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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

Winners and Losers – A Look and the Ups and Downs of the Last Week

Written by on February 19, 2012 | 15 Comments »
Posted in General, Winners and Losers

Winners – It has been a fantastic week for Milan. Starting with a 2-1 comeback win against Udinese last weekend then picking up steam with a 4-0 pasting of Arsenal and then wrapping up a nice piece of work with a 3-1 win over Cesena. And now to next week’s showdown with Juventus.

Winners – The Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) has been disparaged by the English media in direct proportion to the success of English clubs in the Champions League. Now with Chelsea the only side retaining a realistic chance to make it past the round of sixteen of the Champions League and Manchester City and Manchester United in good positions in the Europa League after first leg play, the Europa League will never be in a better position to make in-roads into fans conscientiousness.

Losers – There has never been a week like this in the history of Rangers Football Club. Into Administration they go, followed by a ten point deduction and a 1-0 loss at home to Kilmarnock. The really bad news is that it is only going to get worse. Wait till players contracts start getting torn up to say nothing of the Scottish Football Association’s investigation and the one being undertaken by Strathclyde Police into the club’s owner Craig Whyte.

Winners – There are certainly some short comings when it comes to Royston Drenthe – tracking back being a glaring deficiency. But there are things that Drenthe can do that few others on the Everton squad can. Yes, it was against lower tier Blackpool but a goal and an assist early in the game was enough to put Everton on easy street. The question is whether he has instilled enough faith in manager David Moyes to get a regular starting spot? 

Losers – For Arsenal fans the last few seasons have been a case of it never rains but it pours. Balloons are not burst at various stages during the season but rather implosions occur in late winter and early spring. A 4-0 drubbing on Wednesday from Milan has some fans declaring “do not resuscitate” just in case Arsenal should grab an early lead in the second leg only to then disappoint.

A 2-0 loss to Sunderland on Saturday in a game Arsenal dominated in possession but never looked like winning meant any chance of FA Cup glory evaporated as well. With the run of games Arsenal has coming up in the league the fourth Champions League spot might also be charging over the hill before March is complete.

WinnersLeicester City are sitting mid-table in the npower Championship and with 15 games remaining and 9 points and 7 teams between them and a play-off spot the chances of reaching the Premier League in time for 2012/13 is a remote to nil. But for a side that has yet to string together back-to-back wins in the league this season they are doing remarkably well in the FA Cup. A 2-1 win at Norwich puts Leicester in the last eight and a chance at the title “Cinderella side.”

Losers – There is no dishonour in going to Anfield in the FA Cup and losing 6-1 but in the case of Brighton the three own goals they offered up must really sting a bit more than normal.

WinnersAndrea Pirlo was at his majestic best against Catania. He scored his first goal for Juventus direct from a free kick and then assisted on the other two to help his club to a 3-1 win. If there was a Player of the Year Tier 2 (below Ronaldo and Messi) Pirlo would have my vote this season.

Losers – The label of “Tinkerman” was pinned to Claudio Ranieri many years ago even though there are many that mess around with formation, tactics and starting eleven than he. Perhaps the new nickname should be “Roller Coaster Man”. After a run of seven games unbeaten Ranieri’s Inter side is now winless in their last 5 Serie A matches (4 losses, one draw). In the five games they have scored four goals (all in one game and all by Diego Milito) and conceded 13.

In their run of 7 games unbeaten Inter scored 16 goals but conceded only 2. 

Winners – League One side Stevenage was never outplayed by Spurs although they did look a bit tired in the closing stages. The FA Cup tie produced no goals but it was an affair that always entertained. Question – he looked like a good player during Stevenage’s Cup run last season and he impressed again yesterday. Why has Stevenage’s Lawrie Wilson not attracted interest from bigger clubs?

WinnersCristiano Ronaldo scored one goal against Racing Santander to take him to 28 league goals; a day later Lionel Messi scores four against Valencia to take him to 27; the next highest scorer in La Liga has 14 goals. There is no doubting that we are watching two individuals make a mockery of defences.

Who are your winners and losers from the last week?

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15 responses to “Winners and Losers – A Look and the Ups and Downs of the Last Week”

  1. Álvaro A. Ayo says:

    Rangers lose big and it’s a sad day for Scottish football. I’d say it’s worse than River Plate’s plight, because in Argentina you also have Boca, Racing, San Lorenzo, Newell’s, Estudiantes, etc, all big clubs, whereas in the EPL is all about Celtic and Rangers. I’m a Bhoys fan but I don’t want to see the eternal rivals in this situation. Hope Bobby is wrong and things start getting better for Rangers, although, I’m afraid Bobby is right as usual.

  2. soccerlogical says:

    Pirlo’s vision and one touch passes from midfield are sublime.

    For me, Madrid’s Angel DiMaria is on his way to breaking into that top tier. His fierce shot, dribbling and surgical through balls just may be the difference in Madrid lifting the CL trophy.

    *Trying out new bait… no more worms.

  3. sf ian says:

    Arsenal is beginning to resemble Liverpool under Benitez in his final days:
    The manager not playing certain players, making it seem as if they were foisted on him by the management.

    The total lack of style or fluidity.

    The manager unable to rouse the team out of their torpor.

    The weird substitutions: honestly, what’s the point of putting on walcott against a packed defence? He has no skills to unlock 2 tight banks of 4. Say what you will about arshavin, but clever passes and shots in the final third are his specialty.

    It really feels from fellow gooners as if something has to give this season, and with a weirdly disconnected board, it feels as if the manager may have to be the one sacrificed. Which is too bad, because besides being a genuine admirer of Wenger (despite hsi strange stubborness of the past few years), it feels as if there’s something going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. WEnger may be stubborn, but a man who had kanu, bergkamp, and henry and wiltord on his bench does not look at his current strikers and think: “Yeah, that’s do.”

  4. all great managers are stubborn. if they were not they would just be pushed by the prevailing wisdom of fans which is very rarely correct.

  5. Ed Gomes says:

    Well put Bobby. Us couch managers always know best after the fact. I try not to be guilty of this, but…

    Just to pile on;
    The Rafa comparison is a rough one. If Wenger starts blaming someone else for the players that we’re brought in, you know he’s done. Much like Rafa, he has control of that.
    Let me add that I blame Rafa as much as “the owners” for Liverpools troubles. Let me add that it was those “owners” that signed one of the richest sponsorship deals in the EPL.
    I saw that Wenger/Arsenal were now realizing that they would ave to bust their we scale for RvP. The only problem with that is that they need to do it for incoming transfers. What’s the point of paying RvP and leaving the squad as such.
    Let me add that Sneidjer would be a wonderful addition, but also a possible horrific injury nightmare for Arsenal.

    SL, I got to watch DiMaria a lot at Benfica. He’s a wonderful player that has actually gotten better at Real. The biggest issue I had with him was that he had no right foot. Send him to his right and always expect the cut back to his left or a wayward cross.

    AVB has to be mentioned in this column. His losing streak has continued, and it just looks as if it will get worse. I heard FSC pundits saying how he had to come in and prove himself to the players. I agree that he needed to bring the leaders into his fold, but I think that we can all agree that its those same leaders hat need to be turned over in the squad. Call me foolish, but I think that AVB was smart enough to go over his plan with Abram before he got hired and the owner agreed. Terry’s and Lamps form have dipped and plenty aren’t playing up to par on the squad. AVB’s biggest issue is that those same players that need to be moved are going to undercut his authority. Tactics aside, it’s clear that 100% effort is not being given.

    Inter is a nightmare. Moratti needed to freshen up the squad, and actually could have cashed in on guys like Maicon. Now, no.
    A read that Zola and even Figo are being mentioned as managers. Figo? Really? Loved him as a player, but I would of liked to have seen him somewhere else before handling Inter.

    I know it’s, at least I hope, only a blip on the radar, but Sporting fired Domingo’s Paciencia. A big deal because he was looked upon as the next great Portuguese manager. They are scrambling badly, and a financial mess.

    I would also like to nominate UEFA as a big loser. The CL and Europa matches were exciting, but more than a few of the field conditions were unacceptable. How such a prized tourney like the CL allows teams to play in such deplorable conditions is pathetic. I understand that the low temps are what they are, but the fields were painted dirt. Frozen bumpy painted dirt. Amazing that nobody turned an ankle badly.

  6. I was thinking of making “winners and losers” a regular feature so any feedback would be appreciated. The other part of “winners and losers” would be your participation. There is only so much soccer I can watch each week and I know I miss a lot of interesting stuff.
    Your contributions based on what you have watched and experienced has the potential to round the feature off and make it something special….I think anyway.

  7. Soccerlogical says:

    Bobby – Any thoughts on Wenger should Arsenal not finish top 4?

    I have been a fierce critic of Wenger’s stubbornness and hubris in properly addressing Arsenal’s frailties with EPL defenders (who are used to EPL physicality and MAY not have gotten injured and not needed time to adjust) and not properly integrating the likes of Benayoun, Chamakh and Yung so that we may have a plan B.

    There is no denying Wenger’s contributions to the club and his side’s ability to play proper football but many saw this type of season coming after the closing of the summer transfer window and I for one have a bad taste in my mouth after this season’s fiasco. Mind you, I have never called for Wemger’s head nor am I doing so now. Either option of Wenger willing to properly address Arsenal’s frailties and basically admitting his “vision” has failed or appointing the likes of Klopp, Garcia, Pep or even Roberto Martinez who I am sure would properly address Arsenal’s problems are FINE BY ME!

    I have no problems with us rebuilding and fighting for 4th for a few seasons BUT NO manager should hold a club back due to hubris when everyone around him sees the problems as the manager sticks to his principles which have shown for not even a Carling Cup trophy in the past 7 years and all the top talent flees for pastures new and better….

  8. Erik says:

    Alvaro is 100% right. Rangers’ situation doesn’t hurt just Rangers – it hurts the entire PL and maybe more. Players’ salaries will be headed down because frantic bidding between sides won’t happen or be worth as much. I sell stuff on eBay and an auction gets sold for more when more than 1 person wants the same item. If person wants it I will get far less than 2+ and that is what will now happen in the SL with Rangers no longer able to open the wallet. And this might negatively affect other leagues as well. At some point in time clubs will reign in spending and that will be intesting to see what happens when this takes place.

    Bobby: LOVE this feature – please keep doing it

    Who has a better chance of participating in the EPL in 2012-13: AVB or Wigan? Gotta think Wigan – if only by default?

  9. J Rob says:

    A nice bit of analysis on the current state of the EPL is contained in the start of this article on the Tomkin Times:

    http://tomkinstimes.com/2012/02/a-most-unusual-english-season/#comments_wrap

    AVB – When your owner sits in on training and scolds the team something tells me your form isn’t away to improve. I wonder if some of the seasoned players under AVB feel like “we just need to ride this out – he’ll be gone shortly”. Ultimately, Chelsea fans should be mad at their owner. Sacking Ancelotti was so silly. if Financial Fair Play has teeth I think Chelsea have real problems.

    Another loser – journalist Rob Smythe of the Guardian. His play-by-play on the Liverpool vs Brighton game was an all out assault on Andy Carroll. The latter’s goal should have kept him quiet for awhile.

    Can somebody confirm – has Carroll scored a headed goal this season? I think not. He was guilty of a very bad headed miss yesterday from a Gerrard cross that was identical to one against Newcastle at Anfield 2 months ago.

  10. J Rob says:

    a rare good podcast on the Guardian today (missing the gormless Barry Glendinning):

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/audio/2012/feb/20/football-weekly-podcast-chelsea-villas-boas

  11. John Bladen says:

    J Rob: The fans’ ‘deathwatch’ does appear to be on for AVB, and trying to predict what Abramovich will do is a mugs game.

    But I do wonder why an owner would bring in a manager that employs the style AVB does if he isn’t willing to let him remake the team to play that style?

    To me, the AVB signing was an indication that Chelsea was about to transform itself (not always as easily done as said). If RA really thought AVB could come in an make the existing (aging, in some cases failing) squad into an “EPL Porto”, then he really doesn’t pay attention to the game.

    Still, if he was opposed to dumb moves… Grant, Scolari, Ancellotti etc would either not have been hired in the first place or not fired. If he cans AVB, then what? What big name Manager will come to Stamford Bridge with the record of impatience the owner has?

  12. John Bladen says:

    Ian/Ed:

    Agreed, the Rafa comparison is not entirely accurate. Benitez was his own worst enemy and, after the Inter debacle, people are finally realizing how much of what he achieved at LFC was simply building on his predecessors work (certainly not all of it, but RB was hardly the instant upgrade he looked like).

    I don’t think Sneider is likely to turn up at the Emirates. He really doesn’t fit the Wenger mould, in that he is an expensive veteran. As you say, he is also a big injury risk. Going back to Anelka and the Viera/Henry deals (part of the foundation of the great teams of the last decade), Wenger pretty much always buys younger players at reasonable cost and then develops them (as does Ferguson, for the most part).

    Not all will work out, of course, and expecting a repeat of the high success rate of the mid 2000’s anytime soon is probably unrealistic.

    Some peanut gallery dwellers like to whine about Arsenal being cheap (well, they just like to whine, let’s face it…),but the reality is that there isn’t a lot of quality out there to buy. Ferguson has said as much as well.

    The Gunners were not prepared for the number of departures they had this year. Criticizing Wenger for not having sufficient depth to field an EPL calibre squad in the first month or two of the season is perfectly legitimate. Mincing about how they’ve missed out on overpaying for very average EPL talent isn’t.

  13. Ed Gomes says:

    MB there’s plenty of managers that fancy themselves big enough for the Chelsea job. And there’s even more that would be willing to cash in on the desperation.
    If AVB gets fired now, it won’t hurt his career a bit. He would have cashed in on his deal, and most futebol people realize what Abram can’t seem to admit to himself. Chelsea just isn’t good enough the way its currently built.
    Let me add that while I may agree with Barton at FSC in regards to Chelsea having leaders, I just wouldn’t necessarily call them good leaders at this time.

    JB. I actually feel that there is talent out there to be had. If anything Wenger hasn’t done a good job of first finding it or developing it. Everybody knew that Cesc was going to leave, and Wenger must have known Nasri was leaving due to contract demands, yet no plan B or C. Arteta had to be plan C or D, just by the last minute of it all. Why not increase RvP wages and pay Nasri.
    I’m sorry but Wenger himself has sounded foolish. After getting killed by Milan, we have to hear finishing in the Top 4 is the priority. Why get a top 4 spot if you’re not going to be competitive in the CL and/or league. Its the CL money that should allow a club like Arsenal to compete on all fronts.
    Last seasons loss to Birmingham should have sounded all alarm bells, yet nothing.

  14. Soccerlogical says:

    ED – Unfortunately, certain people lack any original insight or knowledge about the game and simply provide links and parrot what other managers and journos say without any comprehension.

    * I am not saying that a Scott Parker was what Arsenal needed during the summer transfer window but these transfer fees clearly don’t signify any “overpaying”. And the prices for the likes of an M’Villa, Goetze and Hazard are spot on.

    1) S Parker transfer fee £5.5m
    2) G Cahill transfer fee £7m
    3) Alex £5m
    —-
    Santos transfer fee to Arsenl £6.2m
    Mertersecker £10m

    PS I agree there are always some bargains out there (i.e Cabaye, Tiotre, Nolito, James Rodriguez, etc) and to simply parrot Ferguson’s “the reality is that there isn’t a lot of quality out there to buy.” is simply a sign of ignorance (not to mention that Fergie has ample depth this season with Scholes and Cleverly returning).

  15. Álvaro A. Ayo says:

    John,

    I don’t completely agree with your assessment of Rafa. His managerial career didn’t start with LFC. His Valencia side won 2 La Liga titles. I think he lost it after being so close to winning the EPL in 08-09 season, so his last season does not reflect what he accomplished with LFC at all. Inter was a case of the wrong man for the wrong job. He was not the right fit for Inter and vice versa. Even if he never manages again he’ll still be in the top 5 managers of his generation. It’s all about the titles. And he accomplished plenty.

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