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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

Raves And Rants – The Lost Edition, Form, Money, Games, Hope

Written by on February 22, 2012 | 14 Comments »
Posted in General

Some of the best of the soccer web with an atrocious piece thrown in now and again.

Simon Furnivall profiles the man who led Zambia to an improbable African Cup of Nations win – Herve Renard.

Watching the game and getting nervous about whether that equalizer is going to come or not?  Soccer Statistically has a nifty calculator to help you assess the odds. 

An anonymous piece in The Sentinel – is the professional game eating itself?

John Carlin uses Fernando Torres as an example and wonders how top athletes go about recovering their form.

In a week when both Rangers and Portsmouth entered Administration the Guardian’s Secret Footballer had some thoughts and a suggestion.

Amit Mandora looks at Athletic Bilbao’s coach Marcelo Bielsa – his influences and impact.

Rob Dillon looks at the legacy of the great Lev Yashin and the shadow cast over Russian goalkeepers who followed.

Gabriele Marcotti considers the impact of last Wednesday’s dismantling of Arsenal by Milan in the round of 16 in the Champions League.And another from the same journalist – this time on Andre Villas-Boas.

Al Jazeera reports on how the authorities in China are cracking down on corruption and game-fixing in that country.

Twelve Point Sports compares and contrasts Pep Guardiola and Don Draper – yes, Don from “Mad Men.”

The blog “Rangers Tax Case” has been ahead of much of the Scottish media when it comes to the recent financial affairs of Rangers FC.

Jonathan Wilson tries to get at some of the reasons for Arsenal’s decline.

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14 responses to “Raves And Rants – The Lost Edition, Form, Money, Games, Hope”

  1. John Bladen says:

    Interesting Wilson piece. I enjoy his writing a great deal.

    One item he appears to have ignored: Wenger himself said within a year of moving into the new stadium that ‘our ability to attract top players will be limited until the debt on the stadium is paid’ (not a direct quote, but that was the gist of it). The present situation re: spending was not, in other words, unexpected.

    The statement struck some supporters as curious, given that the reason for the new stadium had been to allow the club to compete with the likes of Man Utd for players and hardware. The truth is we don’t know what is holding up the spending (Arsenal generates enough money to spend more, as Wilson says, but that is a decision of the board/management and not necessarily the Manager himself, despite what the board may say publicly).

    Some of Wenger’s buys have clearly been mistakes (and not just recent ones), others simply haven’t yet reached their potential. Given the number of departures of late, Arsenal have also been forced to use players intended for development in the first team – something the manager can fairly be criticized for not being prepared for.

    Perhaps in that respect we simply see more of Wenger’s mistakes in the first team than we do of some other Managers (Ferguson & Mancini spring to mind). As Frank Lloyd Wright said,”‘a doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines”.

    If he stays healthy and continues to adapt to the EPL, Mertesacker will ultimately be a good buy at the price paid, and while not a teenager is still young enough to fit the Arsenal ‘youth’ mold.

    What Wilson doesn’t seem to have is a solution… is he recommending that Arsenal become the new Man City? Just buy everyone until you find 11 guys that can play together? Or that Wenger return to his original plan and buy gifted youngsters from other club’s academies (much harder to do now than it was 10-12 years ago)? One point not addressed is the relatively poor academy production in recent years – the club is not generating it’s own first team players these days.

    Wilson notes that ‘short term retrenchment might have been necessary’ to pay the stadium debt, yet wonders why more isn’t being spent?

    RvP leaving would be a catastrophe for the club on pitch (simply because they have no-one to cover for him, as with many others who have departed). However, given that he is nearing 30, it wouldn’t be out of character for Wenger to sell and put that money into younger players (as he did when moving Anelka, for example).

    I’m a bit confused as to what Wilson actually wants the club to do, beyond perhaps go public about it’s financial philosophy?

  2. soccerlogical says:

    Wilson is trying to get people like Bladen and AG to realize that the 5th richest club in the world with 2 Billionaire shareholders and a reported 50M pound transfer kitty SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN PUT IN THEP CURRENT PREDICAMENT TO BEGIN WITH.

    These BS excuses of no good talent available, unfortunate injuries, no Wilshire, rebuilding, need time to mature, etc are excuses only novices to the game are buying.

    The solution is obvious and has been suggested to Wenger for several years. The fact that some people can’t see the solution…. says it all.

    1) REBUILD/IMPROVE THE DEFENCE AS WILSON SUGGESTS

    2) IMPLEMENT A PLAN B SO AESENAL ARENT A ONE TRICK Van Persie PONY… WHICH WILSON SUGGESTS AS WELL

  3. Ed Gomes says:

    I really enjoyed the piece on the Sentinal. Unfortunately it all rings true. There has always been hatred between fans of certain clubs, but now it seems it’s the norm amongst all fans of all clubs. Yes sometimes it’s the actions of a few that ruin it for all, but we can’t deny those so-called few have grown in size.
    In Portugal there are golf balls being thrown at players and even stands set on fire by the traveling fans. Instead of ripping the fans, even Presidents talk about the passion of the idiots.
    Fans need to take a long look in the mirror, and hopefully they can rise above the troublemakers and help end this.
    Even at Porto who happens to be a United Nations of players there were racist shants. What, only our minorities are ok. Pure stupidity.

    I was shocked that AVB was allowed to fly back with the team, nevermind still have a job. This was a horrible loss just because at how poor they looked. I actually agree with AVB in him benching Lamps, Essien and Cole for insubordination, with Cole supposedly being the worst of all. The bigger issue is him having to put Cole into the match. He should have never have done that. Rework the formation, but don’t play him.
    A lot of talk whether the players believed in him, well clearly these players want him out. Most of these guys know that this is the last big checks they will be cashing, sadly whether they play CL play or not. I don’t want to hear about Chelsea pride from any of the players, because they are clearly not playing.
    The best thing that could happen to AVB is probably get fired ASAP. Let somebody else get credit to possibly sneak into the CL before it falls apart next season if not this one.
    All the talk of great leaders by pundits has never rang more hollow.

    Arsenal knew hey were gong to lose two very key players in the summer and yet were completely unprepared for it. That to go along with the defensive issues that weren’t addressed, and you have your current run of form.
    If Wenger thinks cashing in on RvP will allow him to bring n quality it’s silly. An Europa League club that has lost their best player will not be an attractive option.

    A couple of side notes.

    Gooch got injured at Sporting and is having his knee operated on. He is supposed to be out 8 weeks.

    Basel continues on its incredible run. It will all most likely come to an end in Munich, but what a thrill they’ve given their fans.
    Basel’s winger Shaqiri who will be joining Bayern in the summer came out and said that the Bundesliga better get ready for him. H went on to say that he was bringing excitement,flair and theater to the league. From watching him play in this years CL, he has plenty of theatrics in him. A huge diver/flopper that whines constantly. I wonder how that will play at Bayern? Oh wait, this will probably mean that Robben is on the way out, since that just might be too much theatrics.

    Inter is just awful. Marseille has sold and has already said bat it will be shipping players out in the summer, yet they want it more.

    Maybe people are going to start to realize how hard it is to go into Russia in CL play. Maybe them being in a layoff is bad, maybe it’s good, but what is for certain the frigid weather and horrific fields is definitely bad for opponents.

  4. John Bladen says:

    SL: Wankers like you always think they know best how to spend someone else’s money. The fact that the club has 2 billionaire shareholders is irrelevant. If you are a shareholder of any company at all you realize that.

    How’s your Cahill buy doing? Right. Thought so. Samba still holding down the worst defense in the league (or near to it)? Uh huh.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The comparison Twelve Point Sports made to Mad Men was brilliant. The parallels this guy makes from soccer to the real world are incomparable and his tactical analyses are dead on. I always look forward to a new piece from this guy. Definitely a recommended read.

  6. John Bladen says:

    Ed;

    I don’t believe Wenger actually wants to sell RvP, sorry if I gave that impression. But if it looks like a lengthy rebuild because Management won’t post a big transfer budget, or if RvP just decides he wants out, Wenger may have little choice.

    The best managers in the game know that there’s no point in hanging on to players who no longer want to play for you. Just as there’s no point in overpaying a player to agree to go somewhere he doesn’t want to be.

  7. Soccerlogical says:

    Bladen – The fact that you have resigned to calling me a wanker and are clearly an internet tough guy confirms your level of intellect in addition to your soccer insight.

    Are Cahill and Samba better options in defense than Squillaci and Djourou? Would Cahill, Figueroa or Samba have had less chance of injury than a player just getting accustomed to EPL style of play?

    “.. there’s no point in hanging on to players who no longer want to play for you. Just as there’s no point in overpaying a player to agree to go somewhere he doesn’t want to be.”

    *Brilliant insight that!

    PS It was widely reported that Wenger made a failed late Summer bid for MVilla and Gazidis said there was a hefty transfer kitty available. Uzmanov offered 100M to pay for the stadium in exchange for Arsenal shares (which would not be bought up by shareholders) and this would give them even more of a transfer kitty. No one is asked Wenger to overpay for the likes of Torres, Carrol or even Lescott and at this point any semi intelligent follower of the game realizes Wenger’s hubris cost us this season… yet your ignorance persists!

    Please let us all know when you have something original to add to a conversation you are knowledgeable of.

  8. John Bladen says:

    I didn’t call you a wanker. That would be wrong. I said that “wankers like you…” engage in a certain type of behaviour.

    And people with 70 IQs or lower type in capitals because they think shouting (even electronically…) wins arguments. Quite rich, you attempting to call someone else an internet tough guy. Anytime.

    You do understand that crying because the owners of the club you claim to love won’t spend the money you want them to (regardless of consequence) doesn’t speak highly of your maturity level, don’t you? Has it been your experience in life that behaving like a spoiled two year old is productive?

    Transfer spending is just part of the battle. You have to be able to pay the wages of the players you buy. Take a good long look at the football operations side of Arsenal’s balance sheets before whining about their spending habits.

  9. J Rob says:

    Can I play devil’s advocate between you two? Especially re: the centre-backs issue. Wenger wants value for money in his signings. Cahill at 15 million last January would have been too rich for his blood. But would he have made them a better team for the 2nd half of last season when high-balls caused panic at the back for Arsenal? Yes.

    But there seems to be a general lack of defensive coaching at the Emirates. Nobody would claim that Newcastle have the most talented defenders but look how they perform as a unit for most games. Steve Clarke has done a great job at Liverpool helping Martin Skertel become an excellent centre-back and Glen
    Johnson improve.

    I hope that what you would both agree on is that Arsenal seem to have lost their way as an organization. There seems to no clarity or transparency from the board. Worst of all Arsenal’s scouting system isn’t what it was. As I have said before why did talents from France like Tiote and Cabaye go to Newcastle and not Arsenal? This failure was hopelessly exposed when Fabregas and Nasri left. There was no back-up plan at all.

  10. Soccerlogical says:

    Bladen – “You do understand that crying because the owners of the club you claim to love won’t spend the money you want them to (regardless of consequence) doesn’t speak highly of your maturity level, don’t you? ”

    You are all over the place. So now fans who saw this scenario coming in the summer and preferred EPL defenders (Samba, Alex, Figueroa, Cahill, Enrique, etc) as opposed to those from foreign leagues are immature? The transfer fees and wages are the same. I have already stated this several times so perhaps ALL CAPS and larger letters will get this point across as you seem to have trouble staying on point.

    I guess fans who think Wenger’s hubris cost us this season should just keep quiet and bow at Wenger’s feet as that as a sign of maturity.

    * I am world soccer fan and objective Arsenal supporter, not someone with an Arsenal shower curtain who paints his face and stands topless in the stands.

    “The fact that the club has 2 billionaire shareholders is irrelevant.”
    – Interesting, I guess the likes of Abramovich, Glazers, Henry etc penny pinch and don’t properly prepare teams for the season? Obviously Wenger spending an extra 20M in the summer or January window would have pulled us into Administration.

    Have you intentionally digressed from your ignorant statement that a Santos, Djourou or Squillaci are a better fit then Samba, Cahill and Figueroa?

    You say that Arsenal couldn’t afford the wages for a Samba, Alex, Figueroa or Cahill… obviously this statement means that you consider these players in the Coentrao, Pique, Lahm and Thiago Silva category. I am pretty sure that the likes of Samba or Figueroa would be more than happy to join Arsenal’s wage structure on similar pay to what the likes of Mertesecker, Santos or even Djourou are paid. Arteta took a 10K a week cut to play CL for a top team… too bad that might have been just a one season thing if Arsenal finish 5th or 6th.

    The problem with Wenger is he only wants “nice” boys at Arsenal. All the Arsenal players are nice and well behaved guys who I like as human beings. The problem is that a team (especially in the EPL) needs a few mean sons of bitches in the defensive dept to impose themselves and Wenger refuses to address that aspect.

    So acquaint yourself with other top leagues and players and all the best writing about soccer pitches!

  11. Astronomer says:

    The Herve Renard piece was interesting (especially, from the perspective of the French national team).

    My girlfriend is from France and for the last year or so, I have “adopted” the French national team as my second team. I have so far been somewhat underwhelmed by Laurent Blanc’s performance as a manager, especially in terms of tactics (the team is too one-dimensional and predictable) and team selection. Hopefully, they will still do well in the upcoming Euro tournament.

    After Laurent Blanc’s tenure, maybe the FFF can look at this Hervey Renard guy as a successor — of course, the FFF is a stodgy institution and they tend to pick establishment types as the national team manager (look no further than Domenech) , so maybe this guy (being somewhat of an outsider) may not have much of a chance.

    I just think given the talented individuals France has at its disposal, they are just one tactically talented manager away from again becoming potential Euro and world champions.
    _______________________________________________

  12. John Bladen says:

    J Rob;

    The scouting issue is a good point. It’s been covered in the European media at length, but you are right, Arsenal no longer routinely beat other clubs to the best young players.

    How much of that is down to a decline in their own scouting (as the media have suggested) and how much to other clubs improving in that area is up for debate.

    I read an article the other day in which that point was listed on an Arsenal “to do” list – as though “make scouting staff best in world” is something you can do in an afternoon, while every other big club in the world is fighting for the same talent.

    It took time for Arsenal to drop to their present level. It will take time to climb back up as well.

  13. Soccerlogical says:

    There are two types of people in this world.

    Those who knew that Rick Perry and Sarah Palin were not mentally equipped to
    be President after the first 2 weeks of their respective campaigns
    and those who said they are qualified and intelligent leaders who are fit to lead and should be given more time and opportunity to get their “ideas” across.

    Similarly, there were those who saw this type of season coming after Wenger’s
    summer transfer dealings and those who now say this isn’t Wenger’s/board’s fault
    but just rotten luck throughout the season among other excuses without an iota of original analysis.
    ———————————————————

    * Arsenal’s wage bill is sky-high. It’s £130m-a-year and is 40 per cent higher than Tottenham who do have a wage structure.

    Arsenal are reported to have 71 players on its wage bill, which is £130m.
    That is an incredibly high number of players to have under contract.
    Arsenal’s wage costs are the 4th highest in the Premier League and getting rid
    of dead weight like Bendtner, Almunia, Squillaci, Djourou and Vela will allow
    great flexibility.

    The really interesting thing about Man United is the discrepancy between the biggest star in Rooney and his team mates. The club are prepared to pay stellar wages for stellar players. The difference at Arsenal is that all of the squad – from Johan Djourou to Robin van Persie – are kept within reach of each other.

    It is important to stress that there is no wage cap or formalised structure at Arsenal. Just a long held belief by none other than Arsene Wenger that there should be some kind of equilibrium among players who share the same dressing room.

    Clearly, that means Arsenal are not getting good value. And there is a reason for that. There is a whole raft of squad players – Abou Diaby, Denilson, Djourou, Squillaci and Nicklas Bendtner – who are on great money because they have been given parity.

    They are earning so much that Arsenal could not offload them last season.
    Some were shipped out on loan. Diaby was put up for sale but there were no takers, not because of injury but because of his sky-high wages.

  14. SCL says:

    I don’t think it’s that Wenger has so little to spend but how little he gets from what he does spend.
    Regardless of financial constraints, Wenger has spent in the transfer market but it’s exposed his poor decision making (and likely a scouting organization that has lost the plot).
    Combine that with sticking with players that have/may never come good (Denilson, Diaby, Gibbs, Djorou, et al) which could be ascribed to loyalty but increasingly looks like a stubborn resistance to admit mistakes.
    Unfortunate days for a club with so much history.

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