janssen. Biggest disappointment will be Leicester City who will fail to impress after their title-winning season. The most disappointing player will likely be Zlatan, as I feel he is too old and might not be able to handle the pressure of the EPL and the big strong aggressive nature of the defenders in the league.
5. Who will win these awards: player of the year and top scorer? Other relevant awards you care about?
Player of the year: Dimitri Payet. Top scorer: Romelu Lukaku. Golden Glove: Fraser Forster (Southampton keeper)
6. Anything else that is on your mind? Where can people find you online?
The craziest state the league has been in years and the influx of money will make this season of the EPL almost unpredictable. It will be all about consistency, whoever can be consistent will win the league. The top 10 teams of the league will all be extremely hard to win against and will all fight for a top spot. People can add me online, I’m under Brandon Shaver on Facebook. I run a soccer discussion page on Facebook as well: World Soccer Discussion Group and would love for people to come and join the discussion on any league or team.