I was going to do part 2 straight after part 1 yesterday but didn't quite get around to it. Here goes this morning's summer update...
Ebere Eze 69
SUMMER 2022 PART TWO
Leeds United 3-0
Brighton & Hove Albion
Kalvin Phillips 72
Alfie McCalmont 86
Rather bizarrely, this is the second season in a row that we've played Brighton at home on the opening day. Most of our business in the summer involved signing backup players and young prospects and with Odsonne Edouard not fully fit yet, Yan Valery was our only debutant in the starting XI. We also face an early start with our first game falling in July, with the English football calendar being re-jigged to accomodate the winter World Cup in Qatar. We went one better on last season's opener and got three goals this time, in a game we dominated from start to finish. We absolutely played them off the park and they couldn't get near us. Alfie McCalmont scored goal of the month with an incredible first time strike into the top corner from 25 yards to wrap up the three points for us. A great start.
AFC Bournemouth 1-0
Dominic Solanke 32
Despite dominating the first half an hour, we fell behind to a goal on the counter which to be fair to Dominic Solanke, was taken beautifully. From that point, Bournemouth grew into the game and as they started to sit off again towards the end, the chances we were creating were no more than half chances. A missed opportunity, this one, a game that could've ended so differently if we'd not insisted on making it so hard for ourselves.
Razvan Marin 9
Leeds United 3-0
Carles Perez 35
Carles Perez 61
Having battered their rivals from Sussex (don't ask how a team just north of Brighton became 'local rivals' with a team from Croydon), we were due to face newcomers- or if we're being pedantic, instant returners- Crystal Palace at Elland Road. We battered these 3-0 as well, dominating for the whole 90 and coming away with a result that didn't flatter us in the slightest. Carles Perez seems to enjoy a goal against the Eagles, having scored four in the three games he's played against them since he signed for us.
Sheffield United 1-2
Alfie McCalmont 49
Kostas Tsimikas 55
Jesse Lingard 61
A week on from our hammering of Palace, we were to face another promotee in a trip to Bramall Lane, to face Ralph Hasenhuttl's Sheffield United. It's a game we completely dominated and the final score did flatter the hosts quite a bit. We were in full control of the game with another strike from outside the box from McCalmont and a beautifully worked team goal resulting a fierce volley from Tsimikas. But we got sloppy and midway through the second half, we gave away possession quite cheaply, allowing burgeoning young talent Jesse Lingard a run on goal to slot it past ex-Blades keeper Zack Steffen. They didn't trouble us after that and we had learned our lesson, but we didn't create an awful lot after that.
Jake Cain off 57
Tranmere Rovers 0-1
Carabao Cup Third Round
Ebere Eze 84
I'm not too concerned that we only won this by one. We were never in danger of losing the tie and my starting XI consisted mostly of players that needed match fitness. It took the introducton of Eze- the red card only made Tranmere go more compact- to finally break the deadlock and put us into the next round. We got what we came for without being humiliated.
Odsonne Edouard 11
Leeds United 2-3
Razvan Marin 22
Ousama Idrissi 20
Lois Openda 29
Josh Brownhill 38
The first result of the season that's genuinely annoyed me (you'l find out why Bournemouth didn't bother me too much shortly). We absolutely dominated this game and it wasn't as if we didn't take chances- although admittedly 21 shots with 10 on target should've been enough to score three or more- but our defence just didn't do its job. All I ask of our defence in each game is to push up and deal with any breaks, reduce them to sighters. Nacho and Phillips were hooked off before half-time, with their passive displays really not helping us keep Burnley at bay and we've been punished for it.
You know how I said the Bournemouth defeat didn't bother me too much? JUST LOOK HOW THEY'VE STARTED.
They have the best defensive record so far and only we have scored more than them and they've also battered Arsenal 4-1. I expect they'll fall away eventually but we've just fallen victim to a deceptively incredible start from the Cherries. As for us, I'll take being surprise top scorers at this point and we're definitely up the right end of the table. It's a solid start that's given us a platform to push on and challenge for top four again.
PLAYER OF THE MONTH
There were questions asked when we paid just shy of £30m for Valery but he's proving to be worth every penny so far. We needed a right-back that can contribute at the other end and he's nailing it so far, chipping in with two assists, 10 key passes and a 90% pass completion rate. He's also made an incredible contribution at the back with an impressive 23 successful tackles of the 24 he's attempted so far. He's made a fantastic start in a position where quality can be difficult to quantify, but long may it continue.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE PREVIEW
We've probably been handed one of the hardest possible groups for our first Champions League campaign in 22 years. I'd say we have the hardest group for all-round quality of the other three teams compared to ours, but the group of death is going on in group B, which has seen Liverpool, Dortmund, Ajax and Monaco all drawn together. Let's meet our fellow Group F-ers:
- Arguably the toughest team of the group, Barcelona come into this as Spanish champions. Lionel Messi still hasn't decided he's had enough yet and is still there, dspite fading away a bit over the past couple of years. We need to be more concerned about their wide pairing of Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, we're in for a rough couple of nights against these.
- The latest pet project of Jose Mourinho, Napoli had an impressive season last year finishing 2nd in Serie A. As usual, Juventus stole the headlines by finishing on 95 points, but Napoli were the next best side on 83. They've got a potent front four in their 4-2-3-1 set-up, with Lorenzo Insigne, Mikel Oyarzabal and Ricardo Esgaio being the three behind striker M'Baye Niang. Other notable players in the side include Luke Shaw at left-back, signed from Man Utd for £11.5m in the summer after a loan spell last season.
- "Give me a B..." Mostly unassuming most years, Gladbach did well for themselves last year, finishing 2nd in the Bundesliga and making the final of the inaugural Europa League II, losing out to Leicester City. They're probably the team that I fancy us against most in this group, with no stand-out world class players, although these tend to be the teams we slip up against so we'll have to be on our guard.
In summary, I think we'll be lucky to make the knockout stages, but if we were to miss out, I'll accept nothing less than third place which will at least give us a stab at the Europa League.
That's all from me for now. I'm weighing up whether or not to do a Christmas update or if I should do it earlier, given how many fixtures we've got between now and then.