Scott Parker has enjoyed a shrewd summer of transfer activity as he looks to re-establish Bournemouth back in the Premier League, taking a scalpel rather than a sledgehammer to the market.
The Cherries marked their return to the top flight with a convincing 2-0 win over Aston Villa in their opening game, with unlikely goalscorer Jefferson Lerma breaking the deadlock before the towering Kieffer Moore confirmed the three points with a bullet header.
There was a familiar feel to Bournemouth’s starting XI as only one summer recruit got on the team sheet in Marcus Tavernier, but that will likely change this weekend as Parker recently drafted in two exceptionally solid players from the Eredivisie and La Liga.
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Brazilian shot-stopper Neto has relocated from Barcelona to the South Coast on a free transfer while highly-regarded Argentine centre-back Marcos Senesi has also made the journey to Dean Court, in a move that few would have anticipated before the summer market opened.
A modern, progressive centre-back in every sense, Senesi’s form for previous club Feyenoord was such that Lionel Scaloni recognised his talents and handed him his first senior cap for Argentina back in June, while he was also a part of the Albiceleste squad that won June’s Finalissima against Italy.
It’s certainly not a bad time to force your way into the international reckoning, the year of a World Cup, and now Senesi will be aiming to push on in the Premier League and ensure that those national caps start to multiply before 2022 fizzles out.
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A competent ball-player, Senesi isn’t afraid to get stuck in and put his body on the line; no centre-back has registered more tackles than his 139 across the previous two Eredivisie seasons combined (excluding 2022/23). He also ranks second for ball recoveries (521), third for interceptions (134) and fourth for final third entries (544), outscoring the likes of Manchester United new boy and former Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez for the latter (his compatriot ranked sixth with 498 final third entries).
Arguably Senesi’s biggest quality is that he is left-footed, a highly-coveted attribute in modern football as managers continue to move further away from a more direct style of play and embrace the prevailing trend of possession-based football.
It is a laudable approach from Parker, who has refused to conform to the stereotype of recent newly-promoted clubs by throwing the kitchen sink at the transfer market (perhaps he acknowledged the mistakes of his Fulham predecessor?). Instead, he’s brought in some savvy recruits who will drastically improve his side, not least Tavernier and Joe Rothwell on a free transfer from Blackburn.
But, Senesi could prove the best of the bunch. And if his form continues, Scaloni may not be able to ignore him either.
The 2022 World Cup group stages are 100 days away. So what are our early predictions?
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- Predicted Group A winner: Netherlands have won all three of their group games in each of the last two World Cup finals they have qualified for in 2010 and 2014.
- Predicted Group B winner: England scored more goals than any other European side in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup (39), whilst only Switzerland (2) conceded fewer goals than the Three Lions (3).
- Predicted Group C winner: Argentina have now gone 33 games unbeaten since losing to Brazil in July 2019 (22 wins, 11 draws).
- Predicted Group D winner: To give you an idea of France’s firepower, take a look at the list of players with the most goals and assists combined in Europe’s top five leagues since the start of last season. Kylian Mbappe (45), Karim Benzema (39),Robert Lewandowski (38), Mohamed Salah (37), Christopher Nkunku (34), Erling Haaland (31).
- Predicted Group E winner: Spain are unbeaten in their last four games against Group E rivals Germany, including a 6-0 win in the Nations League in November 2020 (and they’ve never lost to Japan or Costa Rica).
- Predicted Group F winner: Belgium have lost just one of their 12 World Cup group games since 1998, a 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Brazil in 2002. They scored more goals than any other side during the group stages at the 2018 World Cup (9), winning all three of their matches, including a 2-0 win over England.
- Predicted Group G winner: Brazil – Since the World Cup format changed in 1986, Brazil have only ever lost one of their 27 group stage games (a 2-1 defeat to Norway in 1998 after they had already qualified as group winners).
- Predicted Group H winner: Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo is looking to become the first ever player to score at five different World Cup tournaments and all seven of his World Cup goals have come in the group stages.