Tottenham Hotspur 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Note: This is the latest breakdown of transfer moves leading up to the 2018-19 Premier League season. This post will be updated throughout the transfer window as appropriate. 
If you’re following Tottenham, you’re probably aware that they haven’t saw fit to conduct any transfer business (besides a striker coming home from a previous loan) — so obviously, I won’t be covering that. I will, however, discuss my overall thoughts of the team, the guy(s) being targeted heavily, and potential transfers to be brought in.
Overall Thoughts:

  •  First and foremost, I’ll state the obvious — Tottenham finished 3rd behind only a profilic (MAN) City team that literally rewrote the books, and a marginal (Man) United team who squeaked through the league by parking the bus and scraping out 1-0 games. Overall, I still think that this is a loaded team (with both English nationals, and generally speaking) and this is me (probably) being nitpicky.
  • Goals: The difference between the 2017-2018 and the 2016-2017 season was pretty striking (no pun intended), Spurs scored 12 less goals this year as opposed to 2016-2017. Full disclosure: If there’s such thing as a “down year” I think this was Tottenham’s in front of goal, but by no means was it a bad year. They still had an exceptional goal difference (and obviously they finished 3rd place in the table). Tottenham has gotten contract extensions from all of their major pieces going forward Dele Alli, Eriksen, Heung-Min Son, Kane until at least 2022, giving them a lot of stability in this area. I also think that Pochettino not pursuing any additional goal scoring threats, he’s sending a huge message to his team that he believes they will do the work that needs to be done.
  • Goals against: There was also a similar difference between goals allowed over the seasons exactly 12 more goals than in the 2016-2017 season. If I have one concern going forward for Tottenham its going to be in the back, Tottenham were able to avoid anything major from losing Kyle Walker to City, but I have some concerns about transfer targets for other players.

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West Ham United 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Note: This is the latest breakdown of transfer moves leading up to the 2018-19 Premier League season. This post will be updated throughout the transfer window as appropriate. 
I think that West Ham fans are in for a good year with this incoming transfer group. I don’t think it would be a substantial stretch to say they qualify for some Continental Competition, most likely it’ll be Europa League but they haven’t been involved in any for a good, long time. The Hammers have been very judicious with keeping their wage budgets in check (see Premier League Primer: 2018-2019 Edition for more information) and trying to grow their turnover numbers. I expect that the wage bill ratio will rise pretty substantially with the amount and quality of signings they are bringing in, I think that they will be able to sustain it.
As I mentioned in the primer, I’m very excited to see how this club shakes out — I don’t know the last time I’ve been this excited for a non-Big Six squad. I could see this side causing some major upsets and finishing with a Europa League birth. I also think (forecasting a little extra) that if they make the Europa League they should be able to make a deep run — maybe even win based on the recent level of competition I’ve seen there. The club management has secured young(er) players on relatively long-term contracts and I expect this side to improve by leaps and bounds from where they were last year.

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Liverpool 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

For an in-depth look at the Liverpool roster in advance of the 2018-2019 season, click here to read Part 1. This post will be updated throughout the season with notable transfers and other additions to the club.
(Disclaimer: I’m seeing discrepancies as to the position some of these players play in, for my money everyone but Sturridge and Firmino is truly a midfielder or attacking midfielder. If you disagree with my “classification”, just add your version of strikers and midfielders, the point stays the same. A ton of players, and a set number of minutes)

  • Alisson ($68.75M from AS Roma) – This price makes Alisson the most expensive goalkeeper ever overtaking Gianluigi Buffon’s 2001 transfer for $43M from Parma to Juventus. Alisson started 49 matches across all competitions last year for AS Roma, of which 22 were clean sheets and total only allowed 47 goals. While I try my best to be forthcoming with the “whole” truth (and not “selectively” use statistics), I think this particular set of statistics are seriously misleading — 12 of these games were in Champions League competition and in those games he gave up 19 goals and kept only 5 clean sheets. Before you scoff that Liverpool paid bookoo (technical term) bucks for him, that means in Serie A he made 37 starts, kept 17 clean sheets and allowed a total of 28 goals. So, in the league he was almost inhuman conceding a goal almost every 120′ or just over 0.75 goals/game, I will take those odds any day. It’s worth noting that Roma’s Champions League endeavor was in danger from the start; they played Liverpool twice (7 of the 19 goals), Atletico Madrid twice (2 more), FC Barcelona twice (4 more), and Chelsea twice (3 more). So, in 8 games, he conceded 16 goals to some of the best clubs on the planet.  I think this move, while expensive, is going to pay dividends for the club, look at David De Gea from Manchester United, how many points has saved for that club alone? I think we should start a “points saved by Alisson” post… I bet it goes up exponentially.
  • Naby Keïta ($66M from RB Leipzig) – Keïta was a target for Liverpool last year also, but they were able to close the deal this time around. Keïta is yet another addition to the crowded midfield of Liverpool, although he provides a little bit of versatility being competent in central, left or right midfield — he can also play defensive midfielder if needed. In the 2016-2017 campaign for RB Leipzig he played in 32 games across all competitions scoring 8 while tallying an additional 8 assists. During 2017-2018, he appeared in 39 games, scoring 9 goals with 7 assists, however, my biggest concern from his recent form is with his discipline. He spent 5 games on direct card suspensions, 3 for a straight red card, and 2 more for yellow cards or accumulation. In total he acquired 9 yellow cards (7 in league), 2 reds for yellow card accumulation (one in league) and one straight red card (in league). He also only averaged about 70’/game in the league, so that is something Klopp will need to manage. I think Keïta will be a decent acquisition overall, but dang that midfield is getting full (cue Fabinho discussion… ).
  • Fabinho ($50M from Monaco) – the Fabinho acquisition is likely meant to free up attacking players from defensive responsibilities with Fabinho providing defensive cover. Fabinho played in almost every match (totaling 46 across all competitions) for this Monaco side from a couple games missed for yellow card accumulations. Fabinho plays the “enforcer” role for the midfield, so the yellow cards are more likely a result of the role he has and how he plays than questionable discipline. I think that this transfer will function a lot like the Manchester United move for Nemanja Matic, which will allow for more of an attacking focus without leaving the defense exposed. This is perhaps the one midfield role not totally overrun, and I think he will play among the most minutes for the squad so that players like Salah, Mané, Keïta, and Shaqiri have more liberty to shirk defensive duties.
  • Xherdan Shaqiri  ($16M from Stoke City) – Shaqiri had a relegation release clause is his contract with Stoke, saying that if they were to get relegated he gets released no questions asked for “x” amount of money. In this case, x was $16M and I think that Liverpool picks up a great player at a cut rate price. I have two major concerns: 1) the “situation” I mentioned above and 2) how will he fit with the squad? I’ve heard mixed reviews about his work ethic and ability to “play nice”. A former team mate at Stoke told the media that Shaqiri didn’t step up when his team needed him. Whether that’s true or bitterness from a squad member that’s upset about his leaving— it’s too early to tell.

Read moreLiverpool 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 2

Liverpool 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Note: As we cover more of the top teams in the Premier League – especially the “Big Six,” the individual transfer write-ups will feature a look at the overall roster (as Part 1), followed by a separate post that will contain the individual transfers to/from the team, which will be updated as appropriate (as Part 2). 
Jurgen Klopp definitely drew some quizzical looks from both supporters and opponents following his usage of Liverpool’s checkbook in this manner. In 2016 Klopp was very critical of Manchester United’s acquisition of Paul Pogba for ~$115M saying that the spending was absurd and the “day that this is football, I’m not in a job anymore.” I’m not going to argue about the content or the validity of this statement, as Klopp himself seems to have considered a change of heart on this. He has also discussed that essentially, with great transfer budget, comes great expectations. Liverpool have been very successful under Klopp, as long as they are okay with being the runner-up, which I can assure you that Liverpool faithful and management are not.
Regardless of who is right in the media war of transfer spending versus homegrown youth prospects, the reality is that the transfer money is flowing like never before. Last year almost $2B was spent on transfers in a summer transfer window, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was surpassed this summer. By my math (which, I’ll be honest — is occasionally suspect) I’m noting over $200M spent my Liverpool this window alone (though — full disclosure, they got ~$140M for Coutinho last season). Overall, Liverpool’s recent history is good, with the highest average league position — but with the team Klopp has assembled, finishing 4th behind a lackluster Manchester United team, a blistering City team that annihilated the record books and Tottenham Hotspurs.
Klopp’s team last year suffered mightily from “Draw-o-philia” (“love of draws”), which ultimately cost them the 3rd place spot to Spurs. Despite having the 2nd best goal difference, Liverpool was stung by 12 draws. For comparison, the only other teams that achieved this feat were Burnley (7th place), West Ham (13th), Brighton & Hove Albion (15th), Stoke City (19th/Relegated), and West Brom (20th/Relegated). The next highest in the top-6 finishers was 8 draws, and if Klopp had been able to finish those 4 games as wins, they would have finished in 2nd place ahead of United. I don’t believe that company is acceptable for this team, Liverpool deserves better than being mentioned in sentences with 2 of the 3 relegated teams and 4 of the teams in the bottom half.

Read moreLiverpool 2018-2019 Transfer Review, Part 1

Everton 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Note: This is the latest breakdown of transfer moves leading up to the 2018-19 Premier League season. This post will be updated throughout the transfer window as appropriate.
I think that ultimately I’m going to pick Everton for a midtable finish this year. My concerns from the Primer are far from alleviated. I wrote about the need for a consistent striker with Rooney departing for the MLS. Despite the substantial sum spent on Richarlison, I’m still not sure that has been rectified. We all know that Richarlison can be good, but my question is can he be good enough, every week? And based on what I’ve seen, I just don’t have that much faith yet (maybe he will give me a pleasant surprise). I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see Everton try to secure an additional striker on a paid-loan at least as interim support.
As things stand, I really just think it’s a roll of the dice. I don’t have faith that Everton will score enough goals to keep them as high as they want to be in the standings. Obviously, Pickford is a sensational keeper and there are some nice complementary pieces — I just feel like Everton has shown very little to be excited about from the goal scoring side of things.

Read moreEverton 2018-2019 Transfer Review

Picking a Football Club – Finals

We’ve reached the end.
What started as a journey to football fandom has morphed into something else, and I am perfectly okay with that. I have read more about English football this week than almost any other subject in a very long time.
As an American, it’s hard to move away from the way sports work in this country, but I have also grown in appreciation of the way that association football works in Europe and around the world. The United States will probably never change – even Major League Soccer, the youngest (major) professional league in the country cannot be incentivized to change – and I fear that it will be one of the major reasons that USA Soccer will continue to lag the rest of the world in football. We can’t even qualify for the World Cup currently, and our best young players, the future of our domestic team, don’t play in their domestic league.

Read morePicking a Football Club – Finals