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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

Things To Watch For – Barclay’s Premier League Round 1

Written by on August 12, 2011 | 35 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League

1. The last game of the 2011 season saw Blackburn and Wolves face each other at Molineux with top flight survival on the line for both.

Wolves were on the cusp of the drop when they were down 3-0 at half time but other results went their way after they narrowed the gap to 3-2.

Obviously, both sides survived to fight another Premier League season.

Wolves need to do two things if they are to avoid a repeat of last season’s nerve-racking finale.

First of all they need to improve their away form – only 12 points last season away from home.

The second is that they need to improve their record against bottom half sides – which Blackburn is likely to be again this season. In 2010/11 Wolves took 24 of their 40 points from top half sides. No team gained fewer points against bottom half teams last season than Wolves.

2. Liverpool has spent a lot of money this summer (whether in existing or constant pounds!) and one of their high-profile signings could line-up against his old teammates this weekend. Jordan Henderson cost around $35m from Sunderland and one of Kenny Dalglish’s big decisions is who does he start in a midfield?

Dalglish has on paper a surplus of midfield riches even with Steven Gerrard out through injury. How will Dalglish set his side up in midfield and will he start young Henderson?

3. Last season Roy Hodgson started as the man in charge of Liverpool but finished as West Brom’s gaffer. He managed to stop the hemorrhaging that threatened to cut short West Brom’s Premier League life last season and eventually they finished 11th and eight points out of a relegation spot.

Famous for drilling good defensive and positional habits into his sides, Hodgson will hope that a full pre-season with the Baggies will cut into the 71 goals they conceded last season.

This Sunday’s opener against defending the Premier League Champions will be a test given that last season Manchester United scored 78 goals – more than any other team.

4. Two promoted sides see action on Saturday with QPR at home to Bolton and Norwich away to Wigan. Swansea appears to face the biggest challenge with a trip to whatever Manchester City are calling their stadium this season.

Who will be the first promoted team to be referred to as this season’s “Blackpool” and to be tagged with the phrase “a breath of fresh-air”?

5. Britannia Stadium is commonly regarded as a tricky place to travel to – especially on a cold and wet Wednesday night. Chelsea has always made trips up the motorway on weekends and maybe that is why they are unbeaten in three visits with a couple of wins and a draw.

Can Andre Villas-Boas prove his pundit-assigned Premier League credentials by maintaining Chelsea’s solid record at the Britannia? One other note – doesn’t it sound strange to hear that both clubs are fighting on domestic and European fronts this season?

6. Last season the then newly promoted Newcastle took four points off of Arsenal. There was an early season 1-0 win at Emirates followed by the famous (for Newcastle fans) or infamous (for Arsenal supporters) 4-4 draw at St. James Park.

With the departure of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri now looking inevitable and injury problems already an issue it will interesting to see whether Arsene Wenger sticks the 4-2-3-1 formation he favoured last season or goes for a makeover.

The pace and movement of Robin Van Persie and Gervinho has the potential to plaster over a lot of short-term problems if they can meld quickly.

7. Two new managers face each other at Craven Cottage when Fulham (Martin Jol) faces Aston Villa (Alex McLeish).

Will we see a radically different Fulham from that of Mark Hughes?

How will Alex McLeish set up a Villa side that has two distinct qualities missing from his Birmingham side – pace and proven goalscorers in Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor?

8. How shall we punish the first person to mention that Tottenham Hotspur are bottom of the Premier League when it comes time to preview round 2?

Anything you’re tracking this weekend?

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35 responses to “Things To Watch For – Barclay’s Premier League Round 1”

  1. Soccerlogical says:

    I’m tracking Aston Villa’s performance under a mgr who I greatly admire and if Downing is able to unleash hell with his unlimited potential as a winger on the Liverpool side.

  2. The time is now – here are my Premier League predictions for 2011/12. Let’s face it I have 9 months to come up with excuses!

    Premier League – 1-20 (Bobby)
    1. Manchester United
    2. Manchester City
    3. Arsenal
    4. Chelsea
    5. Liverpool
    6. Tottenham
    7. Aston Villa
    8. West Brom
    9. Everton
    10. Sunderland
    11. Stoke
    12. Fulham
    13. Bolton
    14. Wolverhampton
    15. Norwich
    16. QPR
    17. Newcastle
    18. Wigan
    19. Blackburn
    20. Swansea

    Promoted
    West Ham
    Leicester
    Cardiff

    Top Scorer Premier League
    Darren Bent

    Golden Gloves
    Joe Hart

    These are Aidan Godfrey’s picks. Twelve year old Aidan was ball boy at the City / Whitecaps game and he had a chance to engage in conversation with City manager Roberto Mancini. Mancini told him that he considered United, Chelsea and maybe Liverpool the threats to City’s Premier League hopes.

    Aidan’s Dad passed on the conversation and so Aidan became the Report’s youngest contributor.

    Premier League – top 5 (Aidan Godfrey with comments)

    1. Manchester City (because they have the best defence and good coach)
    2. Liverpool (They would be my first choice if the bought Forlan to play with Suarez)
    3. Manchester United (think they are getting too old not sure about the midfield)
    4. Chelsea (Think buying Torres was a mistake too many forwards)
    5. Tottenham (Think Harry will finish in front of Wenger’s team this year)

    To be relegated
    Norwich (they made the double jump be hard to stay up)
    Swansea (they don’t have the squad to stay up and they made no transfers in)
    Wolves (I think they were lucky to stay up they did not play well others played badly)

    Finally we have Michelle Lissel’s Five Big Questions (my answers in brackets)
    1. Who will finish top goalscorer – (Darren Bent)
    2. First Manager to get the sack – (Steve Kean)
    3. First hat trick -if they score more than 3 it counts – (Jermain Defoe)
    4. Worst team after 10 games (Wigan)
    5. When will Fernando Torres score his first league goal? – (Game 3 vs Norwich)

    Now it your turn. Other Fox Soccer Report predictions will be up soon.

  3. Marc says:

    1st of all Bobby I do appreciate your opions, however I’m gonna be the devil’s advocate to ask the following:

    1 would it be a surprise if Chelsea drops out of the top 4?
    2 do you believe if Ars gets Mata and that other Brazilian midfieder, Cahill and Dann or Per, they may just win the league? (Yes I’m a gunners fan)
    3 what team is your dark horse?

  4. Chris Koenig says:

    1. Interested to see how Taarabt fares. Thought it was a clever ace-up-the-sleeve picking him in my fantasy squad…..only to find that he is selected by16% of the teams registered! In comparison less people have selected Berbatov – last season’s joint top-scorer. So apparently I’m not the only one pulling for the lad to kick-on in the top-flight. We’ll see…

    2. Will Gabriel Obertan jump right into the Newcastle starting 11 and make a splash? I can see it happening – if not immediately, definitely by the end of October.

    3. Bobby’s # 2 – Henderson and Downing: will they start?

    4. Lastly…Balotelli. When will he do something ridiculous again? And how many times will the camera capture him sneaking up and tripping one of his unsuspecting teammates to the ground post-match….then the subsequent look of disgust on said teammate’s face. I saw this 3 times in the last month of last season – I’ve got my popcorn ready.

  5. 4. This seasons blackpool will be whatever team thought relegation worthy that succeeds early in the season.

    5.
    The only way Villas-Boas will kill the pundits claims of his inefficiency is if chelsea raise the CL trophy at the end of the season.
    Chelsea are so talented, so mature, they are expected to be in the run for everything, but they have only not won one thing

    8.
    Don’t know, but if tottenham dont make the europa league this year.many will tout the club will never rise so high again

    my top six, ManU look the sharpest in preseason, and will do serious damage throughout the year, though i worry about chicarito’s injury, but i am a solid chelsea supporter, and Chelsea is stronger this year than last year and I dont think they will have the injury prone season they had last year. I like Man City but looking at the community shield I wonder if ManC will not be hurt by card accumulation in the season, it is ref’s decision in the end, but I think they will be unfortunate cardwise at the moment.
    I like Arsenal, but Arsenal still have defensive issues and Liverpool is in ascendency, especially with Suarez. I think he will have a great year this year. We shall see.

    1.Chelsea
    2.Manchester United
    3.Manchester City
    4.Liverpool
    5.Arsenal
    6.Tottenham

  6. 1. yes
    2. no – too many new parts to fit in. I believe Wenger once said that any more than 2 new players coming in was a problem.
    3. Not a dark horse but as per my picks I think Villa might have a good season – WBA as well.

  7. Chris Koenig says:

    Tried to post comments earlier but they didn’t appear. Tried to repost it but claimed I was attempting a duplicate post. However, my post still doesn’t appear about two hours later. This will essentially be a test.

  8. My picks are actually quite similar to Bobby’s (click on my name to see them) but I think QPR will go down and that Liverpool will make the top 4.

    But Liverpool and Arsenal are really difficult to predict at the moment.

  9. Chris Koenig says:

    ^ Well, blame it on Google Chrome.

    The following go beyond the first round…but these are just a few of the things on my mind as things are set to kick off…

    1. Taarabt. Can he kick-on and reproduce his form of last season in the top-flight? As I picked him for my fantasy team I thought he was my clever “ace up the sleeve”….only to find that he has been selected by 16% of teams registered in the official PL fantasy game. To compare, he has been selected by more people than Dimitar Berbatov – you know, last season’s joint top-goalscorer. Apparently I’m not the only one wondering about him…

    2. Gabriel Obertan. He’s been set loose by Man United and I’m backing him to shine on Tyneside. If he doesn’t jump right into the starting 11, I bet he will be first choice by the end of October. He beats Guitierrez for pace, ability, finishing and strength any day of the week. At only 22, regular football and a bit of good fortune could see him blossom into something special. We’ll see how it goes….

    3. Bobby’s #2. Henderson and Downing: Will they start, will they flourish?

    4. Balotelli. What ridiculous thing will he do next? And how many times will he be caught on camera, post-match, clearly annoying the hell out of one or more of his teammates. (Watch for him to trip, and knockdown, unsuspecting teammates from behind. Saw him do it 3 times in a month at the end of last season).

  10. Michelle’s picks
    1. Chelsea
    2. Manchester United
    3. Liverpool
    4. Manchester City
    5. Arsenal

    Relegated
    Wigan
    QPR
    Swansea

    Asa’s picks
    1. Chelsea
    2. Manchester City
    3. Manchester United
    4. Arsenal
    5. Liverpool

    Relegated
    Wigan
    Wolves
    Swansea

    Derek Taylor’s Picks
    1. Manchester United
    2. Manchester City
    3. Chelsea
    4. Liverpool
    5. Arsenal

    Relegated
    Norwich
    Wigan
    Swansea

  11. TomL says:

    Full field picks:
    1 Manchester United
    2 Chelsea
    3 Manchester City
    4 Arsenal
    5 Liverpool
    6 Tottenham
    7 Everton
    8 Fulham
    9 Stoke
    10 Sunderland
    11 Aston Villa
    12 West Brom
    13 Bolton
    14 QPR
    15 Wolverhampton
    16 Blackburn
    17 Newcastle
    18 Wigan
    19 Norwich
    20 Swansea

    Promoted:
    West Ham
    Birmingham
    Leeds

  12. Erik says:

    Here is my chance at futility:

    1.) Man Utd
    2.) Man City
    3.) Chelsea
    4.) Liverpool
    5.) Arsenal (Meaning Arsene will not be back in 2012 – David Moyes???)
    6.) Tottenham
    7.) Everton
    8.) Aston Villa (Rooting for them to go down so Alex McLeish can be crucified for it
    9.) West Brom
    10.) Stoooooke
    11.) Sunderland
    12.) Bolton
    13.) Fulham (Martin Jol is NOT an EPL Manager)
    14.) Newcastle
    15.) Wolves
    16.) Blackburn
    17.) Norwich
    18.) QPR
    19.) Wigan
    20.) Swansea

  13. gorn says:

    As posted on Sofaball (with some gentler wording…):
    1. ManUre – won the tallest dwarf contest last season & added Young & mebbe Sneijder
    2. Chelsea – more likely to win CL but they’ll bounce back, only finished 9pts back
    3. MCFC – depends on Tevez obv.; soo ripe for disaster & midfield/back 4 kinda messy
    4. Liverpool – got 6th only playing half a season & much improved; health of top players required
    5. Arsenal – seems ridiculous but SO much change & loss of fulcrum players
    6. Tottenham – could drop farther, lots of good players but not enough great ones esp. without Modric
    7. Aston Villa – as long as Bent is healthy and the rest play to their level
    8. Bolton – lost Lee but will get Holden/Mears back. Also: TUNCAY!! & mebbe SWP
    9. Stoke City – added quantity & quality (esp. if they get Crouch, Bendtner *&* Palacios); may even start playing football
    10. Sunderland – not sure they’re better, plus if Gyan goes down again = playing for 17th
    11. Everton – so thin so fragile so same-o same-o
    12. West Brom – rinse & repeat of last season but with a known and knicked 30 year old Odemwingie
    13. Fulham – Jol will need some time
    14. Wolverhampton – like what Mick’s done, and they were routinely BRUTALLY unlucky last season
    15. Newcastle – who’s left there? Ben Arfa is hurt again too.
    16. Wigan – only because there are 4 worse teams/managers
    17. QPR – I’ll be pollyanna and assume Taarabt/Campbell are enough to miss drop. Plus new owners may spend $ in Jan.
    18. Blackburn – do I REALLY have to explain this one…?
    19. Norwich
    20. Swansea

  14. Rob says:

    I posted my pics on the sofaball website as well:

    http://www.sofaball.com/?p=2460

    Bobby what do you see as the biggest hurdle to City winning the title?

  15. Rob says:

    Hahaha oops that is supposed to say picks, not pics as in pictures. Don’t want to scare anyone away!!!

  16. Soccerlogical says:

    The Wolves relegation puzzles me. Johnson, Hunt, Ohara, Doyle, Jarvis, Kightly, Elkabi….

    Are people just predicting them to go down because they have done so in the past under MM?

  17. Rob – Mancini’s approach

  18. SL – with you on this one. I think Wolves are good enough to stay out of relegation trouble this season.

  19. Roberto Manita says:

    A cigar for Bobby regarding his assessment of Al Pacino above 😉

    Well done today Mugsmashers!!! You’re definitely on your way to the title after spending the equivalent of some nations’ GDP since the start of the year. Two points dropped at home to Mrs. Doubtfire’s crew who brought in a bunch of guys on frees. Brilliant! Downing = you spent too much. Henderson = you spent much too much. Carroll = you spent way too much. All that profligate spending while a wee little Swede who comes in on a free breaks your hearts in three. Is there such a thing as a Scottish Navy? Cause Kenny spent like a drunken sailor on shore leave 😉

    On your way to the title then boys!

    YNWA 😆

  20. Soccerlogical says:

    Manita – Behave yourself son, it’s the first game!

    I do agree that Henderson will amount to nothing and Meireles needs to start. Additionally, Carroll should be tied to a chain in the penalty area as he has no business moving around the pitch with the pace of a one legged turtle.

    Bobby – Please don’t get angry but that new Fox Soccer Matchday set is the cheeziest thing I ever saw, plastered with ads on various screens. Bad enough I gotta mute Miles and Barton, now I gotta wear sunglasses from that blue glare. 🙂

  21. Erik says:

    I know it is but 1 game but when you get blown out at home by Bolton and lose one of your best players for a long time – and maybe the entire season – things aren’t looking good @ QPR.

    Michelle and I are the only 2 here who have them going down and once again while it is but 1 game – right now we look pretty smart. Always knew Michelle was the smartest one on the set (besides Bobby, of course). Like me – smart and damn good looking 🙂

  22. Roberto Manita says:

    Kick a Ginger Day used to be my favourite recess time activity 😀

  23. Roberto Manita says:

    Arsenal just got Joey Bartoned. Again. That massive prick should have got two red cards today and escaped with just a single yellow. Brilliant officiating at the Toon once again.

    Phil Dowd last year at the Toon and today Phat Phil phails to give a clear red card against the defender that took Suarez out in what must be a clear goal scoring opportunity. Go grab another donut Phil.

    Not a good day today for EPL officiating I must say 🙁

  24. SL – I don’t work for Fox Soccer so you can say anything you like…..just about.
    I mute Sportsnet while watching in Canada. My grandson will graduate before I hear anything remotely insightful.

  25. Roberto Manita says:

    Bobby – I got a glimpse of your Twitter comment where you said that technically, by the laws of the game, Arsenal should have received a penalty because of Barton’s manhandling of Gervinho (Fivehead) while the ball was in another area code (paraphrasing here). If that is indeed the laws of the game then they don’t seem very logical to me. Red card for manhandling yes. Awarding a penalty in that situation doesn’t make any sense to me since the ball is nowhere near the player that got assaulted in this case. We should be giving officials less reasons to award dubious penalties in my opinion and not more. Can you clarify that rule for us please? I think it is a bad rule and should be changed.

    Also, could you give your take on the Barton incident please?

    I thought Fivehead dove and should have received a yellow for simulation. In my books, Barton should have got a red for man handling an opponent (picking him up forcefully from the ground is akin to raising a hand to an opponent’s head, from where I sit) and Fivehead should have got a red for hitting (even though it was a slap) Barton in the head. And a drop ball should be awarded at the spot where it was when the play was stopped (so a rule change would be needed for this last take of mine). I believe that would have been the fairest way to have dealt with the situation despite the current laws of the game.

    Could you give us what the official should have done regarding the situation according to the current laws of the game and how the current rules should be different if you believe they don’t suitably deal with this latest Joey incident (i.e. being an instigator and awarding a penalty when the ball is in another area code from contact)? Thanks.

  26. Alberta Gooner says:

    “I mute Sportsnet while watching in Canada. My grandson will graduate before I hear anything remotely insightful.”

    This one made me smile, Bobby, because I do this as well! lol

    Here’s my picks as posted on Sofaball.

    1. Salford LBO
    2. Stockport Massive
    3. Holloway Road Properties PLC (yes it’s aspirational)
    4. West End Rent Boys
    5. Dalglish FC
    6. North London’s Lesser Lights
    7. Sunderland
    8. Everton
    9. Aston Villa
    10. West Brom
    11. Stoke City
    12. Fulham
    13. The Geordie Gong Show
    14. Bolton
    15. Wolves
    16. Wigan Athletic
    17. Norwich City
    18. QPR
    19. Factory Farm FC
    20. Swansea City

  27. Rob says:

    Roberto Manita- Welcome to the game of football:

    http://www.ussoccer.com/Referees/Laws-of-the-Game.aspx

    You can find the answer to your question under fouls and misconduct(Law 12).

  28. LA says:

    Bobby,

    Your picks provokes thought. What is going on at WBA? I am hearing Arsenal are having trouble attracting the players they want. Chamakh was even quoted as saying they are getting turned down. i would not be surprised if they did not sign anyone in this window and work toward winter signings.

    Unless Gervinho’s red card 3-game ban is not appealed, I can see Arsenal not having a good start and champions league is at risk. Chelsea is unknown right now. Mancini has not figured out EPL, but he has a lot of talent (I still see him screwing it up). Although Daglish is the calm presence LFC need, I question the quality in that side with upgrades through the league.

    My only prediction is

    1) Manu

    2) Chelsea (Because their owner is desperate to win and will push with signings if needed).

    3) Man City (Just too much quality)

    4) Arsenal (I don’t think the team will allow themselves to finish outside of top 4).

  29. Roberto Manita says:

    Thanks Rob 😉

    But my question is partly about the current laws of the game regarding that Barton fiasco but mostly about the justice & logic of awarding a penalty for a foul on a player in the box when the ball has been played well outside the box well before such an off the ball Barton incident is made. Nobody on the professional crew that worked the game even brought up the possibility of awarding a penalty based on what Barton did. Nor did any of the Arsenal players or Wenger for that matter. And I’ve never heard of the obscure rule. Just because it is in the current laws of the game doesn’t make it a just rule. I guess you have. You’re a better man than me.

  30. Roberto Manita says:

    And obviously the official that worked the match today is not familiar with the rule either. Even so, it would take a brave official to award a bogus/dubious penalty for Barton’s manhandling of Gervinho even though, technically, it’s part of the laws of the game. And I’m saying this with an Arsenal bias.

    I’ve not heard of one commentator, other than Bobby, that had the thought cross their mind.

  31. Ed Gomes says:

    I dislike both squads, but I admit to loving Newcastle Brown Ale.
    Did everyone forget that Song got a away with the stomp. The ref had a bad point of view, but it was in front of the 4th official. I admit in smirking when it happened.
    As for Barton, it was just a matter of time. I thought that Squidward might have been knicked but not enough for a penalty. But what the heck was Barton thinking, lifting him up like a rag doll. I doubt he himself knew.
    I also love it when these guys make claims, like he punched me, when everyone can see replays.

    Arsenal is going to have a real tough time. Wenger better forget about Cesc and Nasri, because RVP looked completely disinterested. None of his runs were made with any conviction. Backline still hasn’t changed and their new goalie is like their old goalie.
    While is Lisbon, Wenger went on how a big signing was going to surprise people. Tevez? City has already dismissed Arsenal, so why help them?
    What will save Arsenal from falling out of the Top 4 will be the incompetence of Liverpool and Spurs.

  32. Ed Gomes says:

    My Picks

    Man United (They need Berbs)(Axel Witsel that’s currently @ Benfica would be the perfect midfielder to bring in next year)
    City (YaYa will lead them, Balotelli out in January)
    Chelsea (Porto made AVB, not the other way around)
    Arsenal (Wenger completely loses it at press conference and goes after reporter)
    Liverpool (Carrol won’t score more than 10)
    Spurs (Will dismiss Europa but it won’t help on league play)
    Villa
    Fulham
    WBA
    Stoke
    Sunderland (Should be better, no?)
    Everton
    Bolton
    Newcastle (Maybe the most entertaining soap opera. Fans are also delusionally great)
    Wolves
    Wigan (How can you not root for them)
    QPR
    Blackburn (Big but very Cheap Owners)
    Norwich
    Swansea

    Lets hope that West Ham doesn’t come right back up although I we will miss those two clown owners comments.)

  33. Rob says:

    RoMa-Its a bit like that disallowed goal in the opening game of the World Cup. I’m not sure if you watch from the states but Efan Ekoku(who was commentator at the Arsenal game yesterday) couldn’t understand why the referee disallowed that goal in the Mexico-South Africa match.

    And with him being an ex-player you would think he would know the rules…even a simple one like that.

    “I’ve not heard of one commentator, other than Bobby, that had the thought cross their mind.”

    Thats one of the reasons Bobby is so brilliant. He has actual knowledge of the game and not just an opinion.

  34. Gus Keri says:

    My predictions:

    1- Man City
    2- Man United
    3- Chelsea
    4- Tottenham
    5- Liverpool
    6- Arsenal
    7- Everton
    8- Aston Villa
    9- West Brom
    10- Sunderland
    11- Bolton
    12- Newcastle
    13- Stoke
    14- Fulham
    15-Swansea
    16- Wigan
    17- Wolverhampton
    18- Blackburn
    19- Norwich
    20- QPR

  35. CDNGooner14 says:

    Here’s my predictions:

    1- Liverpool
    2- Arsenal
    3- Man Utd
    4- Man City
    5- Chelsea
    6- Tottenham

    18- Wigan
    19- Norwich City
    20- Swansea

    No, I’m not trolling 🙂

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