Santi Cazorla

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La Liga roundup: Cazorla strikes, Villarreal hurt Real Sociedad with comeback win (video)

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Villarreal’s come-from-behind victory in San Sebastian highlights La Liga’s Sunday action.

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Real Sociedad 1-2 Villarreal

Santi Cazorla in the magician, the journeyman that keeps on giving.

The 35-year-old and longtime Villarreal midfielder Manu Trigueros both netted goals in the second half, as The Yellow Submarine pulled off a 2-1 victory over thriving Real Sociedad at Anoeta.

Sociedad, who remain fifth on the table despite the loss, edged the visitors in possession and passes completed, evident in their first goal scored by Willian Jose. The Brazilian culminated a sequence – with lots of quick passes and possession from the home side – with a simple touch inside the box.

Despite the dominance, Sociedad were unable to create abundant chances – a flaw that would, ultimately cost them the game.

Villarreal’s fortunes changed in the second half, as Cazorla and ex-Liverpool fullback Alberto Moreno took he field in the 60th minute.

The Spanish duo reinforced a side that was heavily leaning on Nigerian winger Samuel Chukwueze for answers. The 20-year-old was a standout for 82 minutes, leading the team in dribbles and most key passes completed.

Towards the latter stages of the second half, Chukwueze earned a penalty after a dangerous run inside the box, leading to Cazorla’s goal from 12 yards out in the 72nd minute.

Villarreal, who travel to Orihuela for a Copa Del Rey fixture on January 11, moved to ninth after the win with 28 points after 19 matches. Sociedad, on the other hand, look to bounce back as they take on AD Cueta in the same tournament on January 12.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Granada 1-0 RCD Mallorca

Alaves 1-1 Real Betis 

Celta Vigo 1-1 Osasuna

PST writers pick their Premier League Team of the Decade

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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.”

(Photo by Kieran Galvin/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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:

(Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

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

Edwards: Sergio Aguero


MANAGER OF THE DECADE

(Photo by Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

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

Edwards: Pep Guardiola


TRANSFER OF THE DECADE

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

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, 2017 and Cheick 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.”

Soria: Papiss Cisse v. Chelsea; May 2, 2012

La Liga: Sevilla squeaks by Levante, La Real back to winning ways

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Real Sociedad put its two-game losing streak to bed and remained in the mix at the top of the La Liga table, turning around an early 1-0 deficit and winning 3-1 at home over Real Betis.

Lorenzo Moron scored 12 minutes in for the visitors, but a Javi Garcia own-goal leveled the score while Willian Jose and Portu sealed the three points. Martin Odegaard was fantastic again for La Real, constantly proving a threat in the buildup. Man of the Match, however, was Mikel Merino who was active in the midfield and popped up occasionally in the attacking third. The win pushes La Real up to fourth in the table, two points behind second-placed Real Madrid and three back of leaders Barcelona.

Sevilla was held for 86 minutes at home by Levante, but Luuk De Jong gave the hosts all three points as he rose high above Erick Cabaco to head home Jesus Navas’s cross from deep. Sevilla held over 60% possession throughout the match and racked up nine corners to Levante’s one, but didn’t create much in front of net until the final 15 minutes. Chicharito and De Jong both missed within two minutes of each other, and the latter eventually converted to push Sevilla to sixth in the La Liga table.

Alaves picked up a big three points over Celta Vigo with a 2-0 home win on second half goals from Lisandro Magallan and Lucas Perez. The visitors managed just two shots on target and had just one clear cut chance that Santi Mina failed to put on frame seconds out of halftime. Former Newcastle striker Joselu had a bad miss past the half-hour mark but proved a threat for much of the match, ripping off six shots on his own. Alaves also picked up five yellow cards in the match, but ultimately jumped out of the relegation zone and past Celta Vigo into 14th.

Villareal moved to seventh in the table with a 1-0 road victory at Espanyol. Cameroon international Karl Toko Ekambi scored his third goal of the season in the 17th minute and the visiting defense spoiled the Espanyol attack all game long. The hosts put forth 18 shots but managed to get just three of them on target. Santi Cazorla has been stellar all season for Villareal, and he went the full 90 minutes again, not adding much up front but proving a menace in midfield.

Athletic Club drew 1-1 with Real Valladolid as Inaki Williams put Athletic up just after the half-hour mark, but an Inigo Martinez own-goal pegged them back with 20 minutes to go. Athletic popped off 17 shots to Real Valladolid’s seven but Jordi Masip made six saves in net for Real Valladolid to spoil the home side’s day, leaving Athletic in eighth with 13 points.

Spain squad short on players from Real Madrid, Barcelona

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Is it a sign of the times, or an injury crisis?

Spain National Team coach Robert Moreno announced his 24-man squad ahead of Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Norway and Sweden during this month’s international fixture dates, and it was notable more for what wasn’t there than what was.

[READ: Top Premier League Storylines]

From the big three in Spain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid, only four total players earned a call-up this month. Sergio Ramos and Dani Carvajal from Real Madrid, Sergio Busquets from Barcelona, and Saul from Atletico Madrid.

Meanwhile, Villarreal alone had four players called up to La Roja, including former Arsenal and Premier League star midfielder Santi Cazorla. The veteran midfielder is having another strong season so far despite being 34-years old. According to Moreno, the makeup of this squad is more of a sign of the times.

“It is a reflection of current football…historically the big teams have been backed by seven or eight players from a great team, such as Bayern or Ajax,” Moreno told reporters, via Spanish publication Sport. “But now there are not many national players in the teams. In this squad, Villarreal is the one who contributes the most, but it is the one that has more Spaniards apart from Athletic (Bilbao). As a coach I would love to have nine of the same team because I already know they would know, but it is not that moment now. Neither Barça nor Madrid have many Spaniards unless they are holders. That makes our work difficult.”

One thing is clear. There are some injuries, as well as technical decisions that have kept players from the Big Three out of this squad. From Real Madrid, there’s no Isco, Marco Asensio, or Nacho. For Atletico Madrid, Diego Costa, Koke, Alvaro Morata are all out, while for Barcelona, there’s no place this month for Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto.

However, we’re no doubt a long way from a decade ago, when Barcelona and Real Madrid made up the bulk of the starting lineup. The 2010 World Cup winning squad included 12 players from Real Madrid and Barcelona alone. Barcelona had the likes of Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, while Real Madrid had Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, and Xabi Alonso.

If you look at both clubs, with the exception of Pique and Ramos – who are both still there – each of these players has been replaced at their club by a foreign-born player. Both clubs’ desire to bring in the best, already developed talent, has taken their gaze abroad.

Real Madrid’s goalkeeper is a Belgian international while their holding midfielder is a Brazilian. For Barcelona, they had just three Spanish nationals in their lineup for the 2-1 win over Inter in the UEFA Champions League. Xavi and Inesta have been replaced by Artur (Brazil) and now Frankie de Jong (Netherlands), while all three forward positions are foreign-born.

Ultimately, until Real Madrid and Barcelona either provide young Spanish players more chances to play, or commit to buying the best young players in the league and developing them – like Real Madrid did for Sergio Ramos after buying him from Sevilla – this trend of Spanish National Team players playing for other clubs than the Big Three will continue.

Report: Granit Xhaka named permanent Arsenal captain

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According to a report by David Ornstein of the BBC, Arsenal coach Unai Emery has named midfielder Granit Xhaka as permanent captain, a position that had been vacant since Laurent Koscielny‘s departure this summer.

The Frenchman had held the position since early 2016 when handed the armband by Arsene Wenger with Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta both in the twilight of their Arsenal careers.

Emery has notably dragged out deciding on who to name as permanent captain despite handing Xhaka the armband in six of their eight matches to this point. Nacho Monreal and Mesut Ozil have also both served as captain once, both coming with Xhaka out of the lineup, although Monreal has since departed the club. Ornstein reports that a vice-captain has not yet been chosen, with strikers Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette both in consideration.

Xhaka, who turns 27 years old today, is considered to be a contentious choice by Emery given his up and down performances for the club since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2016. His first season was dreadful, with the midfielder twice sent off in his first season of Premier League play. He had raised his level of performance since, proving an important piece of the puzzle last season, but early this season his performances have again dipped, with Gunner fans voicing their displeasure on his withdrawal on 72 minutes in the narrow win over Aston Villa.

Defender Rob Holding confirmed after the Villa win that Emery has presented a group of five players to the rest of the squad to be voted on. “He likes his five captains,” Holding said. “We all did a vote the other week so we’ll see what happens and see who gets named. It was just a case of writing names down and then giving them to the manager and he will go through them – obviously with his input – and we’ll see what happens.”

Holding called it a “good environment” with a lot of players able to “get more input.” He also pointed out David Luiz as someone who has taken up a sort of leadership role.