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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

Can Wenger Rotate and Win A Trophy For The First Time Since MMV?

Written by on January 20, 2011 | 13 Comments »
Posted in Arsenal, Wigan Athletic

In the last round of play in 2010 Arsenal went to Wigan and dropped two valuable points. Manager Arsene Wenger was roundly criticized for the number of changes he made to the Arsenal side for that game.

Critics seemed oblivious – or chose to be so – of the four games in nine days that Arsenal faced. And now whether fans and critics like it or not if Arsenal hopes to maintain a challenge for four trophies the stark reality is that changes will be a necessary part of Arsenal’s strategy over the next four months.

The two games a week schedule has already kicked in with a midweek Carling Cup semi-final first leg against Ipswich ten days ago and a Third Round FA Cup replay win against Leeds on Wednesday.  There will be more to follow.

But before the Carling semi final second leg (Arsenal trail 1-0) in midweek at Emirates against Championship side Ipswich, Wigan come calling. Somewhat ironically Wigan was the team that knocked Arsenal out at the semi final stage of the Carling Cup five years ago.

Wigan led 1-0 after the first leg but the second leg required extra time and a last minute goal from Jason Roberts sent Wigan to the final on the extra time away goals rule followed in the Carling Cup.

Just think, if Arsenal had gone on to win the Carling Cup that year every soccer commentator would be reminding us that Arsenal had not won a trophy since 2006, rather than 2005…..yawn. (Could one of them at least show some originality and maybe do it in another language – say Latin? “Arsenal who have not one a trophy since MMV……”)

Wigan’s other trips to play Arsenal in London have not had the same silver lining of that defeat in 2006. The good news for Arsenal is that when Wigan come calling on league business there has only ever been one outcome – a win for Arsenal. The Gunners have won all five, scoring 15 while conceding only 3.

Wigan have found it close to impossible to remain clear of the relegation zone for long this season.  Time and time again they have fought their way out only to be sucked back into the dreaded bottom three.

Like other sides in the same predicament Wigan have become a tough team to beat while finding it difficult to win. For example over the last seven Premier League matches Wigan have only lost once, but have only won once and the other five games have finished as draws.

The way the relegation fight is shaping up this season it seems unlikely that 35 or 36 points are not going to be enough to avoid the drop and it may well the oft repeated but rarely needed 40 points that will be required. A few wins along the way would certainly make it a lot easier for Wigan.

To get the wins that they need Wigan need to find a way – or someone – to score goals. It was a problem that Wigan hoped had been solved by signing Mauro Boselli but the Argentine striker never looked comfortable in his five starts and three substitute appearances. Now he has been loaned to Genoa and don’t be surprised if he doesn’t see the DW Stadium again.

Stat Facts
Wigan seems to spend too much time thinking of their half time cup of tea and not enough time on the job at hand. In the last 15 minutes before half time Wigan have been outscored by 10 goals to 1. Their total goal difference is -13 so a substantial part of the deficit can be put down to the lead up to the break.

Out of the blocks fast – that is Arsenal. They are the only team that has yet to concede a goal in the first 15 minutes of a Premier League game this season and they have also scored 7 before the first quarter of an hour is up.


13 responses to “Can Wenger Rotate and Win A Trophy For The First Time Since MMV?”

  1. Byo says:

    A thoughtful, balanced piece on Arsenal. Yes, nothing is more tiring than reading the same tired lines from different “journalists” over and over again.
    Thank you.

  2. Gus Keri says:

    Just for curiousity, Bobby

    How do you pronounce the Latin MMV?

  3. Latin would be – Duos thousand quod Quinque I think

    My two years of Latin was not wasted.

  4. GO FOREST YOU REDS says:

    Bobby
    do you have to keep Arshavin and Bendtner just because they are warm bodies or cut your losses and get what you can?lets just say when they go into pick up their paycheck they might be wearing a mask.

  5. Theo van Nasregas says:

    Bobby,

    You are fantastic. Fantastic Arsenal article. Good technique. Proper focus. Good execution. Now, Arsenal, listen to me, go out and be champions! Be fantastic. Just like me.

    The title of the article should more correctly have been, “Can Wenger Rotate and Win Troph(ies) for the First Time Since MMV?” If they don’t win the League Cup this year, I swear, I’m headed for the monastery (but a Belgian one with nice Trappist ale).

    You’re right about Wenger getting roasted in the British media for his rotation policy during the festive period. But what’s a French professor to do? He did have those 4 games in nine days. Two games were in 48 hours (which Chelsea also had to endure) and no FA should be scheduling 2 games in 48 hours for any team … period. OK, have your Boxing Day games, but don’t force teams to play 48 hours later. Adjust the schedule a bit for crying out loud! Le Boss did make nine changes to the lineup @ Wigan but all the players coming in were more than qualified to get the job done. Arsenal were up 2-1 but failed to put a team away again and were just a Squillaci away from picking up the full three points. If Arsenal wins that game then Le Boss is a genius. In any event, rotation was justified and necessary.

    I believe the British press are biased against poor Mr. Wenger because he is French, selects mostly foreign players, has his team playing the most attractive football in the EPL (not the hit & hope of the rest of the league), and is successful. Sure the Gunners are going through a dry spell. And the British press just love to bring it to his and everyone’s attention as much as possible … if only to spite him and rub his nose in it. But the dry spell will end soon. Very soon. And what will the British press say then? Oh, “hasn’t won silverware other than the Carling Cup since MMV …” But other than the CL (and a likely, though unnecessarily self enflicted, Barça roadblock), the Gunners are very real contenders for two more trophies this season.

    Bobby, I’ve noticed that you’ve had a more measured tone towards both Arsenal and Arsene than other British people in the footy media. Could I conclude that you are a fan of both entities?

  6. Theo van Nasregas says:

    Bobby,

    I’ve got two very important question for you and you’ve been ducking one of them. I know you’re busy but …

    1) Both Scotland and England have two cup competitions. Why? The rest of Europe (from what I can see) only has one cup competition. Why not drop the Carling Cup (League Cup), as many call it the Mickey Mouse Cup, and just go with the respective FA Cups in both countries?

    2) Afellay was recently signed by Barça. He played for PSV in the Europa Cup competition. Is he available for selection to Barça for this year’s UCL or is he cup tied?

  7. Dr. Scoot says:

    Bobby,

    Excellent article. With Arshavin’s seemingly uninspired play, are his days numbered? What is he worth?

  8. TVN
    1. Because they are two separate countries. Scotland also has a League Cup as well.
    2. You are allowed one move between clubs in different European competitions with certain restrictions – explained here
    http://tiny.cc/u6360
    My understanding is that Afellay can play.

    Dr Scoot
    I don’t think so. Form is poor at the moment but he still has magic. Wenger is not going to give up on him – of course Arshavin may give up on Arsenal but that is a different matter.

  9. Theo van Nasregas says:

    Bobby,

    Thanks. But you misunderstood my first question. I know both countries each have two cup competitions (England: FA Cup & its League Cup; Scotland: SFA Cup & it’s League Cup) while the rest of Europe have only 1 cup competition (I believe. For example, Copa del Rey in Spain, Coppa Italia in Italy, etc.). Why do both England and Scotland persist in having two cup competitions each? Wouldn’t it be better for both countries to each drop their respective League Cup competitions as they seem largely redundant and just add to an already congested fixture list for many clubs?

  10. Pep 5 Jose 0 says:

    Bobby,

    I think TvN has a point here. Why doesn’t England drop their League Cup (the Carling Cup) and Scotland drop its own League Cup (some Insurance Co. Cup)? Each country would then be left with their respective FA Cups.

    Seems redundant and unnecessary. What do you think on this subject Bobby?

  11. J says:

    I think it’s unfair to criticize Wenger in blanket fahion for rotating (and perhaps he’s a bit out of practice considering he was limited to few healthy bodies last year), but certain decisions have been head-scratchers to say the least. Bendtner-as-spark-plug or right wing is more than mysterious. He was dreadful against Leeds until being given an eternity to cross for the third goal.

    I’ve wondered if part of Arshavin’s struggles has been a lack of clarity toward his role when he’s out there. He seems like a good partner for van Persie, but hard to pair, otherwise. Similarly, I’m not sure what’s imagined for Chamakh, and Wenger has hooked him quickly on a couple of occasions where he looked innocent enough.

  12. Reggae Gunner says:

    I can feel it, this season is a different season we will win trophies

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