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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.


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What Separates Liverpool, Arsenal And Success This Season

Written by on November 3, 2013 | 28 Comments »
Posted in Arsenal, Liverpool

The temptation to draw broad and all-encompassing conclusions after an important match is almost irresistible. For many, Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Liverpool on Saturday has “proved Arsenal’s title credentials” while from a Liverpool perspective the defeat supposedly “damages Liverpool’s title chances.”

It is easy to forget that one result early is the season does not define a team’s destiny. Rather, it is just three points out of many and there are lots of opportunities to either rebound from such a loss or to stumble in games that should be won.

Nonetheless on the back of Saturday’s result here are… to read more please click on the link.


28 responses to “What Separates Liverpool, Arsenal And Success This Season”

  1. Smiley says:

    A few observations:

    1) Giroud yet again demonstrated why he is a good and NOT top striker as evidenced by the 2 misses at crucial stages.

    2) Liverpool will get destroyed by any good side if Rodgers deploys a 3-5-2 (especially with Henderson in a pivotal central role).

    Prediction
    Arsenal get knocked outta group stages in CL, finish either 1st or 2nd in BPL and Wenger departs at season’s end… regardless.

  2. Seattle Loon says:

    A bit harsh on Giroud. He leads the line very well. His positioning gave Carzola and Ramsey time for their goals.

    Harsh also on Henderson. Gerrard and Lucas didn’t cover themselves in glory. Moreover you can’t play a 352 without proper wingbacks.

  3. Smiley says:

    “He leads the line very well. His positioning gave Carzola and Ramsey time for their goals.”

    Exactly how “mediocre to good” strikers are described (Crouch, Lambert, Phillps, Johnson, Fletcher, Ba, Cisse, Jelavic, Defoe, etc). Giroud needs 4-5 chances to score and is not considered a top CF a la RvP, Aguero, Suarez or even Rooney or Higuain.

    As for Henderson, Liverpool had no creative attacking mid to spring S&S as Coutinho is just recovering from injury and Moses did not start and Gerrard plays further back. Henderson is a decent box to box midfielder at best whose passing and vision in the final third is atrocious.

  4. Seattle Loon says:

    A fair point on Giroud but remind me if he cost close to the fees paid for those other players. I honestly can’t remember.

    As a Liverpool fan albeit from a distance the axis of Gerrard and Lucas worry me more than anything about the team currently. At 33 I am not sure if Stevie G still has the legs and Lucas has not consistently regained the form shown prior to his ACL injury two years.

    Overall Liverpool are unbalanced. Two strikers – one of whom is world-class and another whom is very good, three excellent centre-backs but a light midfield and an ongoing weakness from set-pieces. Thus Rodgers has arrived at the 3-5-2. Such a formation was risky against a team as good and mobile as Arsenal. Especially with no Enrique and Johnson.

    Arsenal have really impressed me. Stating the obvious but they have been good or excellent all of 2013. They look as well-balanced as any team right now. I wonder if anyone else thinks that the injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott have been a blessing in disguise? The lack of width in midfield seems to have really given them a swarm quality against other teams. Plaudits for Ramsey and Ozil are obvious but Rosicky seems like a player reborn as well.

    I can’t wait for Sunday. The showdown at Old Trafford against a Man Utd who are quietly building a head of steam should be a cracker.

  5. John Bladen says:

    It was a great performance (though not flawless), but neither supporters or neutrals should read much of anything into it.

    Arsenal played well but LFC did not, frankly.

    My view on the team’s fortunes hasn’t changed since the day Ozil arrived: They have gone from “hoping” to retain a CL place to being very much favoured to do so. Talk of silverware (domestic or otherwise) is still highly premature. They have defended better this year, but there are still issues at the back (Flamini’s presence has helped, which is a bit of a surprise to me… I wasn’t sure he could still do it but he has).

    Even though I’m happy to see them clear at the top, I put that down partially to the poor play of other favoured clubs as well as Arsenal’s improvement. The Gunners aren’t the only surprise in (or out of) the top 8 so far this year, are they?

  6. Seattle Loon says:

    John:

    Good to see you aren’t another man who suffers from premature speculation. Long way to go et all but Arsenal look good in every department. The form of Ramsey, solidity at the back and purchase of Ozil is like having three wishes granted after rubbing the magic lantern.

    I hope it remains tight all the way to the finish. Mourinho obviously believes that margins will be very right given the way he has set his team up to play. Spurs intrigue me. Not playing especially well but not conceding many. Man U will be there or thereabouts. Man City seem to be getting even worse on the road but have an even better squad.

    As Liam Gallagher sang ‘You can have it all but how do you want it?’. The next seven months are gonna be a fun ride finding out.

  7. Ed Gomes says:

    I for one feel the EPL just might have an exciting finish. Meaning the title and CL races will be great.
    Arsenal’s Ozil signing brought great relief to the squad. His vision and movement, off the ball, will help teammates immeasurably. He’ll also make them look bad at times since he’ll see things they missed.
    Walcott being out has really helped others to come to the forefront. You can say the same about Podolski. For me, two guys that were unnecessary, where the money would have been better served elsewhere.
    Ramsey has been incredible and I wish him the best. I thought he was a complete waste, but he’s scoring at will. Maybe it was just playing time that was needed.
    The key for Wenger, as usual, will come down to when the going gets tough. Will they be able to avoid a bad string of games.
    By the way, Arsenal will get past the Group Stage in the CL, and after that the draw will be helpful or cruel.

    Nothing will matter at Liverpool. I could see Real coming in with a huge offer for Suarez, in January and him forcing his way out. That would kill the season.
    I see them missing out on a top 4 finish, which would also waste the season.
    They just won’t have enough to bring in “world class” talent and will lose Suares. Coutinho’s talents will be wasted for a few seasons.

    The best news for Liverpool is that the Red Sox won the World Series. It was completely unexpected after they cut salary. This could free up funds.

  8. Seattle Loon says:

    Ed:

    I’d love to disagree with you on Liverpool but can’t find much fault with your analysis. Suarez deserves Champion’s League football and overall they don’t have the squad quality and depth.

    With that a look at Spurs shows just how hard it is to break into the top four. They have done decent to good business in the transfer market for several seasons culminating with their investment of Bales’s fees into 4 or 5 (on paper) quality signings this year. They have a good youth system, a smart young coach and are one of the few clubs in England to have a director of football to oversee recruitment. With all of that it will still be very hard for them to break the might of Man U, Man City,Chelsea and Arsenal.

    So I am realistic about Liverpool (finally). When they are on song it’s fun to see them play their best football since the 2nd half of the 2008 and 2009 season.

  9. The two elephants in the room – how will Liverpool plug the hole left by Gerrard? How do they keep Suarez if they don’t make the top 4 this season?
    The potential dilemma of two steps forward 1.9 steps back looms in that case.

    Walcott – no matter what anyone thinks of his football brain his pace has to be acknowledged and defended against. For that alone he adds something to the mix.
    Podolski – I have a suspicion that he may benefit markedly from Ozil. His first touch his velvet, and crossing is excellent. If he had any pace he would be one of the top strikers in the world. And there is a cannon in his left foot.

  10. John Bladen says:

    Seattle Loon: It is a bit topsy turvy right now isn’t it?

    I didn’t expect it would be a cakewalk for the Manchester clubs & Chelsea or anything like that, but they have underperformed significantly. Who knows if this is the new normal (I doubt it) or not?

  11. John Bladen says:

    Ed: I agree on Walcott, but timing is everything in contracts isn’t it? I remember discussing this very thing on here with someone (can’t remember if it was you or not). Is Walcott the guy you break the bank for? I think the answer to that is no, and you don’t let him pick his own position to play either.

    At the time, though, Arsenal supporters were appalled at the net outflow of talent (and rubbishing every purchase or signing Wenger had made – some with justification, some not…) and fan unrest was a major concern. I’m not saying that’s a good way to manage a club, but had Walcott been sold (or just announced he would not sign a new deal) I think it might have been the last straw for a lot of people (not me). I have to think it isn’t an accident that Walcott and his people timed his ‘insurgence’ as they did either.

    I’m less concerned with the Podolski signing… Perhaps neither he nor Giroud set your pulse racing, but those two guys (and others) will make an awful lot of money because they have Ozil feeding them over the next few years.

    Barring perhaps central defense and goalkeeping, having an “Ozil” in your PL squad does make everyone else better. It also forces opponents to plan to defend him specifically, which generally leads to more conservative tactical plans (which can help your beleaguered defense and goal situation).

    One player is never a cure all. However, I suspect that the four or five other top clubs wished they’d saved some transfer cash to get Ozil right now. Still not certain why he picked Arsenal… but so glad he did…

  12. Ed Gomes says:

    Bobby,
    JB and I discussed it at the time (it was me JB), and Walcott’s contract timing couldn’t have been better. Arsenal was basically thought of as a selling club, and losing Walcott would have just added fuel to the fire. If you ask me, they kept and paid the wrong player out of the bunch that went.
    Yes he has pace and… That and can be debated. I do agree Ozil will make him much better, but I do recall Ozil also making him look foolish when Walcott missed the movement/pass/opportunity.
    If pace was all you needed, the Spurs with be leading the league.

    For me Podolski is still living off his Int’l duty with Germany. He failed at Bayern and led a team to relegation in the Bundes. Is he a good player, yes, but a not a difference maker. You would think that he could be a key cog on a very good team with players around him, but that didn’t exactly happen at Bayern. For me, Podolski has always been a guy with a lot of ifs.

    As for Ozil’s decision on Arsenal, it had as much to do with Real as did Arsenal. Real was not going to send him to Mourinho at Chelsea. Real also need to cut their wage bill once Bale was a done deal. Arsenal’s inept transfer season allowed them to be there for Ozil.
    Keep in mind that all other “big” clubs were done, and Man United matched Arsenal ineptness on transfers.

    I do agree with your assessment of Liverpool. They have no replacement for Gerard, who will outstay his worth. Suarez will also be gone, maybe as soon as January.

  13. Smiley says:

    Bobby – I think we all agree that Suarez is off like a prom dress at season’s end… regardless. Coutinho at 21 yrs of age has the makings of a Cazorla or Silva (in a few years) but if Liverpool miss out on a top four finish then there is no way back as there are too many wealthy clubs to outbid them for top talent, located in more appealing surroundings or provide CL opportunity.

  14. Astronomer says:

    Bobby,
    In addition to the twin problems involving the futures of Gerrard and Suarez, I also have serious doubts about Brendan Rodgers’s managerial abilities (tactical nous, team selection, etc.) to lead Liverpool to the promised land — namely, finishing in the 4 CL-eligible spots on a consistent (i.e. year in, year out) basis.
    ____________________________________________

  15. Alberta Gooner says:

    Bobby,

    Agree with you about Walcott though his absence has given an opportunity for Serge Gnabry to demonstrate why he belongs in the first team and the kid won’t be going away. There will be a real selection headache for Wenger when Walcott, Gnabry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are all available.

  16. I think Gnabry’s future is in the middle of the park

  17. Smiley says:

    “… has given an opportunity for Serge Gnabry to demonstrate why he belongs in the first team”.

    You mean after his impressive displays during Arsenal’s summer tour or against lower half table opposition in Carling Cup matches? Then again I recall the same statement by you about the likes of Djourou and Frimpong… so the odds of Gnabry joining Wolves have just increased mate. 🙂

  18. Rob says:

    Not really sure Liverpool need to replace Gerrard, or that they should worry about such a thing. Two things: 1.) Gerrard’s style, especially when he was younger, doesn’t really fit in well with Rodgers’ measured approach and 2.) You really can’t replace what Gerrard has/had to offer Liverpool when they were at their peak. So to worry about, or even try to, replace him would be counterproductive in my eyes.

    Focus on the strengths of the team and try to improve the weaker areas. Sounds asinine but when replacing a legend sometimes the obvious needs to be said.

    As for Suarez, if he leaves get as much money as possible. That’s about all you can do with him. Though I would say that him leaving only occurs if Liverpool finish outside of a Champions League place.

  19. Alberta Gooner says:

    Bobby,

    That’s an interesting observation. I know Wenger has started him wide in the league against Swansea and Crystal Palace, where he made a big impact in both matches but he has played in the middle for the reserves. Perhaps it’s a case of necessity with Walcott’s and the Ox’s injuries.

    Interestingly, Wenger has made the same comments about the Ox’s future being in more of a central role.

  20. Alberta Gooner says:

    Smiley,

    It’s a shame you don’t bother watching the matches of the club you claim to support. If you did, you’d see he scored against Swansea in the league and won the penalty against Crystal Palace. Both of these matches were away from home. You must be busy at work or something because the qualify of your trolling isn’t up to its usual standards. I mean, I would have expect some kind of dumbassed comment about his hairstyle or his lack of technique or the usual cliched garbage. This doesn’t even rise to your usual lazy cliche idiocy that “Aaron Ramsey lacks good technique because he’s British” or “Per Mertesacker can’t defend.” Step your game up.

    By the way, you might not want to bother looking up the score from today’s match in Dortmund. You are going to be a very sad Chicken Little while the rest of us celebrate a famous win.

  21. Alberta Gooner says:

    This link will interest the LFC fans who are discussing Gerrard and Suarez.

    http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1607195/steven-gerrard-luis-suarez-best-played-liverpool?cc=5901

  22. Rob says:

    I could see where Gerrard would say Luis, other than because he still plays with him. Finishing was all Torres, I’d say they are even in terms of movement off the ball but I would shade Luis in dribbling, passing and free kick ability.

    AG-As we both know, logic is not something that he possesses in mass amounts of quantity(despite what his name may say). You just gotta realize that there are some people who aren’t happy unless they are complaining. Arsenal lead their group(probably the toughest of the lot), are five points clear at the top of the Premiership and have just purchased one of the best players with vision that the game has and still that’s not enough. There is nothing you can do with supporters who came in during the invincibles, or after, because they don’t have a realistic view on the game. Saddest part is that if Arsenal don’t win anything he will come around with a told you so without realizing why or how it happened.

  23. Alberta Gooner says:

    @Rob

    Agree with you about the expediency in Gerrard’s comments though I happen to believe he’s honest in his opinion. Outside of Torres and maybe Alonso, I’m struggling to think of anybody who could be put into the same bracket with Suarez. Maybe a youngish Owen?

    And while I ignore Chicken Little’s trolling for the most part, it’s hard not to take the piss a little these days after listening to him spout his rubbish for the better part of five years on this blog, my blog and Bobby’s previous blog. I’ve said my piece and will let it go so this thread isn’t derailed.

  24. Smiley says:

    Gotta love dimwitted statements such as “FAN SINCE 19.. PLUS I own a giant Arsenal shower curtain!”

    Great win by Arsenal (and great first header by Giroud to assist ) but you gotta be one ignorant puppet to easily brush off the failures over the past decade and continue jumping through hoops like an obedient puppy. Sorry, but yours truly won’t be getting his panties wet over the penny pincher till season’s end.

    PS Kinda funny to mention me posting an “I told you so” yet “ROB” pops up outta the blue with that same post. How’s your “top technical winger” Kuyt doing lately, still getting your Bale’s confused? Remember what I told ya, one plays Batman and the other plays soccer for Madrid!

  25. John Bladen says:

    Did not expect a win in this game… really thought Arsenal’s best possible outcome was a draw – and that that wasn’t very likely.

    … That was the best game I’ve seen Mertesacker play since joining the club (though I could have lived without the ill advised attacking efforts which left the wayward Koscielny alone in back).

    Bobby, did you do player ratings for that one? Interested in what you thought of Mertesacker’s performance.

    Qu: 2: If Levandowski had expended as much effort trying to score as he did trying to get Arteta sent off or win a penalty, how many would Bo. Dortmund have won by???

  26. Rob says:

    AG-I don’t think I would put Owen in those class of players. However, I, also, thought of Alonso immediately when considering who was the best Gerrard played with.

    HTV-“Its funny that I pop out of the blue and say I told you so”? I always read Bobbys blog. In all our discussions you’ve been right once, regarding Bale, and I have never come back with an I told you so. Still on that Bale joke that I don’t get? Go with what works my man! And Kuyt is doing well for a non technical 33 year old but you already knew this as you watch all leagues except the Premier League, right? And why is Rob in quotations? Its my name. You would use quotations if I were saying my name was something like “John”.

    Good talk!

  27. Ed Gomes says:

    Will Arsenal overpay in January, which is what you do in January, for a striker or will Wenger spout how having Walcott, Oxil, etc’s… come back from injuries is like signing a player?

    Did I just hear a lot of groans?

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