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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.


Arsenal and Manchester United Beat Promoted Sides But Outcome In Doubt Till End

Written by on November 21, 2011 | 7 Comments »
Posted in Arsenal, General, Manchester United, Norwich City, Swansea City

Arsenal came flying out of the blocks against Norwich and could have easily led by two or three goals in the first ten minutes or so.

But as we have seen so often a team making an impressive falls victim to a sucker-punch and this case it was largely self-inflicted.

A speculative long-ball from Norwich left back Marc Tierney turned the Arsenal defence. Steve Morison set off from his position on the left side of attack in what initially looked to be a lost cause.

Instead it illustrated why forwards hunt such balls down.

Faced with a choice of thumping the ball out for a corner or hesitating, Mertesacker opted for the latter. The German tied himself in a knot and could only watch from ground level  as Morison breezed past him. Norwich 1-0.

Morison’s positioning was interesting throughout the game. Paul Lambert chose to start with only one attacker – Morison – but positioned him as a left side striker up against Laurent Koscielny who occupied an unusual position for him at right back.

Morison did switch at times but it was to the right rather than centrally.

By the time half time rolled around Arsenal had equalized.  But perhaps more noteworthy was the heroics of Norwich centre back Russell Martin.

Three times in the first 45 minutes Martin managed to clear an Arsenal goal-bound effort. One, after a Theo Walcott shot, fell into the “you have to see this” category.

It was therefore somewhat ironic that it was an error in judgment from Martin that led to the goal that gave Arsenal a 2-1 lead and eventually all three points.

Martin opted to dribble out from the back and through the centre circle only to be shutdown by Song and Ramsey. Dispossessed, Martin fouled Ramsey but referee Phil Dowd correctly played advantage. Song had a choice between feeding in Gervinho or Van Persie.

He decided on a pass to Van Persie which was probably just as well as there was a hint that Gervinho might have drifted marginally offside.

Van Persie went to score with his “chocolate leg.”

Norwich continued to threaten and on a couple of occasions were awarded free kicks in potentially dangerous positions. But nothing came of it and ultimately it summed up Norwich’s performance.

Well organized, maintained composure but could not turn their play into enough quality scoring chances in the Arsenal penalty area.

Swansea has been widely praised for their commitment to passing and ball retention and it was again a highlight of their match on Saturday as it was for their opponents Manchester United.

Both teams registered pass completion stats of 87% a level only matched by Manchester City in the other Saturday games. (It is worth noting that Stoke and QPR hit 65% and 67% in their match.)

It is ironic that in a match that saw such a high rate of pass completion that the only goal of the game should come from a misplaced pass from Swansea right back Angel Rangel.

Giggs intercepted and proceeded to set up Javier Hernandez and it would stand up as the winning goal.

It was one of the few things of consequence from Giggs in what was one of his poorest showings for some time.

Nani had a poor game as well and United had no success from one of their favourite areas of attack – crosses from wide positions.

Defensively United looked solid with the exception of Patrice Evra. Nathan Dyer (passing stats in final attacking third 14 out 15 and 35 of 36 total were successful) gave the French left-back a roasting and Evra was taken off with 40 minutes remaining.

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7 responses to “Arsenal and Manchester United Beat Promoted Sides But Outcome In Doubt Till End”

  1. Soccerlogical says:

    But what a deft touch with that chocolate leg eh? He has had quite a few solid shots on goal with his right this season and has been working on that aspect of his game. I heard someone comment that RVP has become a fusion of Henry and Bergkamp.

    The more I watch Mertesecker, the more I am unimpressed with his decision making, speed (lack of) and strength… the Peter Crouch of defenders or perhaps just on the decline.

    PS I expect Newcastle to return to winning ways after the Manyoo match as Ben Arfa looks good as he returns to full fitness and the likes of Tiote, Obertan and Best are on the mend.

  2. John Bladen says:

    It was a horror show moment for Mertesacker (re: Morison), no question. But it would be nice to know if Vermaelen actually gave him a shout that SM was as close as he was. As with all pairings, it takes time for them to gel.

    RVP = Henry + Bergkamp? Really? Did you watch Bergkamp play? It doesn’t sound like it. RvP is fine player, but he’s no Dennis Bergkamp.

    Great moments in EPL history: Stoke v QPR: Joey Barton gets his 5th yellow in less than 10 games (honourable mention or perhaps wanker of the week), referee Mike Jones (who had a difficult day himself) inadvertently kicks him in the head as Barton is rolling around the pitch in a manner that would have made even Klinsmann nauseous.

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    JB – I don’t know who you are trying to troll regarding the RVP comparison as I clearly stated it was a comment made by some pundit. Additionally, I suggest looking up the word “fusion” which is a blend.. and not some exact super-human combination of all X + all Y.

  4. Alberta Gooner says:


    I was very impressed with Swansea City’s commitment and ability to play the ball out from the back. I hope they are able to stay up. What are their chances of avoiding the drop?

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    I know that ultimately there are good losses, but both these promoted sides deserve some credit for their style of play. I hope they are able to stay up.

    It seems as if everyones defense has gotten horrible at the same time. Granted Arsenals has always been lacking.
    I’ve always been a fan of older center backs due to their experience and let’s say craftiness. But it seems as all of them have taken huge steps back, and its really hurting squads throughout Europe.

    What is Arsenal and Wenger going to do when RVP leaves. Who’s going to kick corners?

  6. John Bladen says:

    Irony: SL calling someone else a troll.

    Ed: I’ve been wondering about that some as well. Is it that the older (and less fleet of foot?) CB’s play has declined? Or is it that they are being left more exposed by the play of their teammates around them?

    Obviously some have clearly lost a half step etc. But there do seem to be more goals coming from attackers beating central defenders outright of late. Not sure, maybe just a temporary thing…

  7. Soccerlogical says:

    JB – Perfect evasive (and hypocritical) comeback to your ignorant post. As soon as you have an original or interesting thought to share… please do let us all know mate!

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