After "At Season's End"
After the magical conclusion to the 16/17 season, we now face the full might of the Premier League for the first time in over 10 years. We started out the preseason with in Switzerland, facing up against the best of Swiss Soccer. In the first game against FC Zurich, we scored 3 goals in the first half and some of our new signings proved why they should be there. They scored a consolation goal towards the end of the game, but we were the clear victors throughout. Next we played FC Basel, the giants of Switzerland. They defeated us rather handily. We were never in the game from the beginning, and while several of our players performed really well, I feel that we would have struggled even if they played at their peak. We lost 0-3. Now for our last game in Switzerland, we played Young Boys, and I feel we offered our most complete performance of the preseason. We scored 1 in the after we spent the majority of the first half dominating in their half of the field. Then we scored 3 more in the second half while continuing the domination. Their one goal was from an expertly take free-kick from 20-ish yards out, and I must admit it was a rather beautiful goal. That concluded our Swiss tour with a record of 2-1, and we were returning home to Elland Road for the last 3 games.
Our first friendly at Elland Road sees us playing against RCD Avellaneda, a top Argentenian team. We won, after entering the second half tied 1-1, and dominating to the end. Then we Played Villarreal, a solid La Liga team. We seemed to be outclassed at every turn as they defeated us rather soundly 0-2. The We played the Danish top club Brondby IF. The Game ended 1-1, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The game was played across the entire length of the pitch the whole game, and was a true spectacle to see.
Coming in to this transfer Window, we had an enormous transfer budget of 30m, when compared to the initial 400k we were given during the Winter transfer period last season. Our goals were to strengthen the midfield, and the attack, as we didn't really have Premier League quality in either area. But first, we had to secure the permanent transfer of two players that had spent the previous season on load with us: Pontus Jansson, and Joel Pohjanpalo. This gave us 1 striker capable of playing in the Prem, and also allowed us to keep our best defender and now Vice-Captain. To further the attack, we bought striker Aron Johannsson from Werder Bremen, and young left-winger Mikkel Duelund from Celtic (comes in 8/31 after the end of this episode), we also loaned in the promising young striker Albian Ajeti as a backup for Pohjanpalo and Johannsson. In the midfield, we brought in Leroy Fer from Swansea, Raphael Guzzo from Reus, and the promising Young attacking-midfielder Maximillian Eggestein from Werder Bremen II.
We also brought in several promising young players for the future on free transfers. The first of the bunch, former Manchester United youth player Sean Goss comes in and immediately goes out on loan to Barnsley for first team development. Next is Vahid Hambo, a young striker who could become the best at the club, and he is loaned out to start for the New York Red Bulls in the MLS. Then there is Chris Willock, the young winger from Arsenal's youth program, and he goes out on loan to Nottingham Forest. Finally, is Tosin Adarabioyo, a promising young center-back from Manchester City, who is going out on loan to Aberdeen.
For the outs, we'll only talk about two of the players we are loaning out, and those are Kemar Roofe and Marcus Antonsson. I have sent Roofe out on loan to Brentford in hopes of him developing on top of another full season starting in the Championship, as I simply don't rate him as good enough to play for us in the Prem (He leaves 8/31 after the end of this episode). Antonsson has gone to Marseille for the season, and I hope will continue development there. While not a transfer out, it is worth nothing that one of our main keepers, Robert Green has retired from professional football and is looking to begin his coaching career by becoming the Head Coach of our U18s. On the topic of sales, we have sold several players that either played bit-parts last season, or who I determined would be unable to play at the level required. Those are striker Chris Wood, midfielders Toumani Diagouraga, Luke Murphy, and Eunan O'Kane, and also the youngster Lee Erwin.
League Game 1 - 8/6/17
We Had Liverpool for our first game of the season. This would be our first test in-league against a top 5 team. We had of course nearly beaten Manchester City in the semi-final of the FA Cup only a few months ago, but this was different. Our starting 11 would include the new signings Aron Johannsson and Leroy Fer, along with the wingers Jack Barnby and Stuart Dallas, Midfielders Alex Mowatt and captain Liam Bridcutt, and defenders Enric Saborit, Pontus Jansson, Luke Ayling, and the returned-from-loan Giuseppe Bellusci. Our bench would include our future keeper Bradley Peacock-Farrell, defenders Liam Cooper and Dedrick Boyata, midfielder Raphael Guzzo, and attackers Kemar Roofe, Hadi Sacko, and Joel Pohjanpalo.
We lost pretty decisively. The stats make the game out to be rather even, but only 2 of our shots were on target, and all of them were from long range. We had no chances to break, which is typically how we score at least one goal against the bigger teams. Liverpool were simply the better team and it showed as they outclassed us in every part of the pitch.
League Game 2 - 8/12/17
I had higher hopes for this game than I did against Liverpool, as we had already proven ourselves against this same team in the FA Cup last season. Of course, I thought it was odd that Riyad Mahrez was playing on the left, instead of the right. Our Starting 11 remains the same, and the only change on the bench is Diego Poyet coming in for Liam Cooper.
We were absolutely stunning in this game. Ignore the fact that we won with a 90th minute goal, and look at the fact that not only did we control possession in the game, but we also limited the champions of 2 seasons ago to 5 total shots. That is absolutely incredible. It was an incredible game that we absolutely deserved to win. We will have to deal with the discipline problem, otherwise it could hurt us moving forward, and it is irrelevant as we basque in the glory of this victory.
We can move forward off of this win and hopefully get on an early season bit of good form. We do play several top 5 teams in rapid succession in a few games, and sandwiched between that is an EFL Cup second round game against Burton Albion. It will be difficult, but I believe that we have the quality to stay in the Prem this season, which is definitely our objective.
FM fanatic and football pundit