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Feature: Tough times for Koeman at Barca in crisis, but good work with youngsters not enough******
MADRID, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- FC Barcelona's decision to sack Ronald Koeman in the early hours of Thursday morning, in the end, surprised nobody, with the only real surprise that the former Barca central defender lasted as long as the season and a quarter that he managed in the job.
Koeman's job quite simply became untenable after successive defeats to Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano, with the loss to a recently promoted side with one of the lowest budgets in LaLiga the final nail in the coffin for a man whose time at the Camp Nou could be described as the "chronicle of a sacking foretold".
The former Dutch coach was hailed as a returning hero when he was appointed the successor to Quique Setien, who was quickly shown the door in the wake of Barca's failure to win the 2019-20 LaLiga title and their 8-2 humiliation to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
That 8-2 defeat made clear the difficulty of the task that lay ahead of Koeman and a look at his curriculum, with standout failures at Everton and Valencia, meant that many questioned whether he was up to the task.
Koeman's landing at the Camp Nou was less than smooth as he was presented with a summer of drama which saw Leo Messi present a bureaufax declaring his intention to leave the club, while the club's dire financial situation meant that Luis Suarez would be shown the door.
The decision to allow Suarez to join Atletico Madrid, where he would help them win the title, probably wasn't down to Koeman, but the Uruguayan clearly resented the fact that the coach told him he was leaving in a brief phone call, rather than in a face-to-face chat.
Messi eventually stayed to see out the final year of his contract - at the time because he had no option, but it was hardly a good beginning and things got worse when 17-year-old sensation Ansu Fati injured his knee at the start of the season and an expected four-month layoff extended into four operations and 10 months on the sidelines.
Barca ended last season third in LaLiga with some decent performances in the New Year keeping them in the title race until a disastrous home defeat to Granada and a 3-3 draw away to Levante when they had been 3-0 up, ended their title hopes.
Joan Laporta's return as club President after Josep Maria Bartomeu (who had appointed Koeman) always looked as if it would leave Koeman on shaky ground and despite Laporta's public support, relations between the two were never good.
Barca's 5-2 aggregate defeat to Paris Saint Germain again highlighted that Barca were falling behind Europe's most powerful clubs, but the run of form that saw Barca beat Athletic Club 4-0 to win the Copa del Rey, along with Koeman's willingness to give time to youngsters such as Pedri and Ronald Araujo saw him cling on to his post - partly because nobody else seemed to want to join a club with debts of 1.3 billion euros.
This summer saw more departures, with Barca unable to afford Leo Messi, while Antoine Griezmann also returned to Atletico. Miralem Pjanic and Francisco Trinaco (neither used much by Koeman) also left along with Junior Firpo and although Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Kun Aguero arrived on free transfers, the feeling was very much of cost-cutting and getting by on a low budget.
The arrival of Luuk de Jong - arguably the least Barcelona-style player Barca have ever signed - on the last day of the transfer window, did little to alter this perception.
Koeman never hid the limitations placed on him in his press conferences, which although true, certainly wasn't diplomatic, and responded by promoting more youngsters, with 17-year-old Gavi in particular impressing, while Nico Gonzalez has also looked good.
Once again injuries (this time to Pedri and Araujo, as well as Aguero) have hampered Koeman, but although his side at times looked confident on the ball, they have also looked very fragile. Atletico Madrid picked them off on the break, as did Real Madrid and Rayo and Koeman failed to correct the problems, seeming to make the same mistakes time after time (all be it with limited resources).
Successful Barca teams seem to play by memory, by clockwork---as if they were almost playing with their eyes closed as each player knew where his companions were. This automatic football hasn't been there with Koeman, while gaps between midfield and defense imply a lack of work coordinating the team on the training ground.
Koeman will point to all of the departures and injuries and missed chances, such as Memphis's penalty on Wednesday night, but although the club will be grateful for his work with the youngsters, he tactically fell short.
The big question is: Can the next man in the hot seat do any better? Enditem
Chelsea beat Watford, Man City win away in Premier League******
LONDON, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chelsea squeezed past Watford 2-1 to maintain their slender lead at the top of the Premier League on Wednesday night.。
Mason Mount was decisive for the league leaders, scoring the 29th-minute opener and then setting up Hakim Ziyech for the winner after Watford had equalized from Bonaventure's deflected 43rd-minute shot.。
The game was halted for half an hour in the first half for a medical emergency and Watford later confirmed a fan was in a stable condition after suffering a cardiac arrest while in the stands.。
Ruben Dias scored a goal with a left-foot shot to open the scoring for Manchester City away to Aston Villa in the 27th minute and Bernardo Silva made it 2-0 shortly before halftime.。
Ollie Watkins pulled a goal back for Aston Villa early in the second half, but Manchester City inflicted Steven Gerrard's first defeat as Villa coach on the day Man City midfielder Jack Grealish was booed as he faced his former club for the first time since leaving this summer.。
Liverpool got off to a flying start in their 4-1 derby win away to Everton with Jordan Henderson and Mohamed Salah putting them 2-0 up with 19 minutes, with Henderson netting a first-time finish and Salah curing the ball past Everton keeper Jordan Pickford.。
Demarai Gray pulled a goal back for Everton in the 38th minute after a pass from Richarlison, but Salah's second of the game in the 69th minute again put Liverpool two goals clear and Diogo Jota netted Liverpool's fourth in the 79th minute to pile the pressure on former coach Rafael Benitez.。
Neal Maupay's 89th-minute goal saved a point for Brighton on their visit to West Ham, who had taken a fifth minute lead through Tomas Soucek.。
Burnley continue to collect points and extended their unbeaten run to five games with another solid defensive display to earn a 0-0 draw away to Wolves, although they remain in the bottom three.。
Southampton and Leicester City shared four goals with Southampton twice taking the lead through Jan Bednarek and Che Adams only to be pegged back by Jony Evans and James Maddison. Enditem。