At the end of May, things looked tough for Cholismo’s side. 7 players departing the RojiBlancos, thing look bleak. But of course, Simeone does what Simeone does. The Argentine manager has recruited warriors for his band of fearless underdogs. Names that include…
Renan Lodi joins from Athlético Paranaense (Yes “Athlético”). A fast and skilful Left-back, the 20-year-old Brazillian joined for 20million euros on a 6 year deal.
Hector Herrera, the 29 year old Mexican international signed from Porto for free for 3 years.
The biggest and most expensive signing, João Félix is officially a Colchonero. The 19-year-old Portuguese wonder kid signed from Benfica for 120milllion euro! Which make him the 4th most expensive signing ever. He signed a 7-year deal.
Another signing from Benfica, Ivan Šaponjić joins Atleti for only 500 thousand euros for 3 years.
The 2nd English player to ever play for Atleti, Kieran Trippier joins Simeone’s side for the next 3 seasons. He cost the Rojiblancos 22million euros.
The latest transfer (as of 18/07/19) is Mario Hermoso, the Spanish defender has joined from Espanyol for only 25 million euros for 5 years. What a signing!
Los Colchonero’s have suffered their second consecutive defeat in a row at the hands of Garitano’s impressive Athletic Club side. Simeone’s side only had 2 shots on target despite having Griezmann, Costa and Morata starting, Angel Correa came in on the 80′ minute but it was all too late.
This result only rubbed the salt into the wounds of every Atleti fans as they went crashing out of the Champions League by Cristiano and his gang on Tuesday.
Jan Oblak made decisive saves during the match as standard, but couldn’t do anything to prevent Iñaki Williams and Kenan Kodro’s goals which both came from defending errors.
This result means more criticism coming Simeone’s way about the spineless football his side were playing in the last two games. You would expect after such a deflating defeat as the one on Tuesday, that something would change for the clash against the Basque side, but it seemed like no words were said, and they had produced another performance that doesn’t show Atlético as a world-class club, but more of a mediocre club if best.
There next door rival Real Madrid seems to be on there way to a full resurrection with the reunion of Zinedine Zidane. And they plan to have a massive part in this summer’s transfer market, with promising Brazillian and Porto defender Éder Militão signing a pre-contract with Los Blancos, which will see him switching the Estádio do Dragão for the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu for 50 million this summer. Simeone’s side will have to be smart, with Full Back Lucas Hernandez priced at a tasty 70million, the money would be useful to upgrade the defence. With Godin, Luis and Juanfran ageing and reportedly leaving this season. It looks like the old gang will be eventually disbanding. Will this mean an end of an era for Atlético de Madrid, for good or worse?
Luis Enrique’s stint in charge of Spain got off to a winning start despite late drama, in which a Danny Welbeck equaliser was ruled out.
Gareth Southgate’s men took an early lead when Marcus Rashford beat David De Gea from close-range following a delightful through ball.
The lead didn’t last long though, as Saul Niguez equalised just two minutes later, with Rodrigo’s volleyed finish later on in the half eventually winning the game for Spain.
The result sees Spain go top of Nations League A4, while England fall into the sole relegation spot.
The first real chance of the game resulted in a goal, and came only 11 minutes in. Jordan Henderson took the ball past three players in the middle, before giving it to Harry Kane. The captain turned and found an onrushing Luke Shaw, who took it forward and slipped a precise ball to Marcus Rashford, with the young forward poking it past his club team-mate David De Gea to give England their first ever goal in The Nations League, and get his fourth for the country.
Spain responded in the best possible fashion; Dani Carvajal met a through ball at pace, gliding past Shaw before finding Rodrigo just outside the box. The former Bolton forward then displayed great vision to cut it back to Saul Niguez, who blasted into the bottom left.
The Spaniards were buoyed on by their two-minute equaliser, with Rodrigo and Isco continually making promising runs into the box, but England’s defence just about held firm. They had a chance of their own in the 25th minute, Kieran Trippier displaying his ever-present set piece threat, but his ball to Kane could only be headed directly towards De Gea from the edge of the box.
Home Team News:
There were two enforced changes for the hosts, as Joe Gomez and Marcus Rashford came in for the injured Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling. Tactically, Luke Shaw has usurped Ashley Young at club-level and was also picked tonight at left wing-back
Subs: Danny Rose for Shaw (53), Eric Dier for Henderson (64), Danny Welbeck for Rashford (90+4)
Un-used subs: Alex McCarthy, Jack Butland, Marcus Bettinelli, James Tarkowski, Kyle Walker, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
England were wasteful again just two minutes after. Dele Alli had acres of space in the centre of the park, and despite three team mates presenting themselves while he was driving forward, the midfielder couldn’t find any of them. It was fair to say that England had been unsettled by Spain’s quick response, and the visitors took advantage of England’s wastefulness in the 32nd minute, Rodrigo giving Spain the lead after flicking Thiago Alcantara’s left sided free kick into the bottom corner.
De Gea, who has been under scrutiny for both club and country lately, showed his world class shot-stopping ability in the 35th minute, Rashford rising highest to a lobbed cross, but seeing his header impressively saved by the Spaniard. England failed to maintain this momentum, and couldn’t always cope with Spain’s passing style of play, Shaw seeing yellow for a poorly timed slide tackle on Carvajal. Their failure to grasp a hold of the game was probably summed up with two minutes left, when Shaw controlled a beautiful cross field pass from John Stones, only to then dribble the ball out of play.
HALF-TIME: England 1 – 2 Spain
Away Team News:
David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Nacho, Sergio Busquets and Isco kept their places from the penalty shootout defeat to Russia, but the side picked by Luis Enrique still had a very new look feel to it.
Subs: Marco Asensio for Iago Aspas (68), Sergi Roberto for Alcantara (80), Inigo Martinez for Alonso (87)
Un-used subs: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Pau Lopez, Raul Albiol, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jose Gaya, Dani Ceballos, Rodri, Suso, Alvaro Morata.
The start of the second half was hugely disrupted, a whole six minutes and careful attention being shown to Shaw, who suffered a nasty looking head injury in a 50-50 clash with Carvajal. Danny Rose came on in his place for a 24th England appearance.
Spain’s left back then created a decent chance for, Alonso’s out swinging cross finding Bayern midfielder Thiago on the edge of the box, his ambitious sliced effort sailing narrowly over.
After an impressive piece of play on the hour mark, Saul shot from outside the box, but his curling effort fell into the path of Pickford for a routine save. Three minutes later, England finally showed some creativity of their own, although Kane was actually in an offside position when he controlled a delightful lobbed through ball from Trippier.
There was more frustration for the home fans in the 66th minute when Stones was unfairly carded for what was an accurate last-ditch tackle on Rodrigo, although the close-range free kick came to nothing.
The game entered a quiet period with both teams patient on and off the ball. This was broken in the 80th minute by Rashford, who did well to latch onto a short pass and get past Nacho, but he wasn’t so effective when shooting, his effort powerful but into the thigh of De Gea. The follow up from Kane was wide, meaning England had spurned what were arguably their best two chances.
England were slowly improving, and a nice edge-of-the-box ball from Jesse Lingard allowed Rashford to be one-on-one again, but he was flagged offside. England came close again, their ‘love train’ corner routine allowing Maguire a header on goal, but the big centre half wasn’t accurate.
With nine minutes of extra time announced, Spain kept hunting for a comforting third goal, although Sergio Ramos was way off in the 92nd minute with an ambitious volley back across goal, as was Rodrigo, who shot from about 25 yards when he caught Pickford off his line moments later.
England pushed for an equaliser, and thought they had one in the 96th minute. Ramos made a hash of Gomez’s whipping cross, and although De Gea spilled the ball while trying to recover it, the assistant referee claimed he had been failed by Danny Welbeck, denying England a last gasp point.
They didn’t let this phase them though, Trippier unleashing a powerful low cross in the 98th minute, but Roberto was on hand to clear and give Spain the win in their first ever UEFA Nations League game.
FULL-TIME: England 1 – Spain 2
Both teams play again in three days time. England host Switzerland at The King Power, while Spain will aim to win the group by beating Croatia at home.
What an amazing game of football last night, England crashing out and Croatia into their 1st ever final!It all kicked off when England took the lead with a class Free-kick from Kieran Trippier. In the 30′ minute, Kane could’ve potentially sealed the lead but Danijel Subašić with two amazing saves to keep Croatia in it. But in the 68′ minute, Ivan Perišić gave his country the equaliser after Šime Vrsaljko’s world-class cross met Perišić’s foot on the volley. Shortly after the goal, Perišić could’ve given Croatia the lead but unfortunately, his shot hit the post.During the few minutes of Extra time, England was given a corner, Trippier kicked it in and it met by Stone’s head only to be ruled-out by Vrsaljko’s ‘on the line save’. During the last minutes of the 1st half of extra time, Mario Mandžukić almost scored if it wasn’t for Jordan Pickford save. Mario went down as he collided with Pickford and looked in a bad way but recovered. But it took a change for the worst for England because, in the 109′ minute, Mario Mandžukić scored a brilliant goal to give Croatia the lead which eventually led to England elimination.In the end, Croatia dominated the match with having 22 shot, 2x more than England. They also had an amazing defence record, with only letting England have 2 shot on target (one which was that unpreventable free-kick goal).Ivan Perišić was Man of The Match but that is debatable as it was a team effort that got them to the final. With Vrsaljko’s game-changer cross and ‘on the line’ save and with Mandžukić’s determination eventually got them the ticket to the final.
Croatia will have their most important match in their history as they take on France in the final of the 2018 Russia World Cup. Could they shock the World on Saturday? We will have to wait and see!
On Wednesday, Croatia will face the Three Lions in the Luzhniki Stadium and would hopefully (from an Irish lad’s perspective) stop the Football’s Coming Home chant. Croatia has had a successful World Cup campaign, with star performances from Rakitic and Modric (Vrsaljko hasn’t been too bad either) However, with the Atleti man out of action and Subasic a concern with his leg, Croatia seems like they are out of the race, but they are not, not for one second. England will be their toughest opponents so far and it will be the same for England. Both have players that can threaten to goal.
Mario Mandžukić is football’s underrated player. He is truly a phenomenal player. He has had successful spells at FC Bayern München, Atlético de Madrid and Juventus. The 10ft 9 man can be an aerial threat to England with Maguire and Stones struggling to keep the high ball away from him.
The Barca man has had a fantastic season for both club and country. His partnership with Modric makes for one of football’s deadliest midfield. He is certainly Croatia’s key players. He is a set-piece specialist, with very accurate free-kicks. So hopefully he could step up if England concedes a free-kick.
I don’t care what anyone says about him, he is still one of the best midfielders in the world and if you think differently, you may need your head examined. As I stated earlier he has midfield partnership with his El Clásico Counter-part. As an Atlético Madrid fan, I can’t help but admire him. He is considered as a regista just like the legendary Andrea Pirlo. He is often referred to as the Midfield Maestro and is also noted for his passing range and dribbling skills not to mention his mastery of tactical play and precision. No doubt if Croatia is going win, he will be involved.
Croatia does have a tough match but I think they will see it through, if all the players perform well, I think they have it in the bag.
Earlier this month, Atético Madrid skipper Gabi recently announced his departure which broke the hearts of beloved Atleti fans (including myself) and decided to fly to Al Sadd. Where? Al Sadd in Qatar, the same team the Barça God Xavi went a few seasons ago. After all, the man is 34 and is getting older. He has had a tremendous spell at Los Rojiblancos. He’s won everything there is to win in football with the team. (Well, except the Champions League all thanks to you know who!) He captained Atlético de Madrid to their 1st league title since 1996! But unfortunately, he had never played a senior international match for Spain in his whole career, because of the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Xabi Alonso keeping him at the bottom of the pecking order.
Born into an Atleti mad family in Madrid, it took him a while to get into the beautiful game when he finally decided he joined his local club San Eladio. But soon enough, Atleti came knocking at the door and rumours have another club in Madrid whos name I will not utter had an interest in this young player.
Gabi joined Los Colchoneros youth academy. He was 19 when he played his debut for the B team. At the same time, he was playing for the U20 Spain team and actually were runners-up in the 2003 U20 World Cup, a team that had future Atleti teammates such as Moyá and Juanfran.
Gabi grew tired of the lack of playing time. So he was loaned-out to the newly promoted Getafe CF for the 2004/2005 season, another local club in the Spanish capital. There he scored his 1st La Liga goal against Albacete in a 1-1 draw on November 21. The move had an effect on Gabi and made him a more confident player. After a great season with Getafe in which the finished 13th that season, Gabi returned to his beloved Atleti.
Over the next two seasons, he made 52 LaLiga appearances for Atleti, establishing himself as the midfield enforcer they had previously been lacking. But he wasn’t always a 1st team player. He was good but didn’t any natural skill in his play. In the summer of 2007, he was shipped off to Real Zaragoza for €9 million. Unfortunately, that season Real Zaragoza was relegated. Although he could’ve moved away to another La Liga club. He decided to stay, showing his utmost loyalty which was a wise decision as they were immediately promoted back the following season.
2 season later showed us, Gabi, scoring 11 goals, most he scored in a season in his career. Scoring most notably, in a 3-2 win against, you guessed it, Real Madrid. In 2011, he was signed back to Atleti for €3 million. But as crazy as it sounds Gregorio Manzano, the man who brought Gabi back was sacked 6 months after. So the club brought in another manager. They brought in the man who was about to change Atleti for the better, none other than ‘El Cholo’ Diego Simeone. He gave Gabi the captain role. In 2012, he captained Atleti to Europa League glory, the 1st major title he had won. They also defeated Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup.
The 2013/14 season was a season to remember. After a good first half of the season, Atleti found themselves top of the league. It was looking likely for the Simeone’s underdogs. But there was just one problem, they were facing Barcelona in their final match of the season. A draw would crown them League winners. Atleti found themselves behind at half-time, and the dream appeared to be over in the cruellest way possible. But then Gabi, walked over to take a corner. He swung it in to be met on the head by his vice-captain, Diego Gódin, who scored. The finished the game 1-1. Atleti 1st title since 1996.
However, Champions League Final awaited, and who other but Real Madrid. Just minutes left to win it. None other than Sergio Ramos to headed past Courtois. We lost that match 4-1 in extra time. Atleti had produced one of the finest seasons in the club’s history. Gabi had been a key part of it and was rewarded with a place in the La Liga squad of the season as well as the Champions League squad of the season. Again ironically 2 years later, same competition final, same opponents, same result. We lost on penalties this time. Gabi was named in the Champions League’s squad of the season again. And more recently Gabi scored the last goal in a 3-0 win against Marseille in the Europa League to win his last international trophy along with Fernando Torres.
The time, unfortunately, has come for Gabi to leave his childhood club after 10 years as a Rojiblanco. Although not the greatest footballer ever, he was a hard-working player who was always loyal and fearless. No doubt, he would go down as an Atlei legend.
On Monday, Mexico will take on Brazil in the Samara Arena to determine who will progress to the quarter-finals. If Mexico do go through, they would face either Belgium or Japan in the quarter-finals in Kazan.
Mexico became the fans second team when they shocked us all with a 1-0 win against Germany, a result which eventually knocked the current reigning champions of the group stages for the first time since 1938. An impressive Hirving Lozano gave his side the lead in the 35th minute.
Once again Mexico showed their strength against South Korea in a 2-1 victory. With Vela, the former Real Sociedad player converting a penalty in the 26th minute and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández making it 2-0 in the 66th minute.
However, in the match against Sweden, they seemed lost. Despite have 19 chances on goal, only 3 shots were on target. The players and the fans were relieved to hear the news that South Korea had put 2 behind a woeful Germany.
The Team: Key Players.
For Juan Carlos Osorio’s side to defeat Brazil, he is going to need to put out a strong line-up.
Lozano is considered one of the best young players in the world. After a great season in the Eredivisie with PSV, the 22-year-old helped his side win their 24th title after scoring an impressive 17 in 29 games for the Dutch side. He also has a fantastic international record, scoring 14 goals in his first 7 matches for El Tri. He possesses great power in his right foot and is extremely fast, which makes it ideal for counter attacks.
Chicharito has had a brilliant career, playing for Manchester United to being loaned at Real Madrid. Currently, the 30-year-old recently joined West Ham. The Mexican is considered to be a ‘clinical goalscorer’ and a ‘goal-poacher’ because he scores many close-range goals. He is one of the few players that can impact on Mexico’s World Cup journey. However, the West Ham striker has had a relatively quiet tournament so far, registering just one shot on target across the three group matches.
In January, Vela signed for LAFC from Real Sociedad. There he scored 7 goals in his 12 appearances for the American side. He fits on to the right-hand side of Osorio’s attack. He links up to his teammates well and can beat players off the dribble with ease.
Ochoa has impressed many during this World Cup campaign, although letting 4 goals in during the group stages should not weigh down on his abilities. Ochoa is one of the most underrated goalkeepers in this tournament. However, he will turn 33 on the 13th of July, so this may be his last chance.
During this World Cup campaign,
-Mexico has scored 3 goals and conceded 4
-This will be the 41st meeting between Brazil and Mexico.
-Brazil won with 23 wins.
-Mexico has won 10 matches between the South American side
-7 games ended in a draw.
-Mexico is the team with the most games played at the World Cup without ever winning the tournament (56 games).
Last year was a tough season for Celta Vigo as, if it weren’t for some late Iago Aspas heroics, they would probably have been relegated. Their transfer dealings this window have been very interesting making this coming season an intriguing one, how will they fare?
A rough patch of results after Christmas saw Celta plunge down towards the depths of the table, all the while; Aspas was sidelined with a knee injury that saw him miss nine games. In this bleak spell, the lowest of the lows involved a 4-2 loss away at Vallecano and a 4-1 defeat at Balaidos at the hands of the hit and miss Levante. In an eleven game spell from the turn of the year to late March they managed just one win, but the turning point came on the 30th of March. Just a couple of days prior, Aspas came back from his injury and then in that game against Villarreal, a late brace from the club legend marked his return and that of Celta to winning ways.
The biggest outgoing of the window has seen young forward Maxi Gomez join Valencia. The Uruguayan had West Ham snapping at his heels but a La Liga move suited the club better, especially as this deal saw Santi Mina go back the other way. Spanish striker Mina scored seven and assisted five for Marcelino last year in his 1,800 league minutes whilst Gomez contributed to 18 goals in a weaker side so it would seem that Valencia have got the better end of this deal. Winger Emre Mor has always been labelled a bit of a troublemaker and he only collate a few hundred minutes last season due to the presence of the likes of Southampton loanee Sofiane Boufal and the pacey Dane Pione Sisto. The 22 year old has now been loaned out to Galatasary, a side from his home nation Turkey. A couple of the other sales have been ageing defender Roncaglia to newly promoted Osasuna and midfielder Mathias Jensen joining Thomas Frank’s Brentford in the Championship.
On the other side of it, it seems to be a story of returns as their two standout acquisitions has seen two familiar faces brought into Balaidos. Santi Mina graduated through Celta’s academy to then go on and play 50 times for the first team and score nine times. Next he spent four years at Valencia, in doing so making over 100 appearances and here he is, back at the club. The other returning figure spent an unfortunate year on loan at Arsenal last season where he only made four appearances and Barcelona have now sold him for a rumoured sixteen million euros. This is, of course; Denis Suarez. The 25 year old midfielder joins potentially, as a replacement, and an upgrade on the departing Jensen. Other introductions include a young pair of centre backs from Genk and Valencia (on loan); Joseph Aidoo and Jorge Saenz respectively.
Fran Escriba’s side open their 19/20 campaign with a very tough test as they host a new look Real Madrid side on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how Zidane lines his side up and whether we’ll see their new boys such as Eden Hazard, Ferland Mendy and Luka Jovic. The following weekend they are again at Balaidos with Valencia visiting the west coast which is an intriguing ordeal as Maxi Gomez and Santi Mina have swapped between the two clubs. In terms of fixtures to keep an eye out for, their rivals Deportivo La Coruna are still in the second division so the Galician Derby won’t be occurring this year but they will have back to back trips to the Camp Nou and Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica.
Aspas is now 32 so Celta fans will be hoping that they are less reliant on him in comparison to last season but the sale of Maxi Gomez isn’t promising for that. Whilst Santi Mina is a proven La Liga goalscorer, it remains to be seen if he is as much of a prize asset as Gomez. Sisto and Brais Mendes will have to step up their attacking output if Celta are to finish in a more inspiring league position, but either way- this season comes with a lot of promise.
Crystal Palace Football Club went through a very turbulent summer. A hectic, and ultimately underwhelming transfer window matched with a dreadful pre-season really set panic into motion among supporters, and undoubtedly within the club too. I’ll try to keep this ‘PG’, although those of you who follow me on Twitter (@CPFC_Cal) will have seen my heated instant reaction. It was, indeed, a very stressful summer.
Crystal Palace had just finished the season in 12th position, with their highest ever points total (49). Ending the season with an emphatic 5-3 win over Bournemouth sent fans into the summer full of optimism and pride, if we could build on the squad we already have and replicate our late season form, surely we could be making a push for Europa League? European Football at the Palace, yes please!
So off went the squad on their holidays, and off went Wilfried Zaha, Chiekhou Kouyate, and Jordan Ayew to Egypt to compete in the African Cup of Nations. Despite not starting their first two games, Zaha shone for the Côte D’Ivoire, scoring a couple of important goals to send them to the quarter-finals. Kouyate captained Senegal to the final and was a real presence at the back in the main spine of the team. Ayew scored the goal of the tournament in what was an underwhelming showing from the Ghanaian Black Stars. These impressive performances gave fans hope, as well as players confidence, and set pre season in motion with a lot of positivity around the club.
Pre Season Nightmare
Pre-Season began in Swizerland for The Eagles as we took on FC Luzern. The game ended in a draw, and Palace ultimately won on penalties. But, be fair to the team, it’s the start of pre season, who really cares?
Next up came Young Boys. A really poor showing from Palace saw them beaten 2-0 with ease as Young Boys claimed the Uhren Cup. We were far from our best, looked tired and lacklustre, but, again, it’s pre season, who cares?
Time for the third game, having returned to England our U23s, including new 3rd choice ‘keeper Steven Henderson, and forgotten man Jairo Riedewald, took on Barnet in a match which was expected to be relatively easy but still a test for the kids. The Eagles Academy boys raced to a 2-0 lead, finally a positive pre season fixture, at least the kids are dong well! Full time. Palace lose 6-2. Great start for the new ‘keeper. Tensions start to rise amongst Palace fans, but it’s only the kids in pre season, it doesn’t matter too much, right?
Now it’s another first team fixture. Quite looking forward to this one. Forrest away, it’s a championship side so they’ll be competitive but still expecting a win from us. Palace show that the issues underlying last season’s relative success remain, and leave The City Ground having lost 1-0 and really struggled in front of goal.
A trip to Bristol now, as Palace First Team take on Bristol City. FINALLY PALACE WIN. FIVE. NIL. WE’RE GOING TO MILAN NEXT YEAR BOYS AND MAX MEYER IS THE GERMAN MESSI. Maybe a bit of an overreaction, but a long-awaited Palace win sets positive minds in place, we’re finally taking our chances and playing some really attractive football at the same time.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the Hertha Berlin game. We welcomed the German club to Selhurst Park to round off our pre season at home, and hopes were high. One week to go until the season really starts, so we should be playing towards our highest level. Alas, we lose. 0-4 in fact. Cue widespread panic across Palace Twitter, we’re going down.
In all seriousness, it was a terrible pre season for the South London club and lots of people were, and still are, extremely worried about the coming season, leading to what is quite a toxic atmosphere surrounding the club.
The transfer window started looking very positive. We knew what we needed, a striker and a backup winger, preferably depth in other areas like left back, but everyone who knows Palace knows we like to do our business late, so not much was expected early on. The loss of Aaron Wan-Bissaka was upsetting, but expected, and £50 million gained for an academy graduate is a very positive return on a player who, ultimately, was unknown 2 years ago.
Palace were being linked to the likes of Timothy Castagne, Max Aarons, Ollie Watkins, Fedor Chalov, Michy Batshuayi, Duvan Zapata, Kenny Lala, Jean-Kevin Augustin, the list could really go on forever. It really did look like some positive business would be done in this window and the club may finally have been filling the long term problem positions, however it took until well into the transfer window to make our first signing, and tension again was beginning to mount on the back of Steve Parish and our American owners, as well as the Director of Football, Dougie Freedman.
The first signing came late and it was rather underwhelming. The signing of Steven Henderson on a free transfer as a third choice goalkeeper. *Yawn*. Next came Jordan Ayew, decent deal for only £2.5m but was here last season so it’s no improvement. After this came more silence from Palace in terms of the transfer market, before we announced the signing of Champions League winner Gary Cahill on a free transfer, another decent piece of business from Palace but is he really what we need? Well according to Roy, yes.
August 7th comes round, the day before deadline day, and we still haven’t improved the most pressing issues in our squad. Palace had rejected multiple offers from Arsenal and Everton for star man Wilfried Zaha, but it seemed to all have gone cold. Sky Sports ‘reporter’ Kaveh Solhekol had been stirring up rumours all window (none of which turned out to be true but we’ll get to that later) and was now being widely tormented by Palace fans. Everything seemed fine until his recent piece of news broke through. Wilf Zaha, the Palace favourite, idol, legend etc. had handed in a transfer request. It really felt like the whole world had come crashing down behind us, how could he do this? It would leave us no time to bring in a replacement. Fans were rightfully hacked off at the news, Twitter was bombarded with stressed, hateful, and whether it was correct or not, quite a lot of abuse. A few positives came that evening, however, as Palace announced the signings of Victor Camarasa and James McCarthy to bolster the midfield. The fans were also hopeful going into Deadline Day as Sky Sports reporter, and Palace favourite, Michael Bridge delivered the news that we should be making as many as 4 signings the following day.
Deadline Day. I had woken up at 8am, with dreams of Ismaila Sarr, Fedor Chalov, and Kyle Walker-Peters filling my head, and rushed to my sofa to follow Sky Sports’ extensive coverage of the day. It was bound to be exciting and busy for Palace, as we had multiple options and targets being worked on with the hope of new arrivals by 5pm. As the day progressed, worry increased as there was no solid links or promise towards any player, or even towards the seemingly inevitable departure of Wilfried Zaha. 3.30pm, with an hour and a half to go of the window, Sky Sports confirm that, while Zaha will be staying, Palace were to make no more business in the window. Everyone was fuming, perfectly understandably. We hadn’t improved the ONLY TWO POSITIONS THAT NEED TO BE IMPROVED DESPERATELY. We now go into the season with only Joel Ward at right back, only Patrick van Aanholt at left back, and misfiring Benteke backed up by sick note Connor Wickham as his backup in striker. It’s an absolute disgrace that we didn’t sort out the only two positions that have been genuine problems for a while now, but we’ve got 9 midfielders and 5 goalkeepers registered. Even the news of Zaha staying can’t make up for the awful window.
A Surprisingly Positive View
Right, lets get to positives, it seems like we all need a bit of this right now. We’ve got what is largely the same squad we had last season, if not an improvement on it. Wan-Bissaka’s departure is sure to be felt but realistically he’s only a right back, it’s not going to break the functioning of the team. Michy Batshuayi will also be a miss at Selhurst Park as, for those 5 months, we finally had a goalscorer. However, the addition of Victor Camarasa is extremely interesting. A creative and physical presence in the side is what Roy has been looking for since the departure of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in 2018, and it’s finally here. Add to this the addition of the ‘throw yourself in front of everything’ type midfielder in James McCarthy and you’ll see we’ve gone a long way to recreating our incredibly dominant midfield from Roy’s first season at the club.
Also, Wilfried Zaha is still here. He may not want to be, and it hurts to write that sentence, but he is. He’s still a special player and will continue to change games like he always has done for us. I genuinely believe as long as he is here there’s no way we’re going down.
Thirdly, the Holmesdale Fanatics are behind the goal and are now backed by an enormous ‘singing section’ which will take the atmosphere to levels it’s never seen before. Our atmosphere has always been amazing and always been a massive part of the club, so for us to ramp it up again this season it’s sure to be an enjoyable experience at games no matter the result on the pitch.
End of Season Award Predictions
Player of the Season: Max Meyer
I’ve chosen Max Meyer to be my player of the season. We’ve already seen how good he is on the ball, and in pre season he’s shown real brilliance and looks like reaching that potential he was tipped for from a young age. I feel he’ll have a real impact this season and shine brighter than any other.
Young Player of the Season: Tyrick Mitchell
With our lack of depth in the full back positions and the inconsistent form of Patrick van Aanholt, Tyrick Mitchell could be called on more often than we think. An impressive pre season cameo against Luzern suggests he could be the next gem to arrive off the Palace Academy press.
Top Goalscorer: Luka Milivojevic
Luka has scored 10+ goals for two seasons in a row for us now, most of which have been penalties. Now, with the introduction of VAR, penalties will be even more likely to be given as shown with the trials in the FA Cup and the Womens World Cup. Add to this the ridiculous knack of winning penalties Wilf Zaha has and it could be a frankly insane scoring season for the Palace skipper.
Breakthrough Star: Max Meyer/Tyrick Mitchell
As outlined in previous points, I can really see both of these having big seasons ahead of them, and I’m sure they will impress.
Top Assists: Andros Townsend
A fantastic crosser of the ball and a brilliant creative influence down the right hand side, I can see Starman having a fantastic season in terms of goal contributions, especially if we start crossing the ball to Benteke more as we have at times in pre season.
Predicted Finish: 13th
Another very stable mid table finish for The Eagles. I don’t agree with the largely held opinion that we will be seriously threatened by relegation, but I also can’t seeing us have much of a breakthrough season in terms of a top 10 push. Roy is an impeccable manager with a very good squad at his disposal, so I’m sure it’ll be another decent season in South London. However, if we start the season as badly as usual, we could end up in somewhat of a scrap come Christmas. Perhaps it will be another emotional, stressful, turbulent season for us, but hey ho, we can’t bloody wait for it to begin.
Atleti played Numancia in their 1st pre-season match before the league starts. The new kids on the block were anticipated to start, especially 120million Joao Felix. However just 28 minutes into the match, the Ex-Benfica star was subbed off for Correa. He was seen exhausted, limping and holding his hip. The vigorous training of Oscar Ortega may have caught upon him. Nothing is known of the seriousness of the injury, seems like just a knock.
Coming off the back of another high midtable finish in the 2018-19 season, Crystal Palace should really be aiming to push on for at least top half next season. With a solid core of players, Palace should be looking to make improvements in the weaker areas of the squad, as well as adding some depth to a thin group of players. Here I will be looking at some potential recruits for the Eagles this summer.
Any Palace fan will tell you that one of the problem areas last season was the left back spot which was occupied by Patrick van Aanholt for the most part. It was disheartening seeing his poor defensive performances after his best season in a red and blue shirt in 17-18 and to really solidify the already fairly rigid defence, Hodgson should be looking to bring in some competition or a replacement for PVA.
After already being linked to the Dutch fullback last week, this one seems pretty realistic. Ouwejan had somewhat of a breakout season for AZ Alkmaar last season, starting 31 games and getting 8 goal contributions from the left back spot. Boasting a solid 6.97 WhoScored rating across the term and with some of his stronger attributes being his crossing, vision and game reading, at still only 22 years old he has a lot of room to grow and could easily be the starting left back at Selhurst. The Eredivisie is also renowned for producing cheap gems of players, so we’ll have to see if this one materialises.
No, not the City backup keeper. This promising young Argentine was actually named WhoScored’s best Argentinian Superliga player last season with a phenomenal 7.67 overall rating for a poor Banfield side that finished 16th. Whilst being obviously unproven in a top league, he would be quite cheap for his ability and he has some very impressive defensive stats that could rival Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s, as Bravo averages 5.2 tackles and 3.2 interceptions per game. He is also good going forward as he averages 2.6 dribbles and 1.1 key passes per game, so he has both sides of the modern fullback’s game covered. Whilst it would be an obvious risk, is it one worth taking for the Eagles?
With player of the season Aaron Wan-Bissaka looking increasingly likely to join Manchester United this summer for a gargantuan fee of over £60m, Palace will definitely need an adequate replacement.
19 year old Aarons started 41 games for Norwich in their title winning campaign last season, earning himself the Championship young player of the season award in the process. He is very similar in his playing style to AWB, with his strongest attributes being his dribbling and tackling. He averages 1.4 dribbles per game and 1.6 tackles per game. Whilst these aren’t quite on par with Wan-Bissaka, he is still two years younger so still has massive potential to improve his game. Norwich won’t want to part with him easily, so will likely demand a sizable transfer fee in the region of £20-25m, but if Palace want a quick fix at right back, Aarons may be worth the price.
Despite playing most of last season at left midfield, Belgium international Castagne is suited to play on either flank as a midfielder or a defender. The 23-year-old managed 4 goals and 2 assists for 3rd placed Atalanta last season in Serie A, helping them to a Champions League spot. His main strong point is tackling, averaging 2.2 per game whilst playing in midfield, so this number will likely increase if played at right back. He also has an impressive range of passing and is capable of popping up with a goal every so often. Said to be interested in moving to England and available for around £17m, should Palace go for top flight experience over youth?
Clyne is a player that Palace have been linked with ever since he fell out of favour with Klopp at Liverpool. Now 28, Clyne came through the Eagles’ academy and was a first team player from 2008-2012 before signing for Southampton. After becoming known as one of the PL’s most solid right backs, Clyne found himself out on loan at Bournemouth last season, where he didn’t quite have the impact he probably would have wanted. Despite having a tough time on the south coast, he still managed to average 2.4 tackles per game, showing that he clearly still has the ability, but his attitude may be a problem. Likely to be available for under £15m, Palace could take a risk in bringing the experienced Clyne back to his boyhood club.
All of Palace’s centre backs are nearing 30, so it may be a wise choice to bring in some youth as initial backup with potential to become a starter.
19 year old N’dicka was a starter for Frankfurt last season as they just missed out on a Europa League spot. Transfermarkt value him at £22m, so he may be an expensive signing. However, with Mamadou Sakho likely to be leaving in the next couple of years, Palace could replace him with a younger, left footed French centre half.
Already linked with Palace this window for £15m, this deal could be one that actually goes through. Konsa was impressive whilst inconsistent for Brentford last season, displaying a brilliant passing range but at the same time being sloppy in defence. Still only 21, Konsa has a lot of room to grow into the perfect centre back and could be a signing worth making as a future James Tomkins replacement.
Michy Batshuayi was a revelation when he came in on loan from Chelsea last season, scoring 5 goals in 9 starts. He looks likely to stay at Chelsea, which leaves Palace with out of form or injured strikers. Christian Benteke, Alexander Sørloth and Connor Wickham aren’t made of goals anymore so a quality striker is needed.
Mitrović was the best player in a very poor Fulham side last season, bagging 11 goals and 3 assists in 37 starts. A very strong, aggressive striker who is good in the air and clinical in the box, he seems a perfect fit in a team captained by his long time friend Luka Milivojević. Fulham could part with him for around £20m which is a very decent price for a proven Premier League goalscorer, so it could be worth Palace making a move.
This would be a massive statement from Palace if they could get this done. Apparently ‘interested’ in the 28 year old Colombian, it could be realistic. Zapata scored 23 goals and assisted 7 in Serie A last season, making him one of Europe’s top scorers. Renowned for his strength and finishing ability, he could be the player that Palace still hope that Benteke will return to. Likely to cost upwards of £25m, it would be well worth the expensive price tag if it means Palace have one of the best goalscorers in the league.
Palace have been strongly linked to a £15m swoop for Maupay, who was one of the Championship’s top players last season, getting 25 goals and 8 assists. He is also still only 22 so has a lot of potential to improve his ability. The main risk is that he is obviously unproven in a top league, only scoring 7 goals in 4 seasons in his younger years in Ligue 1 for Nice and Saint Etienne. Maybe experience would be the safer option, but Palace could be losing out on a top talent if they choose that route.
Palace currently only have 2 wingers in their entire squad; Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend. This means that backup is definitely needed.
Another Brentford player that Palace have been linked with, 23 year old Watkins managed 10 goals and 6 assists for the Bees last term. Capable of playing on either wing or up front, Watkins could become somewhat of a utility player for the Eagles if they sign him for £15m. He has impressive end product as well as completing 1 dribble per game and is also decent in the air. Watkins seems like a very good prospect and it may be worth the Eagles investing in him.
Bowen was unstoppable at times for Hull last season, scoring 22 goals and assisting 4, whilst playing every single game for the Tigers. He also completed 1.4 dribbles per game and is surprisingly good at defending. Hull are likely to price him between £15m-£20m, but for someone of his quality at his age it would be well worth it.
Grealish has had a season to remember as he captained his boyhood club to Premier League promotion. All that hard work has paid off as Tottenham are in line to purchase him. Now Atleti has also jumped on the train for his signature. It is reported that Simeone is a fan of the player and would love him as part of his side’s rebuild, after seeing players like Griezmann and Godin leave. What do you think? Would Grealish fit in Simeone’s side? Is €20million appropriate for him?