Quique Setien was unveiled as new Barcelona manager on Tuesday, and should you believe his first words as boss, the “emotional” 61-year-old was preparing himself to wake up from this dream.
“Yesterday, I was walking around my hometown past the cows, and now I’m here at Barcelona managing the best players in the world,” Setien said when asked about his new job.
“Not even in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this. I am a person who is emotional about things, and I am very excited and happy to be here.”
It’s real. Barcelona plucked the Santander-born former Spanish international from Real Betis after the clunky dismissal of Ernesto Valverde. The club sits top of the La Liga table and is in good Champions League standing, but still wanted more from Valverde. After publicly courting Xavi, Ronald Koeman, and Mauricio Pochettino, Barcelona eventually settled on Setien.
“I want to thank Ernesto Valverde for leaving me with a side that is top of the league,” Setien said. “My objective is to win everything! Everything you can win, this club has no other path to follow.”
If anyone knows where Barcelona can improve, it’s Setien, who is the last manager to beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou, with victory coming back in November of 2018.
“Every time a new manager comes in, there is a stimulus for everyone inside the dressing room,” Setien said of his arrival. “You notice it immediately. This stimulus that we saw in the session today, we need to maintain that and I have never met a coach who is the same. Many people say ‘this coach is exactly the same’, but the reality is we are all very different. I am very clear as to what Barca needs. I’ve seen this from outside, we’ve watched them and analyzed them. There are a lot of things we are very clear about and we will try to transmit that. These are just words, though, and we want things that are long-lasting.”
Setien no doubt has his work cut out for him. Barcelona looked flawed in the final few months of Valverde’s tenure, and whether that’s the former boss’s fault or not is up for debate, the issues with the squad are clear as day. While Lionel Messi remains as electric as ever at 32 years old, the longtime backbone of Barcelona is fading, with Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique both clearly in decline. Frenkie de Jong is holding down the midfield in his first season with the club, but Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal have struggled with form at times this year.
Barcelona is atop the La Liga table, but Real Madrid is level on points. The there is still the full Champions League knockout stage and the entire Copa de Rey to navigate. The 3-2 Supercopa loss to Atletico Madrid was a harsh final straw for Valverde, but the club has moved on to pastures anew, and now Setien leaves his hometown cows behind to take one of the biggest jobs in the world.
The third round of the FA Cup is underway, with Aston Villa being the only Premier League team to lose on Saturday. But Sunday’s action promises for quality entertainment and more possible upsets as six top-tier sides enter the tournament.
Carlo Ancelotti and Everton travel down the road to Anfield as the Merseyside Derby headlines the oldest knockout competition in world’s Sunday action. Earlier this season, in Champions League group stage play, Jurgen Klopp and Ancelotti went head-on, with Napoli – the Italian manager’s team at the time – taking the two-match series with a victory and draw. In early December, Liverpool thumped the Toffees 5-2 at Anfield.
Meanwhile, a recovering Chelsea host a thriving Nottingham Forest, while Wayne Rooney and Derby County visit Crystal Palace. Tottenham commences their post-Mauricio Pochettino FA Cup journey as they travel to Middlesbrough, who are coming off a four-game winning streak in the Championship.
Who will win bragging rights in Liverpool? Will Jose Mourinho double down for FA Cup glory?
Below is Sunday’s full schedule of the FA Cup’s third round bouts.
Sunday’s FA Cup third round schedule
9:01 a.m. ET: Charlton v West Brom
9:01 a.m. ET: Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
9:01 a.m. ET: Middlesbrough v Tottenham
9:01 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace v Derby County
9:01 a.m. ET: QPR v Swansea
9:01 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v AFC Fylde
9:01 a.m. ET: Crewe v Barnsley
9:01 a.m. ET: Bristol Rovers v Coventry
9:01 a.m. ET: Burton Albion v Northampton
11:01 a.m. ET: Liverpool v Everton
1:16 p.m. ET: Gillingham v West Ham
With the 2010’s nearly behind us, the last 10 years of Premier League action have been euphoric.
Stunning goals, great players, jaw-dropping moments, trophies lifted, and millions spent. It’s nearly impossible to recap all the action appropriately, but it is necessary to recognize the absolute best of the best. So, the ProSoccerTalk writers have selected their favorite moments, players, and managers to mark the end of the decade and usher in a new 10 years sure to be filled with new memories to be made.
Without further ado, our Of The Decade awards.
TEAM OF THE DECADE:
Joe Prince-Wright: De Gea; Zabaleta, Van Dijk, Kompany, Azpilicueta; Kante, David Silva, Hazard; Aguero, Kane, Mane
“De Gea has been the best goalkeeper over the decade, while Zabaleta and Azpilicueta are as reliable and dependable as they come. Kompany is a Man City legend, and Van Dijk will be one at Liverpool. In midfield I’m going with Kante, Hazard and David Silva for a little bit of balance, and in attack I have Mane (he just beat out Sterling and Salah) with Kane and Aguero. Don’t @ me.”
Kyle Bonn: De Gea; Walker, Van Dijk, Kompany, Azpilicueta; Kante, Yaya Toure; de Bruyne, Hazard, David Silva; Aguero.
“David De Gea has slipped over the last two years, but the incredibly high bar he set has partly contributed to why many have a somewhat negative opinion of his recent play, and he deserves to be the top goalkeeper for the consistency he showed for nearly half the decade. Yaya Toure was a pioneer at his position and won three Premier League titles, displaying excellent tenacity and discipline. Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Sergio Aguero represent Manchester City’s true stranglehold on this decade, while Eden Hazard leaves a legacy behind after leaving for La Liga. Leaving Harry Kane off was difficult, but his impact on the league was trumped by Aguero, and having two pure strikers on the squad seemed unfair to other more influential players at other positions.”
Nicholas Mendola: Cech; Kompany, Van Dijk, Azpilicueta; Toure, Kante, Silva, Bruyne; Hazard, Aguero, Kane.
“Petr Cech won with two teams while drumming on the side and preparing to be a semi-pro ice hockey goalie. Kompany, Toure, and Silva were the lynch pins of the decade’s best teams, while Kane spurred Spurs to relatively new heights. N’Golo Kante won titles in back-to-back years with different teams, and Cesar Azpilicueta somehow feels like he creeps into this list while also totally deserving his place.”
Daniel Karell: de Gea; Azpilicueta, van Dijk, Kompany, Robertson; Kante, D. Silva; de Bruyne, Hazard, Salah; Aguero.
“Imagine this team in action? My goodness. I know Salah’s impact has only been felt recently, but he has just been so good, and in some ways he’s getting better. Virgil Van Dijk is the standout though, just in how he’s single-handedly taken Liverpool to the next level.”
Joel Soria: Cech; Evra, Terry, Kompany, Walker; Kante, Gerrard, D Silva, Yaya Toure; Rooney; Aguero.
Andy Edwards:De Gea; Zabaleta, Kompany, Van Dijk, Azpilicueta; Yaya Toure, Kante, Silva, Hazard; Kane, Aguero.
PLAYER OF THE DECADE:
JPW: Eden Hazard – “One of the greatest players in Premier League history and won two league titles with Chelsea in the last decade and he was influential in both. When he ticked so did Chelsea and no other top six team relied so heavily on just one player. Hazard was untouchable when he was at his best.”
Bonn:Sergio Aguero – “Nobody in the league over the past decade has been at Aguero’s level for the same length of time. Full stop. The Argentine has logged at least 2,000 minutes in five of his eight full seasons in the league, falling less than 100 minutes short of the mark in another two. He has reached the 20-goal mark in six of his eight seasons and looks well on his way to that total this campaign despite dealing with injuries and heavy competition from Gabriel Jesus. With 174 goals since joining Manchester City, nobody comes close to his impact on the league.”
Mendola: David Silva – “Just twice in the PFA Team of the Year, I’ll make amends by giving this overlooked wonder his decade’s due. Arriving in 2010, he has 74 goals and 136 assists in 415 matches for Man City. For the decade, he’s posted 102 league assists and 57 goals. The gentleman’s only been carded 40 times in almost 32,000 minutes in Man City blue, and his trophy case for decade includes four PL titles, four League Cups, two FA Cups, a World Cup and a EURO.”
Karell: Virgil Van Dijk – “The signing of Van Dijk has been worth every penny for Liverpool. He’s one of the main reasons the club has improved so much – remember, just a few years ago Liverpool kept finishing in 7th and having to play in the Europa League – and Liverpool is on pace to set records this season and win the club’s first Premier League title.”
Soria: Sergio Aguero
MANAGER OF THE DECADE
JPW: Pep Guardiola – “Back-to-back Premier League titles with 100 points and 98 points on the board, and all the time his Man City are probably the best we’ve ever seen in terms of entertainment in PL and Football League history. They said he could never bring his style of play to England and dominate. Pep proved everyone wrong and to date has won five trophies domestically in three-and-a-half seasons.”
Bonn: Pep Guardiola – “Others have won as much as Pep Guardiola this decade, but nobody has had the influence on the game he has. His transformation of that squad into a perennially dominating side is nothing short of legendary. Jurgen Klopp has reached these heights, but his influence comes towards the end of the time period, leaving the German a cruel second in this category.”
Mendola:Pep Guardiola – “The Spaniard authored the best season in Premier League history and has won two titles in three tries, and the age of managerial tumult means it’s hard to put anyone ahead of him. Alex Ferguson also won two PL crowns and is a close second, while third and fourth would be a toss-up. Jurgen Klopp has done well, for sure, but hasn’t claimed a crown (and won’t inside this decade). Jose Mourinho’s in the discussion but he’s only won one PL and the Europa League. Claudio Ranieri deserves a shout, as does Mauricio Pochettino to round out our Top Six. Steve Bruce finishes just ahead of Arsene Wenger to round out our Top Eight (There’s a joke there somewhere, and it’s on me).”
Karell: Pep Guardiola – “Guardiola may be struggling a bit this season but what he’s done for both Man City and the Premier League is nothing short of sensational. It now feels like a disappointment when Man City “only” wins, 1-0 or 2-0, as Guardiola has created a juggernaut that usually scores for fun and runs up the score on a regular basis.”
Soria: Pep Guardiola
TRANSFER OF THE DECADE
JPW:N’Golo Kante (Caen to Leicester City, $9 million; Aug 3, 2015) – “Has become one of the best central midfielders in the world and only cost Leicester $9 million back in the summer of 2015 and was instrumental in their amazing title win. Kante has since moved to Chelsea and won the title there and the World Cup with France in 2018. Hard to see past this deal for value and how important he was in one of the greatest stories sports has ever seen.”
Bonn: Virgil van Dijk (Southampton to Liverpool, $95 million; Jan 1, 2018) – “Nobody has singlehandedly transformed a team from good to great like Virgil van Dijk has done with Liverpool. The Dutchman has been a model of consistency, durability, and rock-solid perseverance than van Dijk. Liverpool may be on the verge of a level of domination not yet seen in the English top flight, and none of it would be possible without the defender. The price tag was high, but he was worth every penny.”
Mendola:N’Golo Kante (Caen to Leicester City, $9 million; Aug 3, 2015) – “Transfermarkt says the now World Cup and 2x Premier League winner is worth 10 times that, as he won the league with Leicester and was instantly snared by Chelsea. Honorable mention to Sergio Aguero, Man City from Atletico Madrid, 7/28/11 – The Argentine carried a price tag of $46 million, huge at the time, but 244 goals and 71 assists later… yeah. Also a nod to Jamie Vardy, but Leicester City wasn’t in the Premier League when he was purchased from Fleetwood Town.”
Soria: Luis Suarez (Ajax to Liverpool, $30 million; Jan 31, 2011)
Edwards:N’Golo Kante (Caen to Leicester City, $9 million; Aug 3, 2015)
GOAL OF THE DECADE
JPW:Olivier Giroud v. Crystal Palace; Jan 1, 2017 – “If we are just talking about one goal and the difficulty and outrageous nature of it, leaving out factors like importance for trophies etc., then I’m going with Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick for Arsenal against Crystal Palace. It defied belief and nobody has ever tried to recreate it. Emre Can’s bike was pretty special too.”
Bonn:Wayne Rooney v. Man City; Feb 12, 2011 – “The most spectacular goal scored this decade was none other than Wayne Rooney’s unbelievable bicycle kick in a derby atmosphere. The skill it took to not only meet the cross perpendicularly but also find the top corner from that far out…unmatched by any other moment.”
Mendola: Wayne Rooney v. West Ham; Dec 3, 2017andCheick Tiote vs. Arsenal; May 2, 2011 – “I’ve got two, including one from Wayne Rooney that didn’t come via overhead kick in Manchester United red. It came on his return to Everton, when he finished off a hat trick against West Ham United by smoking an absolute missile from inside his own half, one time. An emotional nod, and my 1B goal of the 10s is when the late Cheick Tiote scored the only goal of his 156-match career with Newcastle. It was a beauty. Of course Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney have authored better, but his 87th minute goal to lead Newcastle back from a 4-0 deficit in a 4-4 draw versus Arsenal was the stuff that makes football worth the down times.”
Karell: Jack Wilshere v. Norwich; Oct 19, 2013 – “If you grew up watching Arsenal under Wenger, but had seen the team really struggle to live up to the Invincibles from a decade earlier, this absolute flash of brilliance would bring tears to your eyes. Wilshere combines with Santi Cazorla before a wonderful one-touch sequence Olivier Giroud, with both players using the outside of their boots to perfection. Norwich was hoodwinked and Wilshere scored arguably the most Arsene Wenger goal you could draw up. Deft passing in a tight area and a perfect one-touch finish.”
Based on the opening half of the 2019-20 campaign, which teams have impressed? Who should be doing better?
Below we give grades on all 20 teams and evaluate their first half of the season.
Arsenal: F Unai Emery was fired, defensively they are all over the place and Arsenal currently sit closer to the bottom three than the top four. A terrible season so far and former captain Mikel Arteta has a huge job on his hands to make them competitive again. The only saving grace is that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continues to bang in the goals. Aside from that, shambles.
Aston Villa: D-
A decent enough start as Dean Smith‘s side showed plenty of promise after big spending in the summer but things have unraveled very quickly. Jack Grealish is doing his best but Wesley has struggled and defensively they are weak. A relegation battle beckons for Villa, and that was not expected. Smith is on borrowed time.
Bournemouth: D Eddie Howe‘s side are in their toughest stretch since being promoted in 2015 and aside from their defensive injuries, the biggest concern is that they no longer seem capable of scoring at least two goals every game. The Cherries are slumping and it may be tough for them to turn this around. Losing Brooks to injury was a huge blow, while Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser have gone off the boil.
Brighton and Hove Albion: B+ Graham Potter has had a huge impact. Brighton have gone from being one of the worst teams in the PL to watch to one of the best. Trossard and Maupay have been big attacking additions and the Seagulls should be clear of the relegation scrap. A brave hire in Potter has paid off, as he’s already signed a new deal at the Amex.
Typically Burnley. Tough to play against, grinding out wins at home and they’ve gone back to being solid defensively. Chris Wood, Jay Rodriguez and Ashley Barnes give them extra firepower and the Clarets should be battling for a top 10 finish.
A proper Jekyll and Hyde season for the Blues who have lost at home against some very poor teams but won at Spurs, Arsenal and have pushed the big boys all the way. Frank Lampard has kept faith in the youngsters with Abraham, Mount and Tomori ever present, while Pulisic is coming in to his own. A UCL last 16 berth was a huge bonus and sitting in the top four at midway is much better than many expected. They now have the added bonus of being able to buy new players in January.
Crystal Palace: B+ Roy Hodgson continues to work miracles with a banged up squad and the fact WilfriedZaha is finally refocused (close to the January transfer window…) has pushed them away from the bottom three. Palace need to spend some money in January to help them stay midtable, while Gary Cahill has been the bargain of the season so far as a free agent.
Everton: C- Marco Silva was a disaster and had he stayed, the Toffees were likely going down. Duncan Ferguson galvanized the squad as interim boss and made them hard to beat, while Carlo Ancelotti has arrived to add his experience. Big names players will arrive in January and the summer. Things are looking up for Everton who have too much quality to go down.
Leicester City: A+
Pretty much the perfect season so far as Brendan Rodgers side have a 9-0 win on the board, Jamie Vardy is in the form of his life and the Foxes sit second in the table and are looking good for a top four finish with a young, talented squad also in the League Cup semifinals. Their title hopes are done and dusted but a top four finish would be a superb return, especially after selling Harry Maguire in the summer.
Talking of perfect seasons… Liverpool could legitimately go the entire campaign unbeaten and even though they probably played better last season they are grinding out wins this season. Jurgen Klopp‘s side have that psychological edge over the rest of the PL and even though they have had some injuries to key players, they’ve dealt with it with ease. 17 wins from 18 games is incredible and Sadio Mane has been the star man for the newly-crowned World Club Cup champs. They will soon become the PL champs as their title procession has begun.
Manchester City: B-
Their inability to sign a new center back in the summer has come back to hit them hard. Kompany left and Aymeric Laporte‘s injury means that Fernandinho has had to play as a center back, and Otamendi and Stones just haven’t been good enough. Full back is also an issue and even though Kevin De Bruyne is firing on all cylinders and they look great in attack, City are back to the team they were in Pep Guardiola‘s first season in charge. They will soon go all-in on the Champions League.
Manchester United: B
Very similar to Chelsea as their young side have shown glimpses of brilliance but they’ve lost against Palace, West Ham, Newcastle, Watford and Bournemouth. Defensively they are still coughing up easy goals and David De Gea is having a poor season, by his high standards. That said, Rashford, Martial and James are looking very good as a trio, while Maguire and Wan-Bissaka have slotted in seamlessly. Finding the right balance in central midfield in the second half of the season will be key if they are going to finish in the top four, but wins against Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Leicester, plus their draw against Liverpool, prove they can mix it with the big boys. Finding consistency has to be their biggest aim for 2020.
Newcastle United: B+
Results wise it has been an amazing first half of the season for the Magpies and much-maligned boss Steve Bruce. They aren’t great to watch, at all, but Newcastle are almost closing in on the magic 40-point marker and are solid defensively. For now the natives at St James’ Park are on their side and Bruce has weathered the early storm. Miguel Almiron, Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton need to produce more goals and if they do, Newcastle can push for the top 10.
Norwich City: C
The Canaries are punching above their weight week in, week out. Daniel Farke is a very good coach and he’s getting the best out of his limited squad, while Teemu Pukki is getting the goals to keep them competitive. Todd Cantwell is a gem and Norwich have had to deal with lots of injuries defensively. The only major negative is that they have been playing really well and attacking teams but they are a little naive and have been punished in plenty of games. It will be a huge surprise if they stay up.
Sheffield United: A-
Another newly-promoted team who have been open and attacking but the Blades have the defensive stability to get results. Chris Wilder‘s side are pushing for a top six finish and have only lost once away from home, at Man City, in the opening half of the season. From their overlapping center backs to Mousset, McGoldrick and McBurnie up top, they have been a wonderful addition to the PL. Fleck, Lundstram and Norwood are all so underrated too. Basically you can praise this entire team as Wilder has done a wonderful job keeping their identity intact while adapting to the PL.
Probably where they should be at, just above the relegation zone. Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side have recovered well from the 9-0 hammering at home by Leicester and in Danny Ings they have a Matt Le Tissier-esque savior. Ings scores almost every game and in Moussa Djenepo they have another top attacking talent. Saints need defensive reinforcements in January and if they can add quality at the back they should kick on in the second half of the season and be clear of danger. That said, the ownership need to realize that a relegation scrap will be the outcome each season until they make more funds available to spend.
Tottenham Hotspur: C+
Where do we even start with Spurs? Mauricio Pochettino was fired after a terrible start to the league season as problems brewing with players not signing new deals and Daniel Levy over transfers carried over from the summer months. Step in, the Special One. Jose Mourinho has added a cutting edge to this Spurs side and he’s refocused them. Defensively they are shambolic and they miss captain Hugo Lloris. Mourinho’s main aim is a top four finish and to go on another deep run in the UCL.
The Hornets are on their third manager of the season and they’ve finally got going. Javi Gracia was fired quickly after a poor end to last season and a poor start this time around, then former boss Quique Sanchez Flores didn’t last long before Nigel Pearson arrived. Big wins against Man United and Aston Villa have followed and has them within touching distance of safety but it is still a tough road ahead. Troy Deeney‘s return to fitness is a boost and Watford believe now they can stay up with veteran goalkeeper Ben Foster in fine form.
West Ham United: F
The Hammers have hired David Moyes to replace the man who replaced him, Manuel Pellegrini. This will be very interesting. West Ham had a great start but have wavered badly and that has coincided with Lukasz Fabianski‘s injury. Now he is back and Moyes has returned they will be tougher to beat and Anderson, Haller, Antonio and Fornals have the quality to unlock opposition defenses. Still, a relegation battle is coming up and the Hammers ownership would have wanted a top six finish. They are underachieving massively.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: A-
Could they build on last season? Yep. They are probably better. Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore have improved in attack and Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side will be in the top four hunt this season. They are in the Europa League last 32 after a gruelling run of qualifiers and Thursday-Sunday action but their main focus will be on qualifying for the Champions League. They can take it to the top teams in the PL but how long can they keep going with a relatively small squad?
DOHA, Qatar — Fired by Tottenham despite reaching a Champions League final, Mauricio Pochettino said he is adapting to the growing instability of management as he relaxes, re-energizes and eyes a new club.
In his first interview since being replaced by Jose Mourinho last month, Pochettino reflected on the challenge to ensure Tottenham competed at the top of the Premier League for a sustained period for the first time.
“Five-and-a-half years, that was so, so, so tough,” Pochettino told The Associated Press on Saturday. “The journey was amazing. I don’t need to talk about what happened only that it was an honor for me to be at Tottenham.”
After top-four finishes in four consecutive seasons — and reaching June’s European final despite spending nothing on players last season — Pochettino was dismissed with Tottenham 14th in the Premier League.
It was a ruthless decision by Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy in a bid to halt the decline, reflecting how hard it is to stay as long as Pochettino in any managerial job. Unai Emery followed Pochettino out of north London rival Arsenal 10 days later.
“You need a result today, it’s not important what happened the past,” Pochettino said. “But for us and for the fans, of course, it is so important what happened in the past.
“But, yes, we need to accept that this is a different football, a different business, and we need to adapt today because young men, coaches that we need to adapt to a work for the company, need to accept that new era of football.”
The Argentine was speaking to the AP at the Club World Cup where he could have been coaching had Tottenham not lost to Liverpool in the Champions League final.
“Five-and-a-half years working in Tottenham was a very enjoyable time, a very nice journey and I only keep good memories,” Pochettino said. “I think what happened in the past, happened in the past and now moving on is the best for everyone. That is happening in life and happening in football.”
Reduced job security does open up opportunities for out-of-work coaches like Pochettino.
“We know very well how our job is,” Pochettino said. “In the last 10 years you see a little how it’s changed and … it’s unbelievable. But that is our job and we accept that.”
However much he has enjoyed returning to visit family and friends in Argentina, Pochettino does not want a prolonged period out of the game.
“I tried to enjoy relaxing, tried to recharge the batteries,” Pochettino said. “This type of thing helps us to again to feel all the energy. We’ll see what happens. I am a person that is always open to listen to people. And of course, we’ll see about the future.
“But at the moment, I only try to get relaxed, spend time with my friends, my family, the things that before were impossible to do. And we’ll see. Football is going to find a way to put us into the race again.” Pochettino would manage another English club, despite his deep affinity to Tottenham.
“In football you never know what can happen in the future. you need to be only free and open to listen and anything can happen,” Pochettino said. “I am a coach and I would love to be in in the best place that you can.
“Now is a moment to recharge the batteries. The Premier League is one of the best leagues in the world. But it’s not only the Premier League, there are a lot of leagues in the world that can be exciting or a very good challenge.”
One lingering uncertainty is whether Pochettino will get to keep the Bentley given to him by Levy as an appreciation of his loyalty to Tottenham in 2016.
“I don’t know. I need to ask him,” Pochettino said. “At the moment it is in my house and … I will see in a few months if it was a present or it was only to say, `You use the car and when you will not be here you return the car.’
“I don’t know you need to ask Daniel not me. I don’t know what is going to happen.”