Will Koeman’s Dutch bias cloud his time at Barcelona?

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Ronald Koeman at Barcelona.

The former Dutch international and Barca player has had to deal with the fall out from Lionel Messi wanting to leave, overseeing Messi’s best mate, Luis Suarez actually leaving, watching with interest to see how a vote of no confidence in the president who hired him was doing and all the while trying to get the Catalans playing well.

For the latter point, he couldn’t really have done any better. Continue reading

What next for Bartomeu and Barcelona after a successful vote of no confidence?

It’s taken a while to get through most of the votes cast in the first stage of the vote of no confidence relating to Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The validation of successful votes is almost concluded, and has already surpassed the threshold needed to trigger a referendum, which is stage two of any vote.

Theoretically at this point, Bartomeu could still remain as president, and it doesn’t look like he’ll resign anytime soon. Continue reading

Koeman silences the doubters but bigger tests await Barcelona

It was, perhaps, one of the most keenly awaited debuts in La Liga for many a year.

After such a disastrous end to their last campaign, the football family wanted to know how the ‘new’ Barcelona would fare under Ronald Koeman.

It’s fair to say that the team did everything asked of them by their coach, and then some. Continue reading

Winners and losers from Barcelona’s pre-season

The preparation is over and it’s time for things to get serious.

After everything that’s been said and done since the 8-2 hammering against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League, Barcelona have the chance to put it all behind them.

If they’re able to hit the ground running against Villarreal on Saturday, and Ronald Koeman can get everyone playing as they can, the Catalans won’t be too far off the pace for long. Continue reading

What would represent success for Barcelona in 2020/21?

Barcelona are still a week and a half away from the start of their La Liga campaign, thanks to their Champions League exploits.

Beginning their 2020/21 season behind everyone else will already put them at a slight disadvantage, but if Ronald Koeman can have his side firing from the get-go, then there’s no reason why they can’t close the gap quickly.

In any event, what would represent success for the Catalans this season? Continue reading

Ivan Rakitic leaves Barcelona with his head high

After the 8-2 humiliation against Bayern Munich, there were always going to be casualties, and not just on the coaching side.

The result was so cataclysmic for the Catalans, that if a root and branch clear out wasn’t necessary, then something approaching it probably was.

Barca’s lowest ebb of this millennium needed strong decisions to finally be made, no matter what. Continue reading

Barcelona look to the past as they head to the future

It’s a tried and tested method with football clubs when appointing new managers.

Go with someone who has played for the club in the past so therefore understands the heritage, the demands of the fans, what it means to play for the badge etc.

Although such moves are understandable, they’re always a bit hit and miss in terms of how successful the new incumbent becomes. Continue reading

Southampton show top four credentials

Southampton recently beat Manchester United 1-0 at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils failing to register a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes. It put the Saints 3rd in the Premier League table this season after 21 games, and Ronald Koeman’s side have now picked up 13 points from a possible 15 against the likes of Everton, Crystal Palace Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Bookmakers have ahead the South Coast outfit ahead of Liverpool and Tottenham in the race for the top-four, and given they have taken seven points off three Premier League giants, Southampton are certainly in the reckoning.

“We know that we have a strong team. We got a point against Chelsea, three points against Arsenal and now three against Manchester United. That makes belief in the players. They are not afraid. We have 11 clean sheets in 21 games. If we keep the spirit and the organisation, we can (finish top-four),” said manager Ronald Koeman.

Southampton have endured a slump in form this season – going five league games without a win – but recovered sensationally since then, and find themselves with the best defensive record in the league (15). They have lost more games (6) than the sides directly around them in the table, but only Chelsea (15) and Manchester City (14) have won more games than the Saints (12) which has been a huge factor of their bright start.

The South Coast club have drawn the least amount of games in the Premier League (3) this season, and are instead fighting for the win in every game they’re in. Koeman will not settle for less, and it’s been rubbing off on the players. Southampton have certainly benefited from the slow starts made by Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham, which gave them a real head start in the top-four race, but they have more than made the most of their chance.

Many have been expecting a dip in form from Southampton that would see them be replaced by the usual suspects, but it just isn’t coming this season. Their biggest task will be fending off interest for their top performing players, but few would surely want to leave while the Saints are currently in the top-four.

There are still 17 games and 51 points to play for this season, which can have a big impact on where teams end up, and this is the time of the year when the league starts to take shape, but Southampton keep confounding their critics and have stayed in the top-six since the end of August onwards. They have proved their mettle against the big sides, and are running out of obstacles to overcome.

Where will Southampton finish in the Premier League this season?

Southampton suffered a shock 1-0 defeat against newly-promoted Premier League side Burnley on the weekend, which stretched the Saints’ winless run to five games.

A draw against Aston Villa, and defeats to Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, and most recently Burnley has seen the previously second-placed South Coast outfit close to dropping out of the top-six altogether in the next game week.

Supporters were confident of a top-four finish when Southampton were sitting in a lofty second place in the league after 12 games, but now previous optimising is starting to fade. Manager Ronald Koeman was keen to play down the dip in form by pointing to the calibre of opponent faced, but with the Saints having dropped points to Aston Villa and Burnley in recent weeks, their season could be starting to unfold.

The next set of games haven’t been too kind to them either, as Southampton are set to come up against Everton (home), Chelsea (home), Arsenal (home) and Manchester United (away) as four of their next five league fixtures.

Coupled with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham starting to pick up results, and the Saints could find themselves on the outside looking in to the teams in a European finish. Four of the sides who finished in the top-seven last season are still currently below Ronald Koeman’s side in the table, so there will be extra competition in the coming weeks.

Last season, Southampton finished in an impressive 8th place in the table, but spent the early periods in the top four before suffering a six-game winless run around Christmas time. Then-manager Mauricio Pochettino saw his side pick up just two league wins in 12 games, which saw them drop from 3rd to 9th at the time.

While the aforementioned quartet are all expected to climb up the table, Southampton are also fighting with surprise packages West Ham (4th), Newcastle (8th) and Swansea (9th), which could see the final points tallies being very close between a large selection of sides sitting below 6th.

The biggest worry for Saints is their poor record against the elite sides. Koeman’s men have lost all five of their meetings against teams in last season’s top-seven, which means their poor run could continue with such a difficult run of games to come.

A top-half finish will be the objective for Southampton, but supporters may well have to be content with a similar or lesser finish than last season’s, given the quality of the teams around them.

Pelle and Koeman helping Southampton to European dream

As Southampton announced the sales of Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Ricky Lambert, amongst others, pundits and fans alike feared for the future of the Saints in the Premier League – but under new Coach Ronald Koeman, and with some new names on the roster, the south coast side are looking like surprise challengers for European football this term.

One of those names that has been brought in was 29 year old Italian Graziano Pelle. Signed from Feyenoord for 8m Euros, the striker’s career only sparked in 2012, on loan at the Dutch club from Parma, where he netted 27 goals in 29 appearances.

That form won him a 2.1m Euro move to the Eredivisie, where he scored 23 league goals in 28 last term, before his move to the Premier League.  His six goals so far this season for the Saints has now earned him a call-up to the Italian national team, where he was on the scoresheet on his debut versus San Marino this month.

Other noticeable changes since Mauricio Pochettino’s time, has seen Dusan Tadic come in and impress, while Tony Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand have reinforced the defence, and Jack Cork and Morgan Schneiderlin have come to further prominence.

Such astute transfer market dealings have taken Southampton to being dark horses for relegation, to European challengers, thanks to 16 points from their first eight games, a tally that leaves them in third position, comfortably above Liverpool and Arsenal.

Whether the likes of Pelle and Tadic can inspire such success for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but a mixture of good management in the transfer market, tactical management fro Koeman, and quality of the new players, gives them more than a fighting chance of European football at St. Mary’s next year.