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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 and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


What A Difference A Year Makes – How Manchester United And Arsenal Have Flipped Spots

Written by on December 9, 2013 | 9 Comments »
Posted in Arsenal, Manchester United

It is an arbitrary point on the calendar but nonetheless using December 2012 as a starting point provides a fascinating insight into how the fortunes of Manchester United and Arsenal have mirrored each over lately.

On the first full weekend of play last December, both teams delivered performances that were microcosms of their seasons to date. For Arsenal it was a 2-0 home loss to Swansea with two goals from Michu in the final two minutes deciding the contest. It was a low point even for an Arsenal….to read more please click on the link.

9 responses to “What A Difference A Year Makes – How Manchester United And Arsenal Have Flipped Spots”

  1. Rob says:

    Bobby if you had to guess, do you see United coming back into the top four?

  2. John Bladen says:

    Interesting comparisons.

    I was quite surprised to find Arsenal’s lineup from the game in question was a relatively “healthy” one. Certainly Wenger was rarely able to field his preferred first team in the early months of the season, but in this one perhaps only one or two first 11 members were missing.

    Moyes’ Everton did always rely on a stout defensive effort first. However, that is not uncommon amongst teams unable to bring in players at the thin end of the pyramid – it’s easier to prevent goals than to create them. That said, I agree that United do look lost and uncertain at present. When they do get the ball in an attacking position, hair plug boy tends to swing wildly at it then look around for someone else to blame when he misses the net (or the ball entirely).

    I like Moyes, but it does seem that he hasn’t fully explained to his squad what he actually wants them to do… either that or they aren’t happy with it and are making their own plan… which would explain the lack of cohesion (though this is a long way from evidence of same…)

    Even Ferguson admitted that a change would be difficult (though not in quite as straightforward language, he admonished the fans at Old Trafford to ‘support the new manager, no matter what’ during his farewell address).

    Bobby: at this early stage, do you see parallels between the early days of SAF and Moyes? It’s a long time ago, but as I recall the squad he took over at Man U didn’t seem to understand what he wanted them to do…

    IIRC the club were well down the table (IE: very near the bottom) when Ferguson was hired and, while they did improve, they still finished in the bottom half of the table.

  3. Smiley says:

    Yes Bladen, Fergie’s & Moyes’ early days are totally identical.

    1) Manyoo were just as successful with the previous “iconic” manager
    2) In both cases the former manager had left after winning the league
    3) Both Fergie and Moyes have the exact managerial style and charm
    4) The transfer market dealings, wages and premium prices were the same
    5) EPL style of play and player nationality diversity was the same

    And Both managers had already managed in the English top flight!

  4. Ed Gomes says:

    It’s shocking at how Man United is playing. No real movement and when lose the ball players look robotic. They are trying to get back to a spot no matter where the opponent is. It’s almost as if they’ve stopped thinking or better yet are over thinking it. There’s just no free flowing futebol. I still don’t understand how you have RVP drop back for the ball, playing like a #10. He needs to be moving across the top using angles, not going north to south.
    Nani has always played his best on the right. The youngster (didn’t attempt to spell) has looked good on the left. So let’s start them on the opposite side so they can bring the ball to there favorite four whole cutting in. When it’s clearly not working let’s not have them switch fields.
    The transfer market was a disaster, and it saddens me that Moyes got his guy, which was never going to be good enough. Felani is a taller Anderson who’s better with his head not as good with his feet. Both look slow and predictable.
    There’s always a drop off after winning a title, and losing SAF was a huge loss. But this club looks robotic. It scares me when people say Moyes needs to get his type of players on the team. If that were case Europa will be the norm.
    You would have believe the Glazers are very worried. Overpaying for so so talent in January will be costly. And does Moyes at current form attract talent? Man United can not afford to miss out on the CL period. The financial cost would be much too high.

    As for Arsenal they were really impressing me this weekend. Everton looked really good, yet it was Arsenal who scored. But they let the opposing goal come, so in back to not so sure once again. If the scoring had happened in reverse order I might have actually been more impressed.
    What I will say is that Arsenal is showing real fortitude and while the clubs below keep scrambling, they’ve been steady. I still feel they could use a striker, go get Sanchez from Barca, which could solidify title hopes.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    Sorry for some of the auto correct. Writing on the cell while on the train.

  6. Starting positions make a comparison of league positions impossible. There was an initial improvement that was significant under Ferguson. When he took over Utd were 19th and averaging a point a game in first 13 matches. They lost 6 of first 13 then 8 of next 29 under Fergie. United finished on 56 points and 11th. The next season there were runners up to Liverpool. It was the two seasons after when they took a number of steps back that created the narrative that Fergie struggled in his first few seasons.

  7. Rob – still very much in a fight for 4th.
    Ed – “over thinking” – very good observation IMHO.

  8. John Bladen says:

    Ed, the first half today was a fine example of what you discussed. The question is, are they sitting back of their own accord or is this what Moyes and co want from them? (and if so, why?).

    This isn’t the Man U of three seasons ago, and while they did win the league last year, I think most would agree they were helped by uncharacteristically out of form City (at least on recent form anyway) and some others who perhaps didn’t play as well as they could or should have.

    Hadn’t heard anyone saying Moyes “needs to get his type of players”… where’s that coming from? I can’t imagine he’d be foolish enough to try to sell Everton (or maybe Stoke…) style football to Old Trafford supporters. They’ve been exposed at the back and in the midfield for 2-3 years now. They need improvements in those areas whether from within or without. Vidic doesn’t look like the best defender in the world these days, and he may never again. Resigning Ferdinand made sense as a late sub (or against non-elite opposition), but as a starter in CL or top flight PL matches? That ship has sailed.

    So who do you think they should buy in January then?

  9. Ed Gomes says:

    JB, plenty of pundits have mentioned Moyes building this team in his image/style. That’s done through tactics and bringing in players that fit his style. The players retreating to spots on the field once ball is lost, would seem like a manager tactic, not a player move. Big difference in hustling while tracking back and defending, and running to a spot, which is what they seem to be doing.

    I do agree that Man united had no business in winning the title last campaign. It had as much to do with clubs faltering (Mancini) as anything else.

    I could see Everton cashing in on Baines now. But that just might bring in the wrong perception for the fans. Man United need a solid CB as well.
    As for Mids, they just might have the pieces in place, but they’ve never been used. For all the disappointment in Kagawa, he’s never been able to play his position/role. And he won’t with Rooney there. I think that everyone can agree that the ship has sailed on Nani and Young. Januzaj is getting his chance, but what about Zaha? If he’s looked bad in training, he would have been better off going out on loan.
    The biggest problem is that Man United has missed out on some very good mids. I screamed for them to acquire Silva when City got him. Cesc was never going to come, unless Braca told him to sit and be quiet. Sneidjer is passed it.
    I would try to see if Pastore could be nabbed from PSG.
    I would also look into Javi Martinez, because he does not want to play CB.

    The bigger question will be if players will want to come. January always brings inflated price tags, and players might want to see how things shake out.

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