Transfer Deadline

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The international break is upon us and so is the summer transfer deadline. It closes at the end of August. We’ve done a furious bit of business the last few days so here’s the recap:

I don’t (care to) know how to get my computer to do the pound sterling symbol so I’m using the telephonic symbol instead.
In:
Janssen (striker) – #17M from AZ Alkmaar – Looks good so far. Half the cost of some of the other striker transfers this season.
Wanyama (CM) – #11M from Southampton – Has played ably. Scored the winner against Crystal Palace. About half the cost of his nearest comp, Wijnaldum, the new Liverpool midfielder.
N’Koudou (AM/Winger) – from Marseilles – This was a swap with N’Jie but Marseilles’ board quit mid-transaction and it was unclear if it was going to happen. There are reports that he’s in the building and training with the team so I’ll assume this is done.
Out:
Chadli (AM/striker) – #13M to West Brom – Good business by us. Sold an unwanted part for a profit.
Mason (CM/AM) – #9M to Hull – Thank god he’s gone. I look forward to destroying them twice this season. Maybe Lamela can nutmeg all of the former Spurs players.
Bentaleb (CM) – #16M loan-to-buy to Shalke – More good business. Sold an unwanted part to a different league.
Yedlin (RB) – #5M to Newcastle – Sad to see him go but he’s stepping right into playing time so that makes it good for the USMNT
Alex Pritchard (AM) – #9M to Norwich- Was potentially one of our budding academy players. Never seen him play.
Clinton N’Jie (Winger), Dominic Ball (CB), Fazio (AM) – Don’t care
Unknown Out:
Son Mihn-Hueng (AM/Winger) – There are simmering rumors that he’s headed back to Germany. Not a lot of reliable information because he just got done with the Olympics.
Targets:
Isco (AM/winger) – Real Madrid – Seems like he wants out of Real Madrid because it’s hard to get playing time ahead of Ronaldo and Bale. This would be a score for us.
Calhanoglhu (AM) – Leverkusen – This was probably a speculative rumor. Leverkusen is the third best team in Germany, playing us in Champions League, and I think the guy gets regular playing time.
The takeaway is that we’ve shed a lot of players that won’t end up being contributors and brought in quality to replace them. In doing so, we’ve still managed to do thrifty business. Many other teams in the league have spent upward of #20M to get the same crappy recycled strikers that are getting relegated. We grabbed contributors, but we still lack depth. Hopefully another player of quality comes in before Thursday because we start Champions League group play and League Cup in September in addition to 3 BPL matches.

The Preseason

Warming Up

I didn’t watch either of the first two preseason friendlies but the reports were that we played mostly U-21 guys since all of our starting lineup played in the Euros or Copa. I just finished watching the final preseason match against Inter Milan. It was good.

First, a couple of regulars were missing. Wanyama couldn’t get a visa in time. Vertonghen is recovering from an ankle issue and may miss the first game of two of the season. Wimmer didn’t play for Vertonghen and I’m not sure why since he was really good covering for him last season. Son is playing for South Korea at the Olympics. Dembele has 4 games left on his suspension so I think they’re leaving him out of the squad to ready for the start of the season. Chadli and Bentaleb were told to find new clubs. Pritchard was sent on load to Norwich earlier this week. Yedlin is rumored to be loaned or bought by new coach David Moyes at Sunderland and didn’t travel with the team. Otherwise, we played a strong starting lineup in a standard 4-5-1 configuration:
Kane
Eriksen, Alli, Lamela
Dier, Mason
Rose, Alderverald, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Walker
The first half was up and down. Inter looked strong in attack and our defense looked unorganized and easy to counter. Most frequently this was on the Walker/Carter-Vickers side. Cameron Carter-Vickers (CCV) is one of our U-21 guys who looked out of his depth in the other two preseason matches. I guess Poche is giving him a run when there’s no consequence. Our offense looked good, though. Fast on the counter, crisp and clever passing, and lots of driving runs (mostly on the left with Rose/Eriksen/Alli). We took an early lead with a Kane PK. Inter leveled with a counter-attack that split Walker and CCV. Then some slick passing between Walker/Alli/Kane set up Lamela at the top of the 18 with a clear shot and he sniped it into the top corner like a boss. 2-1 Tottenham at half.
In the second half we made some subs and lined up 4-4-2 but played like a narrower 4-2-2-2 formation:
Kane, Janssen
Alli, Lamela
Winks, Dier
Davies, Aldervierald, CCV, Trippier
We quickly unlocked the Inter D, creating and finishing opportunities. Alli put in our third. Kane our fourth. More subs came on. Janssen poached our fifth. More subs came on. And a young striker deeeeeeeeep in the academy scored our sixth. 6-1 final score. And we played like it, certainly in the second half. Inter is Italy’s 4th best team and we destroyed them. Clinical passing and overlaps created lots of opportunities. We could have scored a seventh but Kane hit the crossbar on a header and Lamela’s half-scorpion kick (!) off the rebound from 4 yards out went over the bar.
Our default is to run up the wings but we created most of our scoring chances through the middle. It’s a very complete attack. Janssen looks awesome. He communicated well with Alli and Kane, creating lots of 1-2 passes and opening up slicing runs. Our defense tightened up in the second half. Alderverald was somehow everywhere all the time. Trippier is less athletic than Walker and doesn’t rely on his speed to help him recover on D. Perhaps that left CCV less exposed. Lamela was ferocious in his effort on and off the ball, and could have had a second goal had he not laid it on a platter for Harrison to score the 6th.
I’m so wet for this team. 8 days to kickoff!

Preseason Analysis

It’s almost time!

Aight fools, it’s nearly EPL time. Since I’m still on couch for another week before work starts, I’m trying to use that time wisely: to upload all of the random info I’ve learned in the last 11 months for my friends to ignore.

Tottenham!
To the tune of Achy-Breaky Heart:
We’ve got Al-li, 
De-li Al-li,
I just don’t think you understand,
He only cost 5 Mill,
He’s better than Ozil,
We’ve got Deli Alliiiiiiiiiii
Last season was a crazy aberration. Man City, Man U, Chelsea, and Liverpool were awful considering the money they spent and all four changed managers. Arsenal hung around and pipped an unmotivated and exhausted Tottenham for 2nd place on the last day of the season. Leicester shocked the world with their aged and unproven players and strung together roughly 25 1-0 wins. It was chaos. We ended the season in 3rd place but with the best offense, the best defense, the best GK, the best striker, the young player of the year, a spot in Champions League, one of the best coaches, wealth, and stability.
Our biggest weakness last season was depth. We played an exciting, fast-tempo, pressing attack, and trusted Vertonghen, Alderverald, and Dier to shut down any counter-attacks. It worked fantastically. But when we played the B-squad in the FA Cup or Europa League, our offense fizzled and the team was way more pedestrian. When opposing teams fielded a pressing 4-3-3, our offense was less fluid and we didn’t have the personnel to change our tactics. Here was our standard 4-2-3-1 line-up (with subs):
This season we’re expecting roughly 10 more Champions/Europa matches than last season (if you come in 3rd place in your Champions League group of 4 you get placed into the Europa League round of 32). So we picked up some more players. Pochettino only pursued young, athletic players and at price tags considerably less than the other 5 big money clubs.
  1. Vincent Janssen is our new young striker. He dominated the Dutch league, is quiet and humble, and the advanced metrics people love him.
  2. Victor Waynama is our new defensive midfielder. He has been at staple in Southampton’s squad for a couple of seasons where he’s a big-bodied, athletic DM anchor. He used to play for the awesomely named Beerschot AC in the Belgian league.
  3. Georges-Kevin N’Koudou is our new fleet-footed attacking midfielder.
  4. We also got Yedlin back from his loan to Sunderland. They survived relegation but are in chaos, and their coach, Sam Allardyce, just bailed on them to be the England coach so it looks like we’re going to hang onto Yedlin. In the pre-season friendlies he played a bit of left back instead of his preferred right side. He fits Pochettino’s style of outside-back-plays-like-a-winger and it looks like he’ll get some games.
At first look our new players won’t displace any of last season’s preferred starting 11, but it gives us depth and flexibility. Here’s the updated 4-2-3-1 line-up:
First, our weakest subs have been eliminated or pushed down in the pecking order; Mason, Onomah, and Chadli in particular were no where near good enough to justify the playing time they got last season when we needed fresh legs. Fuck, I can’t express how much I hated seeing Mason and Onomah on the field. Janssen, N’Koudou, and Waynama will definitely keep those guys off the pitch (Reportedly, Chadli was told to find a new club and Mason is being pursued by Hull and Crystal Palace).
The best thing about the new guys is that it gives us tactical flexibility. With a second striker we can now look to play 4-3-1-2 (Eriksen or Alli in the pivot) or 4-3-3 (Alli up front). With midfield reinforcements we can play 4-4-2, 3-5-2, or something crazy with 3 defenders and an ass-load of midfielders in a diamond. The team has only gotten stronger and that was from a base of being the best D and best O.
What about our competition? I’m glad I asked myself that question. In the order they finished last season (minus teams that don’t matter):
  1. Leicester – kept Vardy, lost Kante, might lose Mahrez and Drinkwater. They were fluky lucky last season. They were an old team that was successful by having a stifling D and a lightning quick counter-attack. Now they’re a year older, their defensive keystone left for Chelsea, and they might lose their best offensive player and 3rd best midfielder. Plus they’re in the Champions League but haven’t added any bodies. Predicted finish: CL blowout and 10th in the EPL.
  2. Arsenal – lost out on Vardy, picked up a flashy AM in Xhaka, and is pursuing Mahrez. They lack a true forward, as usual, and they already have a bunch of injuries, as usual. Oh, and Arsene Wenger is refusing to buy players because they’re too expensive, as usual. But Arsenal always hangs around. Predicted finish: 3rd.
  3. Man City – last season’s 4th place finisher is moving on from the Vincent Kompany Elder Statesman Era. They are now coached by Pep Guardiola and are still the richest, deepest team in the league. I can’t see them having a second down year in a row. Predicted finish: 1st.
  4. Man U – last season’s 5th place team is about to add $133M midfielder Paul Pogba. That’s in addition to Ibrahimovic and super hairy Armenian midfielder Mkhitaryan. I’m sure they’ve bought other players as well. I think their spending this offseason will exceed $300M which is insane. They also have Mourhino as their new coach. The team is in transition though. Rooney is on his way out, their midfield of the future hasn’t panned out, and their defense is blah. I have no idea what to think of this team. Predicted finish: 5th because it looks so close to $th.
  5. Southampton – last year’s 6th place team did their usual selling off of hot young commodities. The only new guy who’s name I recognize is Charlie Adam who looks like this and was too old for Liverpool’s terrible squad. Southampton has a good system and coach but it’s only going to keep them from being terrible. Predicted finish: 9th.
  6. West Ham – last year’s 7th place team almost finished 4th. They’re good, they’re young, they have a great coach and are awful to play at home. But they haven’t been players in the transfer market and they will need a deeper squad for Europa league this year. Predicted finish: 7th.
  7. Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp (who has a whiff of Klinsmann) is starting his second season at Liverpool and first with a real transfer market window. They’ve picked up a few players but they’re doing the usual Liverpool thing of buying a $40M striker to replace their $30M striker. Diminishing returns. Maybe Klopp makes them better? Who knows? Predicted finish: 6th.
  8. Chelsea – holy shit they finished 10th last season! They hired Alberto Conte as their new manager, there’s no way Eden Hazard is actually as bad as he was last season, they’ve brought in some upgrades, and they don’t have to deal with Champions League or Europa matches. Predicted finish: 2nd.
That slots Tottenham in 4th place which will give us a second consecutive year in Champions League. Our best case scenario is to win the EPL. That’s possible, but it is unlikely given the talent in some of the other squads. Our worst case scenario is crashing out of CL, not qualifying for it next season and finishing 7th. That would require a bunch of injuries and even then we’re better than the likes of West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Stoke, Crystal Palace and Leicester. One of them might finish above us but not all of them.
So let’s get hyped this season. I get the EPL channels so I think I’ll be able to watch at least 30 of the 38 matches. Not sure where/when the CL matches are aired but I’ll keep an eye on that too. First EPL game is August 13th away at Everton. First CL match will be a month later. You can follow along with the CL draw here:  https://kassiesa.home.xs4all.nl/bert/uefa/seedcl2016.html
Come on you Spurs (COYS)