Matchday 1, Part 4: Wolves v. Everton & Liverpool v. West Ham United

This is the fourth part of a five-part series, to start from the beginning click here.
Disclaimer: This series is examining the games days prior to matchday, there is always the possibility for injuries, coach selections, etc. They may be updated to reflect most accurate starting lineup.
Wolves v. Everton
location: Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton
Wolves entered this game as slight favorites, probably due to playing at home — but the money line on the game has shown increasing likelihood that Wolves could walk away from this game with something. Expected goals to be scored at 2-3.
I think that Wolves had one of the best transfer windows in the Premier League (especially with the Rui Patricio pickup for free, read more here). Wolves were in blistering form in the Championship and were just shy of the 100-point mark, finishing at 99. They also put in most of their transfer work towards the opening, meaning that their players have had time to gel with the side. I think this Wolves side will spring a few surprises, and I think they will start with a narrow win over Everton.

Read moreMatchday 1, Part 4: Wolves v. Everton & Liverpool v. West Ham United

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)
Ins:

  • 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

Premier League Club Primer: 2018-2019 Edition

Ever had questions about clubs that you were afraid to ask? Here’s the rundown on the 20 Soccer teams competing in the top tier of English Soccer. Some historical facts, some questions to be answered, and some serious takeaways. Here is everything you wanted to know about the clubs but didn’t want (or know) to ask.
During the next couple weeks, we’ll be exploring each teams transfer business (In and Out) to see how well teams have addressed their needs!

Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners
Founded: 1886 (Under a different name)
Location: London
Team Colors: Red/White
Kit Manufacturer: Puma (2014-present)
Kit Sponsor: Emirates Airlines
Ground: Emirates Stadium (2006-present)
Capacity:  59,862
Manager: Unai Emery (first season) replacing Arsene Wenger (1996-2018)
Website: www.arsenal.com
17/18 Season: 6th in English Premier League

Arsenal are a perennial Premier League team, with their only stint in lower-tier football occurring prior to World War I (as part of their progression to the Premier League). Since then, they’ve been a stalwart and are considered part of English soccer’s royalty, the “Big Six”.  While placed in this royalty, Arsenal’s recent form have had them finishing outside of the top-4 which is a perquisite for the UEFA Champions League.  Missing out on the Champions League is a big financial hit for the club, and has been a voiced concern amongst the players; some of whom have run out their contracts or joined rival clubs for the opportunity to compete at the highest level. One of these situations led to a winter transfer window swap for one of Arsenal’s top players, Alexis Sanchez, getting swapped for a Henrik Mkhitaryan who was in poor form for Manchester United so that they didn’t lose him to a free transfer deal.

Arsenal are on their first season Post-Wenger who’s been at Arsenal almost as long as I’ve been alive. So far, Unai Emery, has shown a couple of positives: he’s managed to get some top-tier talent for reasonable prices (by EPL standards) and one particular transfer, Sokratis, was able to overcome reported interest by other Big Six clubs. Arsenal is not a bad side, and I fully expect them to continue in continental competition. Arsenal’s Achilles heel last year was their propensity to give up losses, whereas their EPL opponents could fight for draws. If only a few of those losses were draws, they likely would have been in Champions League competition instead of Europa League.

I think the prospects for Arsenal will be good enough for Champions League this year. Arsenal has also had a larger squad than many teams which has caused some strife for its players (Olivier Giroud –last year, and Jack Wilshere – this year) which eventually have led them elsewhere. I think that clarified expectations under Emery could tighten up the rotation a little and keep continuity (especially in the back) which will allow them to hold on in tight contests.

Click here for an in-depth look at Arsenal’s transfers in advance of the 2018-19 season.

Read morePremier League Club Primer: 2018-2019 Edition