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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.


Rear View Mirror – “What A Turnaround” Special

Written by on February 5, 2011 | 7 Comments »
Posted in General

What a turnaround! It was something we heard over and over again on Saturday.

Of the eight Premier League matches four were comeback wins and another was a draw – and a remarkable draw at that.

The Stoke v Sunderland match was the early Saturday match and had there been any games in direct opposition the audience would have been limited to the diehards from each club.

As it was, the quality of football on show at the Britannia Stadium (or as Times writer Nick Szczepanik once memorably referred to it, Ice Station Zebra), was not the best and offered an opportunity to “celebrate” effort rather than skill.

Sunderland eventually wilted in the face of Stoke’s bombardment although it was two wonderful deliveries from Jermaine Pennant that allowed strength and power to win out.

Liverpool used three centre backs and two wing backs to counter Stoke’s physical approach on Wednesday at Anfield. Sunderland opted for the same tactic although the two wide players played more like conventional full backs than wing backs.

What continues to intrigue is that how after three seasons in the league the other 19 teams show so little imagination in dealing with the blunt weapon that is Rory Delap’s throw-in.

Sunderland seemed to approach the task like so many others and opted for the strategy of fighting fire with fire.

Sunderland packed their penalty area with defenders which allowed Stoke to throw more players into the area as well.

Surely that is playing into Stoke’s hands – the more players in the penalty area, the greater the confusion and the more difficult it becomes for the goalkeeper to come and win the ball.

When Craig Gordon did win the ball, more times than not he had no option up field and had to wait for Sunderland players to get forward.

Would fighting fire with the equivalent of water not be a better idea? Leave three or four quick players up the park and then Stoke has to either risk a counter attack or keep more men back.

When the ball comes into the penalty area rather than having three or four defenders challenging two or three Stoke attackers, get the hell out of the way and allow the goal keeper a clear run at the ball.

Four goals up with 21 minutes left to play nine men should be able to hold out for a win let alone ten. Arsenal’s collapse was inexcusable.

Fingers may be pointed at Diaby for his reaction to Joey Barton but it looked to me as if the biggest loss was Johan Djourou to injury just a few minutes before.

The Arsenal substitutions, when they were made, failed to stem the tide and once the second penalty (a very strange call) went in there was a certain inevitability that Arsenal was not going to leave with three points.

The equalizer was a terrific strike from Tiote and with it Arsenal’s title aspirations disappeared or at least seemed to.

Three minutes gone, you are sitting bottom of the Premier League and down 1-0 to a Manchester United side who are 19 places above you and unbeaten in 29 league matches. What do you do?

Well, if you are Wolves you fight back to lead 2-1 at half time and then put in a heroic second half shift to hold on for three precious points and to receive the undying thanks of at least three other Premier League sides named Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea.

The pitch may not have been to United’s liking but apart from an early spell when Nani looked to have the beating of Wolves left back George Elokobi at will, United showed little that would pass for Premier League Champions form.

The absence of Rio Ferdinand was noticeable – as it always is – but nonetheless United had problems in all areas. Evra and Rafael failed to get forward in a consistently dangerous way.

Fletcher played a couple of nice passes out wide early in the going and then largely disappeared. Carrick was anonymous and Berbatov easily handled.

United played like a tired side; Wolves played with immense courage.

It makes next weekend’s Manchester derby even zestier.

Juventus stopped the rot by beating Cagliari 3-1.

It was a muted response from Matri after scoring twice against his old club.

The stand out goal came from Luca Toni. A thundering header from outside the penalty box blew past Cagliari keeper Agazzi.

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7 responses to “Rear View Mirror – “What A Turnaround” Special”

  1. Boris says:


    As I was saying earlier, both Kranjcar and Corluka are victims of a system. It is good to see Corluka starting but in my opinion Kranjcar warrants a starting position as well regardless if Modric is out or not.

  2. Soccerlogical says:

    I can’t believe ‘Arry convinced Kranjcar not to leave during the window (as I am pretty sure there were a few top teams interested). Why would such a talent want to be a fringe player, albeit at a competitive club.

    Boris – Everyone who actually follows the game is already aware of the awesome talent of Modric and Niko.The problem is fitting them into a midfield which requires at least 1 holding mid and competition from the likes of Bale, VdV, Lennon, Piennar, etc.

  3. Boris says:

    Soccerlogical, I am aware that there needs to be a holding midfielder. Having all these talented players makes it difficult to start everyone.
    Modric is an automatic start over any of these players in my opinion. If I had to chose between Modric or Bale on the left, I would pick Modric without hesitation. As a matter of fact, Modric is the one who put Bale on the map in the first place. I am not the only who believes this. However, I do believe he may not get the same publicity as Bale. Oh well. As I was saying earlier, Harry prefers a system that relies on speedy flank players and unfortunately Kranjcar is not one of them. When I said that I would start Kranjcar, what I meant was that as good as Bale was, I would have no problem starting Kranjcar on the left. The same goes for Van Der Vart in the middle. I was a proponent of a quality striker like Cavani being signed over Van Der Var since I felt that Kranjcar could’ve slotted well in the “VDV” role himself which he has done quite well for Croatia.
    That’s just my opinion.
    Kranjcar was offered to go to Bremen but probably refused because he wanted to player at a stronger league even though Bundesliga is pretty good. Maybe he is hoping to sign for a bigger club in the summer. I know I wouldn’t want to sit on the bench all year.

  4. shmish says:

    re: the Newcastle comeback

    First of all, as soon as I saw Barton’s tackle on Diaby I immediately thought about the tackles on Eduardo and Ramsey. Not only do I think they are similar in the physicality (leg breaking tackles), but also in the response: emotional, game-changing and season-changing. Check, check and the jury is still out on the third one.

    I’m not fond of making excuses for refereeing. I see the refs as being a part of the game, as opposed to a mediator of the game. Awarding two penalties in a match is significant though and the consequences are very difficult to deal with no matter what team you are. Newcastle’s last goal was screamer and they were tenacious in the 2nd half. But for me it is difficult to reconcile the result with what happened on the field. Newcastle did not play a 4-0 game in the 2nd half, and the ref’s influence on the 4 unanswered goals cannot be understated.

  5. Ryan says:

    Bobby, I would like your opinion on the refereeing at Newcastle:

    Many pundits seem to agree that Phil Down had a bad day at the office, that he made too many mistakes in the Newcastle-Arsenal game. But I like to stand up for the official this time because I think he did get the Diaby decision correct.

    I have heard people criticizing Phil Down for disallowing Best’s and Van Persie’s goal, but that is the job of the assistant referee, who made the incorrect call on Best, but probably were right on the Van Persie goal. I agree with Phil Down for the first penalty as it was indeed a clumsy challenge from Koscielny. But the second one was not Down’s decision, but rather his assistant who had a better view of the situation and perhaps wrongly decided to award the penalty. Phil Down was on the other side of the incident, his view was being obscured. When the ball went out of play, Down was going away from the incident, with no intent to award anything but a goal kick, then all of a sudden it was a penalty. If it was indeed the assistant who flagged for the penalty, then how can you blame Phil Down?

  6. Ryan – I am pretty much with you on the calls. I did not think there was anything wrong with Barton’s tackle – Squillaci gave Diaby the ball but he wasn’t expecting it and the ball was between his legs when Barton tackled him.

    Surprised that Nolan did not get at least a yellow for the penalty incident although Szczęsny should know better.

    Who ever called the second penalty got it wrong – brutal decision. And let’s remember referee’s assistant advise the referee and Dowd could have easily overruled his assistant if that was the case.

  7. Theo van Arshavregas says:


    Fully agree with you about the Arsenal match. A team that is up 4-0 should get the full three points even with 9 v 11 for half the match let alone 10 v 11. I’m still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress after that nuclear meltdown of biblical proportions. Let’s hope AFC can recover from yet another implosion. Fingers crossed.

    But, somehow, the Gunners are one point closer to ManU who cannot match 49 Unbeaten. So, it wasn’t the worst weekend after all.

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