Catalan giants Barcelona have replaced head coach Ernesto Valverde with former Real Betis boss Quique Setien. Valverde is the first boss that Barcelona have fired in 17 years, with Louis van Gaal the last boss to be fired by the reigning La Liga champions in 2003.
The move is maybe not a surprising one, as Barcelona are certainly not enjoying the best of campaigns. The Blaugrana are still top of the Spanish top-flight table, but Real Madrid have accrued the same amount of points.
Some disappointing defeats
Last week Barcelona suffered a 3-2 Spanish Super Cup semi-final defeat against Atletico Madrid. The loss was disappointing. However, it is not the first disappointing result for the reigning champions this season. The Catalan giants have now won just one of their last five games in all competitions.
Losses against the likes of Athletic Bilbao, Levante and Granada were results that were unacceptable to some connected with the champions of La Liga. The result that Valverde has never recovered from was the 4-0 defeat at Liverpool in last seasons Champions League semi-final. The boss, who has won back-to-back titles with the club was always on borrowed time after that defeat.
Difficult to find a replacement for Valverde
Barcelona does not always appoint the most high-profile head coaches. The Catalan giants tend to go for coaches who fit their system. Reportedly former players Xavi and Ronald Koeman both turned the job down. That is quite incredible if that’s true of course. Koeman has always wanted the Barcelona job. However, maybe he felt it was not the right time.
Xavi is only really just starting his coaching career. Media reports suggest that the former Barcelona captain, now boss of Qatari side Al Sadd, told the Catalan giants that he would take the job at the end of the campaign.
However, the Catalan giants decided to make an immediate appointment in the shape of former Betis boss Setien. The experienced coach is more accustomed to working at smaller clubs. He helped keep Las Palmas in La Liga in 2015. His most notable recent success is regarded as transforming Betis. He took the Andalusians into European competition, having also earned much praise for their style of play.
His decision to leave Betis last summer was a surprising one. He had previously been linked with the Barcelona job last January. However, he now has the chance to show his managerial acumen on the biggest stage of the European game.
Barcelona’s season not in tatters
The strange thing is that just being top and qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League is not good enough for a team like Barcelona. The team has to play a style of football that is easy on the eye and entertaining, coupled with results of course.
Most of the time Valverde produced the results, but on big occasions like the match at Anfield, his game management and tactics were often poor.
The Catalan giants may have lost a few games this season, but their season is far from finished. Barcelona are still one of the favourites to win the Champions League at odds of 5/1. The Blaugrana are also the favourites to retain the Spanish title.
Setien looked to be an astute head coach at Betis. We will see what sort of effect he has on the team. It looks to be the right decision to sack Valverde, but maybe he should have gone in the summer.
Will Quique Setien be successful as Barcelona head coach?
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