Hello there, happy Wednesday. It’s my first day in work this week today, which is nice. It was a bank holiday on Monday and I took yesterday off because I had some stuff to do. I’m only in today and tomorrow and then I’m off on Friday too! I took Friday off because the Premier League’s back. I want to get a bit of a head-start on my weekend’s work! We’ll continue with our Premier League previews today, and have a look at Newcastle and Southampton.
I think it’s difficult not to feel sorry for Newcastle and their fans. They have an owner that doesn’t seem interested anymore and wants to sell the club. He wants out, and he’s showing that he wants out by not backing the team in the transfer market. They have brought a few in, like Yoshinori Muto, Fabian Schar, Martin Dubravka, Ki Sung-yeung and Salomon Rondon. But they have sold Aleksandar Mitrovic, Mikel Merino, Chancel Mbemba and Matz Sels. It leaves them in profit for this window again. Going by reports, Newcastle have made about £15m more than they have spent this summer.
It must be highly frustrating for Newcastle fans. They have a top, top manager there in Rafa Benitez, who guided Newcastle to a 10th placed finish last season, despite similar circumstances in the transfer window. Newcastle are a huge club with real potential. If Benitez was backed properly, and given a bit of money to spend, they could easily finish in the top half of the table consistently. But he won’t be backed as long as Mike Ashley is around, and it’s a real pity.
Benitez has less than a year remaining on his contract, and it looks like he’ll see that out and be off at the moment. He loves the club, loves the city and loves the fans, but he has said he needs to be backed. With another summer passed and Benitez not backed, I would be surprised if he hung around as long as Ashley is still there. Maybe the sale of the club will go through before the end of the season, and Benitez will be told by new owners that he’ll be backed, but I’m not sure if that’ll happen.
For the season ahead, I think Newcastle will do alright again. I’m not convinced they’ll finish as high as 10th again, and they may be in and around the relegation zone for a bit, but I think they’ll have enough about them to stay away from that. Benitez will get the very best out of the players he has at his disposal, and should guide them to a comfortable finish.
Southampton should do a lot better this season than they did last. They were in big trouble of being relegated for much of the last campaign, until Mark Hughes was brought in. He turned things around and got them out of trouble. It was a good decision by the board, even if it didn’t convince many people when it was announced. They went unbeaten in four of their last five games, and beat Swansea in the second last game of the season to virtually guarantee their survival.
Southampton aren’t a team that should be down towards the bottom of the table. They have a good squad there, and should comfortably be finishing in mid-table or higher. They definitely have the squad to finish in the top half, but we’ll just have to wait and see if Mark Hughes can manage that.
They have been unlucky over the last few years that they haven’t been able to hold onto their managers. Mauricio Pochettino and Ronald Koeman both did fantastic jobs there but ended up moving on. Koeman’s move didn’t work out for him at all, and maybe it would have been best for all involved if he never left to go to Everton. Claude Puel came in and did alright, but the football wasn’t great and he was let go. Then it was Mauricio Pellegrino’s turn, who never managed to get things right last season and the Saints really struggled.
We’ll see if Hughes can bring some stability to the club. His aim has to be to finish in mid-table at the very least. They had a good squad there last season, and have added to that this summer. They spent around £22m on centre-half Yannick Vestergaard from Borussia Monchengladbach. Add that to the £16m for winger Mohamed Elyounoussi from Basel, £10m for goalkeeper Angus Gunn from Man City and £7m for midfielder Stuart Armstrong from Celtic, and you’re looking at quite a bit of money. They’ve spent around £56m, which is a lot.
They let Dusan Tadic go to Ajax for £10m, which I found surprising. He is a really good player, and can be unplayable at times. He may not track back and put a foot in as much as people like, and maybe that’s part of the reason he was let go. Elyounoussi could be a replacement for him anyway.
I think the Saints will do alright this season. I think their aim will be to try and finish in the top half, and maybe put some pressure on the likes of Everton and West Ham, who look like they’ll do well. I’m not sure if Southampton will be able to finish above those, but they should be a lot stronger than a lot of the sides in the bottom half of the table. I reckon finishing 10th would be a realistic goal for them, with the possibility of finishing one or two places higher.
Time for a quick round-up of the news, like we always have.
Thibaut Courtois seems to be acting the bollix by not turning up for Chelsea training. He was supposedly due back on Monday, but missed Monday and Tuesday. It looks like he’s trying to force a move through to Real Madrid. I can see why he wants to move to Madrid, since his children live over there with his ex, but he won’t have many fans at Chelsea with the way he’s acting. Chelsea won’t let him go until they find a replacement, but it seems they’re close to that too.
It looks like they’ll pay a world record fee for a goalkeeper and sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao. He will reportedly cost £71.6m. It’s a lot of money, especially if they’re only getting around £30m for Courtois, but if you’re losing a world class player, you have to replace him with a world class player. Fair play to them for their ambition, I suppose.
Bournemouth signed Jefferson Lerma from Levante for a club record £25m. The Colombian midfielder will be a good addition to Eddie Howe’s squad.
Calum Chambers has left Arsenal and gone to Fulham on a season-long loan. I think this is a bit odd, as Chambers only signed a new Arsenal deal around a month ago, but there you go. He’s a good defender and should do well for Fulham.
Burnley have signed striker Matej Vydra from Derby. He has signed a three-year deal with the option of another year. Burnley also signed Joe Hart yesterday.
Spurs reportedly lodged a bid of £25m for Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish last night. Supposedly that will be rejected. Spurs are the only team in the Premier League that are yet to add to their squad, and their fans are worried now. I think they’ll get that Grealish deal done though. I’m not sure why, but it’s a gut feeling I have.
Any deals that are being done have to be wrapped up soon though. There’s just a day and a half remaining in the transfer window before it closes at 5pm on Thursday.
Anyway, that’s that for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more, and you can keep up with today’s news on Twitter. Have a good Wednesday.