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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


TANGENTS

Arsenal Wins The Battle Of The Teams Who Could Not Shoot Straight

Written by on September 4, 2012 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Arsenal, Liverpool

Arsenal and Liverpool entered the early Barclay’s Premier League match on Sunday suffering from the same problem – an inability to convert the chances they had created. Liverpool had at least score in their first two games while Arsenal had yet to open their account for 2012/13. Arsenal’s shooting accuracy was only 19% while Liverpool’s sat at 24%.

On the day Arsenal were the  sharper side in front of goal although the statistics showed that Liverpool created more opportunities.

Liverpool persevered with crosses from wide positions but it proved an ineffective tactic.

The game was to large measure decided in the midfield with Allen/Gerrard/Sahin for Liverpool against Arteta/Diaby/Carzola. The Arsenal trio marginally out passed Liverpool completing 210 passes from 228 attempts (92%) to 171 successful passes from 192 attempts (89%) but the statistics masked the real difference.

Arsenal’s midfield was livelier and more inventive with Arteta, Diaby and Carzola all playing their assigned roles almost perfectly. Arteta played deep and broke up Liverpool attacks and offered Arsenal a solid platform. Diaby shuttled back and forward often taking off on long attacking runs that caused Liverpool concern. Carzola, however, was the primary threat. He consistently found space and he set up the first Arsenal goal and scored the second.

Joe Allen’s passing for Liverpool was perfect in the first half and not far short of the same in the second forty-five minutes.

After the match Steven Gerrard came in for some criticism and many pointed to the fact that his errant pass led to the counter-attack from which Arsenal opened the scoring. (More culpable were the Liverpool centre backs who must have stopped off for a cup of coffee as they moved slowly up field as Liverpool attacked).

Nonetheless Gerrard passing overall was not up to par.

Notwithstanding his passing, Gerrard was still the primary creative force for Liverpool and set up more chances than any other Liverpool player.

One of the most effective parts of Luis Suarez’s game is his ability to take defenders on. On Sunday his dribbling skills abandoned him.

Vito Mannone is Arsenal’s third string goalkeeper but he looks a far improved player than the one we saw in the Premier League a few years ago. However, one area that still offers significant room for improvement is his clearances.

Southampton’s manager Nigel Adkins came in for criticism for making what was perceived to be “negative” substitutions when leading Manchester United with around quarter of an hour to go. The reality is that it is really about the effectiveness of the substitutes rather than whether or not “attacking” players are withdrawn. At 2-1 even with attacking players the emphasis is to protect the lead and that is done most effectively by ball retention.

Arsene Wenger withdrew two attackers – Podolski and Oxlade-Chamberlain – for two more defensive minded players in Ramsey and Andre Santos. But one look at the their passing statistics shows that they not only understood their assignments but carried the job out well.

Your thoughts on the game?


9 responses to “Arsenal Wins The Battle Of The Teams Who Could Not Shoot Straight”

  1. Seattle_Loon says:

    Random quick thoughts from someone who invited the wrath of his wife by getting up a 5.30 to watch the game.

    – could be a great season for Arsenal if they continue to defend so well
    – what might Arsenal have achieved in 10/11 if Steve Bould had been involved then.
    – Cazorla and Podolski are perfect for a counter-attacking strategy but Arsenal might be not try that approach much at home
    – Liverpool looked like tired (especially Gerrard and Suarez) after a Europa League game on Thursday
    – Sterling looks a great prospect for a 17 year old. He seems to have pretty good awareness of those around him for someone so young
    – Borini seemed wasted on the wing. Would be tempted to have him and Suarez switch roles
    – Liverpool are in for a long and painful season if they don’t improve in the final third. Pointless changing managers when you don’t correct the teams’ biggest weakness. Especially if you allow the defence to get sloppier.
    – West Brom and Arsenal have now executed the same plan very well against LFC. Its the continuation of what teams have done for a long time against LFC. Sit back, wait for LFC to fire their blanks and take your chances when they come. I honestly don’t see this changing.

  2. joakal says:

    Arsenal with a plan. Watch out. 😉

  3. Alberta Gooner says:

    Five comments on Liverpool

    1. Liverpool dominated possession and created a couple of decent chances before having their noses twice bloodied on the counterattack and by a goalkeeping error (after having a decent shout for a penalty denied in between the two Arsenal strikes). This script is familiar for Arsenal fans because we’ve lived it for, oh, six years or so.

    2. For all their neat build-up play and clever movement, it’s easy to see why some Liverpool were frustrated by the failure to bring in Clint Dempsey or another striker to replace Andy Carroll going out on loan. Luis Suarez’s finishing is far from clinical while Fabio Borini appears to be the new Dirk Kuyt than the next Fernando Torres. It’s tough to see where the goals might come from in his Liverpool side and Rafael Benitez’s suggestion that Steven Gerrard could finish his career as a striker might be one that Brendan Rodgers may want to consider.

    3. And one reason Rodgers may contemplate that move is Gerrard’s swashbuckling style doesn’t appear to dovetail with his teammates in the midfield. Joe Allen was again excellent and the best midfielder by some distance for the hosts. While Gerrard’s picked out some great balls, his misplaced pass led to Arsenal’s opener. Back to Allen, though, and he continues to answer critics of his hefty transfer fee with composed performances and tidy distribution that led Liverpool to win 53 per cent of the possession against a north London side used to owning the ball for 60 per cent of the time against domestic competition.

    4. Rafael Benitez’s critics have used some of his transfers as a stick with which to beat him. But his record at Anfield needs to include his buys of unproven youngsters Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling, who were both excellent on Sunday. Together with Allen, they should give Liverpool supporters optimism about brighter days ahead.

    5. The same cannot be said for Pepe Reina, who needed to do better with Santi Carzola’s angled drive. It was a howler for a goalkeeper of his pedigree but they have crept into his game with increasing frequency as his flap at a cross led to Yaya Toure’s equalizer last week. Fergie had no problems sitting down David de Gea against Southampton. Would Rodgers have the courage — or possess the option — to drop his number one if he continues to drop clangers?

    And five for Arsenal

    1. Abou Diaby’s imperious performance was so obvious that even the Sky Sports commentating team could not help but spot it and name him MOTM. And rightly so as it brought to mind Patrick Vieira’s storming box-to-box dominance in his pomp. It explains why Arsene Wenger decided not to buy a replacement for Alex Song at the deadline. As always, the question with Diaby isn’t his ability but his fragility. If he can stay on the pitch, Arsenal look like they will be bothering both greater Salford outfits for the league. Fingers crossed Diaby is fit for Arsenal’s visit September 23 visit to the Middleastlands, where a fascinating battle royale awaits with Yaya Toure.

    2. Lukas Podolski will get plaudits for scoring but his tracking back to protect Kieran Gibbs was just as crucial to Arsenal’s win. The German international made several tackles to win possession or snuff out Liverpool attacks. His first goal started with him winning the ball near his own box and then sprinting 70 yards to provide a thumping finish to the counterattack. On the other flank, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain demonstrated similar diligence in helping Arsenal keep a third straight clean sheet, including two with third-choice keeper Vito Mannone between the sticks.

    3. While fellow newcomers Podolski and Carzola broke their ducks in English football, Olivier Giroud blew two clear chances to open his account in Arsenal’s godawful away colours (that my son relentlessly mocked throughout the match, taunting for which I really had no reply). Giroud’s movement is excellent but the misses appear to be weighing on his mind as he probably has to answer the same dumbassed questions over and over about replacing Robin van Persie. It’s important to note Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp, gods both to Arsenal supporters, waited several matches before opening their accounts. Patience is required.

    4. Wenger’s decision to start Per Mertesacker rather than the smaller but more mobile Laurent Koscielny aganst Suarez was an interesting gamble. It’s hard to find fault with team selection after a win and clean sheet but Arsenal are very slow up the middle when Arteta is playing as the deep pivot and Mertesacker is behind him at centre half. I’m sure both Robertos — Mancini and di Matteo — will have marked this for their upcoming matches against the gunners.

    5. Carl Jenkinson held up well in his first major test since he was scorched in the 8-2 drubbing one year ago at Old Trafford. While many supporters have suggested Wenger should have bought more experienced cover until Bacary Sagna returns following the international break, Jenkinson’s improvement seems to hae justified his manager’s faith.

  4. Seattle_Loon says:

    Alberta Gooner

    Are you auditioning to be Bobby’s stand in? 10 excellent points.

    As a Liverpool fan I have been encouraged by Allen, Sterling and Shelvey. Most Liverpool fans will tell you that Gerrard has been on a downhill slope since ’08 and ’09. My fantasy team confirms this also. Once indispensable only novice or crazy fantasy managers would consider Gerrard.

    I thought both Podolski and the Ox did outstanding work defending. And Bould had done his homework too.

    No complaints from this LFC fan but the game might have changed if Mertesacker had been sent off and conceded a penalty for his push on Suarez in the 2nd half. A close call but Suarez’s rep probably swayed the ref.

    As someone with lots of mates who are Gooners I hope this is the start of a trend. It’s about time Arsenal went to Old Trafford and got the same result.

  5. Think says:

    “You can’t teach heart”! A year ago I made this comment when we lost nasri and cesc. Wenger came away with great respect not admitting his failure, but acknowledging it and producing a winning side balanced in determenanation and dedication. We got three captians last season and a utility player in Santos. This season we got three mature attackers with a chip on their shoulder to prove their worth. Van persie was a great sell to the wrong team but man u are in worst shape then arsenal were last season. Song was a confused player, great in all aspects but not great at all times. Arteta is a veteran who knows his roll and works to make the team win. Podilski works hard all-around the pitch working for goals. Ox and diaby proving wenger faith in them. Defending from the front as a unit is proving the missing ingrediant. No goals conceded yet only two made, but they say defense wins championships. Yes not the most entertaining to watch A team miss the target so much,let alone squander chances but to work as a unit and play the beautiful game is what all arsenal fans want and are due ” the beautiful game” well balanced and in budget. Now if we can only get the seats for a lower price.

  6. Alberta Gooner says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Seattle Loon.

    What do you reckon about Rafa’s idea to try Steven Gerrard at striker? He can still finish.

    There’s another poster named Disturbance who has suggested Rodgers could use him as a false nine, as Barca does with Messi or Roma did with Totti under Spaletti. Thoughts?

    LFC are the same team that came within one Martin Skrtel brain fart of beating the champions at Anfield (after outplaying them for substantial patches in that match). It will be interesting to see what happens when United come to Anfield later this month. I expect a very different performance, particularly as Sahin gets to grips with the English game.

  7. Seattle_Loon says:

    AG

    I think it is a decent idea with one caveat. Look at the number of goals Gerrard has scored over the last few seasons. Even allowing for less appearances his shooting hasn’t been as accurate. And he is 32.

    The problem with Suarez seems to be pressure. Put him in a Uruguay shirt where he has other players that can convert chances like Cavani and Ramirez and he scores for fun (at least up until the Olympics). Put him in a Liverpool shirt and he looks like he is trying too hard. I am convinced that if, and when, Liverpool get a reliable striker Suarez’s conversion rate shoot ups.

  8. Alberta Gooner says:

    @SL

    Fair point about Gerrard. I see it as more of a short-term solution until January. Llorente didn’t go this window and should be available at a greatly reduced price from the 20m being mooted by Bilbao this summer as he’s available on a free next June. Walcott can also negotiate his Bosman and has been linked to Anfield in the past. Mind you, there may be a few other clubs eyeing those options, too.

  9. Dr. Scoot says:

    The most impressive aspect of Arsenal this year is the defense. If they can increase their chance conversion in the final third, it could be a very interesting season.

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