Wednesday, December 7, 2011

NY Mets: The Fans Get Ponzied - Arsenal: Some of the Kids Are Allright

When Fred met Bernie

 Add New York Mets fans to the list of victims of Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme. The trickle down effect of the Wilpons' dealings with Madoff are evident as the franchise cries poverty and lets the best player to come out of the organization in years leave due to money. I could go on and on at how disgusted I and other Mets fans feel, instead here's a reprint of the article that I wrote for Bleacher Report when the Jose Reyes news first broke:

Today is a very sad day in a history of sad days for New York Mets fans. While many supporters remained hopeful that Jose Reyes would re-sign with the team, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Reyes has left for the newly named Miami Marlins.

Along with a lucrative contract, the Marlins offer Reyes the opportunity to play for a team on the rise. In addition to Reyes, Miami has signed closer Heath Bell and are making a push for the much-coveted Albert Pujols. The Marlins are making it clear that they want to build a winning team and attract more fans to their new stadium.

Back in New York, it's the opposite. The Wilpons are making it clear that they cannot afford to compete due to their financial problems with the Madoff scandal and a number of ridiculous signings they are still tied to. In addition to still paying out the contracts of recent flops Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, the Mets just began paying Bobby Bonilla the $1.19 million he will be collecting from them for the next 25 years.

The Mets tried to convince their fan base that they were a potential playoff team last season. Nobody bought in to that one. It was obvious that the 2006 team that was supposed to become a dynasty had not materialized, and the "rebuilding" process has been in place since 2009. The Mets are the only team that have to rebuild on a rebuilding project. It's mind boggling.

And that's the Goodfellas scene where Joe Pesci is whacked
What seems to be lost in the news that Jose Reyes has been signed by the Marlins is the fact that the Mets could have traded Reyes last summer and received value back for him. Just like they did with Carlos Beltran. Instead, he remained and played great for the Mets down the stretch. Reyes won the batting title, but in the end, the Mets finished 25 games behind the Phillies and eight games under .500. They should have traded him for prospects.

In looking at the chatter on Twitter, it's pretty obvious that Mets fans are fed up. How much suffering can one fan base take? Long before allowing one of the franchise's most popular players of all time to walk away without even pretending to make an offer, the Mets served up two hearty doses of heartache to their fan base:

2007: The Mets lost 12 of their last 17 games. They went in to the last game of the season tied with the Phillies for the division title. In a must-win game, Tom Glavine gave up seven runs in the first inning and put a cherry on top of one of the worst collapses in baseball history.

2008: The Mets held the division lead by 3.5 games with 17 left to play. They then went 7-10 the rest of the way, surrendering the division to the Phillies and finding themselves tied with the Brewers for the Wild Card spot going in to the last game of the season. In what was to be the final game at Shea Stadium, the Mets came up short yet again, and Milwaukee went to the playoffs.

As if that misery wasn't enough, fans that could handle it sat through what was supposed to be an amazing tribute to Shea Stadium. As Tom Seaver threw a pitch to Mike Piazza and they walked off the Shea Stadium field together stunned and inconsolable, fans looked on. It was the perfect symbolism for the Mets season.

The Wilpons better have a plan in place to earn back the money they've lost because they are not going to make it back in ticket sales. I have a feeling there will be plenty of empty seats at Citi Field for the near future.

I will always remain a Mets fan, as it's in my DNA. However, I am not going to support the current ownership that has continually made it clear that they have no regard for their fan base and paying customers.

Meet the Mets

Thank God for Arsenal.  While lots of Arsenal fans are upset at the club's 6 year trophy drought, Arsenal are a team that has always fielded a competitive team since I began following them in the mid 90's. I can't say the same for the other team that I support. The Mets haven't won a championship since 1986 and they are not looking good for the future. In fact, they are the laughingstock of baseball.

Anyhow, Arsenal have rebounded from their early season "crisis" and now sit in 5th place above Liverpool and Newcastle.  Their form has been impressive and the new players have fit in well and made the squad more solid. 

With Arsenal being the first English club to qualify for the final 16 of the Champions League and win their group, their game in hand at Olympiacos was basically an afterthought. It gave Arsene Wenger the opportunity to rest the bulk of the starting eleven and give some playing time to many of the younger players and some of those on the fringe.

Fabianski was awful
I recorded the game on my DVR and eagerly sat down to watch the match last evening. All I can say is wow.  I couldn't believe that this was Arsenal. They were getting bullied all over the field and their ball possession and passing was poor.

Granted most of these players have not been given sufficient playing time and have not played together.  However, defensively the team were shocking.  Djourou, who I like, was awful...Santos was way off his game...Squillaci, get rid of him now...and even the Verminator made a few mistakes.  They weren't the worst part of the defense, however.

Lukasz Fabianski started in goal and was horrible. He looked like a guy that had never played in goal before.  He allowed Olympiacos a rather simple first goal as he was caught completely out of position. When he had to be replaced in the 25th minute due to injury, I secretly welcomed the switch. That phrase be careful what you wish for comes to mind today.

Mannone was even worse
Vito Mannone made Fabianski look like David Seaman. I actually found myself embarrassed for the team and felt pangs of pity for the Arsenal fans that spent money to travel to Greece and support the squad.

On the positive side, Yossi Benayoun provided some much need experience in midfield and did score Arsenal's goal with a nice strike. Ignassi Miquel and Tomas Rosicky looked solid in midfield after coming on as second half subs.

Meanwhile Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn't given much service up front, but he did exert his strength and skills when given the chance.

In the end, the result was unimportant and the match was a great learning opportunity for the team.  I just hope Wenger took stock of who passed the test and who was not up to the challenge and needs to go.

It's back to the league this weekend as the Gunners host Everton and hope to keep moving up the table.

Benayoun and Miquel celebrate Arsenal's only goal

Thursday, November 24, 2011

That Was Then This Is Now: Arsenal Make The Pundits Eat Their Own Words

Less than two months ago every story being written about Arsenal was a negative.  Whether it was a crisis, a team in decline or Arsene Wenger needs to go everyone was writing off Arsenal while lauding the likes of Man. City, Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.  Just six weeks later and we're seeing headlines such as Arsenal Best of English Clubs.

Captain Van-tastic has led by example
Match day 5 of the Champions League group rounds has come and gone and the only English club to have clinched a place in the round of 16 is the "crisis club" Arsenal.  In fact, not only are they through, they have clinched the top spot in their group with a game in hand. Meanwhile the Sheikh's loyal subjects at Man City are praying for a miracle to go through, while both Chelsea and Man U are not guaranteed anything with one game to go.

Arsenal have won 5 straight league matches and have moved from an early season low of 17th up to 7th and level on points with Liverpool and Chelsea.  Robin Van Persie has continued his prolific scoring run and with Vermaelen back in the fold, the defense is getting tighter and the newer members of the squad are gelling with the rest of their teammates.

Chelsea defeated at Stamford Bridge as RVP Nets a Hatrick
While nothing has been won yet and there's still plenty to play for, Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have not only qualified for the Champions League round of 16, they have done so for the 12th straight year...a very difficult thing to accomplish that consistently.  Personally, I am sick of hearing the tired complaint that "Arsenal haven't won a trophy in 6 years". Birmingham has and now they are in England's second tier.  Portsmouth won a trophy 3 years ago.  Since then they have gone in to administration and are currently 18th in the Championship.  I'd rather be Arsenal than either of those clubs and others like them.  Yes Arsenal have come close and failed but they keep challenging at the highest level year after year while fly by night teams come and go. 

Arsenal are the only English team to secure a place in the round of 16 so far
Man City, Tottenham and Liverpool may currently sit above Arsenal in the EPL table, but 2 of them are not playing Champions League football.  Meanwhile, the one that is, Man City, is probably on their way out and only got there by buying every player under the sun and running up a record one year loss of 194.4 pounds.  Of course trophies are what every fan wants for their club, but I think having a highly competitive team year in and year out is a major achievement that only several top flight teams have been able to do.

Anyhow, just for laughs here is what the media was reporting 2 months ago and how their tune has changed since:

 NY Times          September 14       The Worst of Times After Years of Success
                           November 23        Arsenal, Leverkusen and Apoel Advance

Fox Soccer         October 2             Once Proud Arsenal is a Club in Crisis
                           November 23        CL Review: Arsenal Best of English Clubs

The Telegraph     October 3           Arsenal Crisis Worsens After Bacary Sagna is Sidelined
                                                       Until January with Broken Leg Sustained Against
                          November 25        The Train Wreck Days are Over and Now Arsene Wenger,
                                                       at the 'Club of His Life', is Prospering Once More

Alex Song and Robin Van Persie score against B Dortmund
The Guardian    September 27       Arsenal Injury Crisis Threatens To Derail Season, Says
                                                       Arsene Wenger
                          November 24        Arsenal Provide Hard Evidence in Case For Champions
                                                       League Defence: Arsène Wenger's team have a solidity at
                                                       the back that United, City and Chelsea must wish they
                                                       could summon themselves

Daily Mail        September 18          Wenger in Crisis!  It's Arsenal's Worst Start For 58 Years
                                                        But The Manager Claims: I'm Not Worried About My
                         November 24          Van Persie Leaves Wenger in Awe As He Fires Gunnners
                                                        in to Knockout Stages

Express             September 10         Arsene Wenger: My Hell
                          November 24          Arsenal 2 B Dortmund 1: Wily Old Arsene Wenger Gets
                                                         His Own Way

BBC Sport         September 9            Alan Shearer On Why Arsenal's Problems Are Not Over
                          November 24          Arsene Wenger Shocked by Arsenal Reaching Last 16
                                                         Before English Rivals

Alex Song runs through Borussia Dortmund

Independent     September 18          Defensive Shambles Deepens Arsenal Crisis
                         November 25           Arsenal Back On Song After Summer Woes

The Sun           August 23                 Antonio Di Natale Thinks Arsenal Are In Deep Crisis***
                       November 24             Has Arsene Wenger Turned Corner? Arsenal 2
                                                         B Dortmund 1                   
                        November 24            Alex Song: Why Are You So Harsh On Arsenal?**

Football Talk  October 7                  Arsenal ARE In Crisis...Wenger Has To GO!
                       November 24            Who'd Have Thought It Would End Up Like This?

Just Arsenal.Com September 18       Wenger Is Leading Arsenal To Mid-table Mediocrity
                             November 25       The author has not posted a new article since October

I also discovered this website which has not been updated since October 5th. 

***Di Natale and Udinese were easily dispatched by Arsenal 

 **Alex Song was a beast in Arsenal's win over Dortmund.  His run to set up RVP's first goal was
   insane and his defending and midfield presence were massive throughout the entire 90 minutes.

Up the Gunners. Come on Arsenal.

Theo Walcott is teaming well with Gervinho and Van Persie


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Arsenal in Crisis? Crisis Has Been Averted

As recently as one month ago the term crisis was being used regularly by the media in describing Arsenal's start to the 2011-2012 season. Since the team's loss to Spurs at the beginning of October, Arsenal have won four straight Premier League games, beaten Bolton to advance to the next round of the Carling Cup and defeated Marseille at the Velodrome to put the Gunners atop their Champions League group. The only "blemish" in this otherwise winning run was a 0-0 Champions League draw this past week with Marseille at The Emirates. Arsenal have moved up to 7th place in the EPL table and are now level on points with Liverpool with just goal differential separating the two teams.

Rambo gives Arsenal a victory in Marseille
Captain Robin Van Persie has been on fire scoring 8 goals in Arsenal's last 4 EPL games and deservedly picking up the league's Player of the Month award. While it may just be a coincidence, Van Persie's form and leadership have been outstanding since the departure of former captain Cesc Fabregas. It's almost as if Van Persie needed the added responsibility to step in to the spotlight. Whatever the reason, Van Persie and the team are gelling and positivity has returned to the Arsenal camp.

October Player of the Month and the first to
 reach 10 goals this season
Arsenal's 5-3 victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend may be remembered as the game where confidence was finally restored to the team. Despite going behind twice to the Blues, Arsenal took control in the second half and shocked Chelsea fans and players alike. Seeing John Terry on his ass while Robin Van Persie scored the second of his three goals was fantastic. Likewise, Theo Walcott's amazing goal saw the speedy Walcott fall down and still run through four Chelsea players to score a wonder goal.

This weekend Arsenal easily defeated West Brom 3-0 despite not being at their best. It could be a coincidence, but with Vermaelen back and partnered with the in form Koscielny Arsenal did not concede a goal. In fact, Vermaelen even contributed a goal of his own.

Arsenal have already played Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool and their upcoming EPL matches are against lower table teams. Meanwhile a number of the current top 6 clubs will be playing each other. If they continue to play as they have been, Arsenal have the chance to continue their upward move.
As for the Mets, the off season is looking dismal as the post Bernie Madoff era continues. With the Wilpons looking to slash payroll and Jose Reyes seeking a big free agent contract, hopes of keeping Reyes in Queens are fading. For all the gory details, check out my latest article at Bleacher Report.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Arsenal Get Back to Winning, The Baseball Post Season Heats Up Without the Mets & Thankfully Without the Yankees

The two-week international break couldn't have come at a better time for Arsenal.  After their worst start to a season in more than 50 years and an agonizing defeat to hated Tottenham, both the team and the fans needed a break from the league to regroup and come back ready to get things turned around and moving in the right direction.

The world football pundits have been burying Arsenal over the last few weeks and have actually stated that the balance of power in North London has shifted to the Spuds.  Yes Arsenal have gotten off to a horrific start but to make such inane comments after just 8 games in a season despite years of Arsenal's domination over Tottenham seems a bit exaggerated and extreme.

It's amazing how short everyone's memory is. Liverpool are being talked about in glowing terms this season. The pundits are singing the praises of Kenny Daglish's team and perhaps, rightly so.  However, last year at this time, Liverpool had fewer points than Arsenal currently have.  After 8 games last season, Liverpool had a total of 6 points with 1 win, 2 draws and 5 losses. As late as January 2011 the "relegation" term was being thrown around.  The same negativity that is currently being directed at Arsenal was being hurled at Liverpool. The media spoke of a crisis and possible relegation as they had a field day looking at all the negatives.

As we all know now, the team turned it around and while not finishing in the top 4, Liverpool finished 6th in the table and are looking strong thus far this season.

Captain Robin Van Persie leads by example
Arsenal defeated Sunderland this past weekend with Robin Van Persie scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory. After 8 games Arsenal find themselves in a disapppointing 10th place with 10 points. (Keep in mind Liverpool had just 6 points at the same point last season and turned things around). While I am certainly not pleased with the Gunners' dismal start, the late roster changes, the rash of injuries and the current defensive frailties, Arsenal can and should turn things around.

Arsenal are currently missing a good number of first team players (Vermaelen, Wilshere, Sagna, Diaby) while the new players are still getting used to playing together as a cohesive unit. (Arteta, Benayoun, Jenkinson, Gervinho, Mertesacker and Santos amongst others). Of course the defections of Nasri and Fabregas just as the season started didn't help the team's morale both on and off the pitch.

Van Persie scores the first of his two goals
So, my point is...don't listen to the negative media, idiotic Spuds fans or just plain haters. Be a fan, stick with the team and believe that things will get better. Again, look at where Liverpool were last year at this exact stage in the season.

Here are some of the positives.  Szczesny is proving that he is a top class keeper with loads of confidence.  Alex Song is really taking charge and helping out the still leaky defense while controlling the midfield.  Captain Robin Van Persie is healthy and is proving his class both as a top striker and a team leader. Arteta and Benayoun look sharp overall as they learn the Arsenal system and new defenders Santo and Mertsacker are looking strong early on.  Then there are the promising younger players; Frimpong, Gervinho, Coquelin, Miyaichi and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Vermaelen should be back soon and both Wilshere and Sagna will return this season.  Then there's the January transfer window and Aresene Wenger's funds.

As for the weekend's game...Arsenal again dominated most of the play but still left their fans to sweat it out until the end.  Van Persie's free kick to seal the victory was a thing of beauty as was Sebastian Larsson's free kick that resulted in Sunderland's lone goal. While it wasn't a goalfest for Arsenal, it was a convincing and deserved win that will hopefully give the squad some confidence to build upon moving forward.

Recent British Tabloid Football Stories that made me laugh:

The Ryan Giggs "family affair" was back in the news and more ridiculous than ever.

Dirtbag Wayne Rooney proves once again what an idiot he is as he received red in England's recent Euro 2012 qualifying match.

The Carlos Tevez vs. Roberto Mancini saga is insane and proves that buying up superstars does not make a unified team.  I expect more infighting to come. 

Shameless self promotion: My Bleacher Report article on Arsenal hat tricks in the EPL era.


Baseball's regular season ended a little over two weeks ago and the first two rounds of the playoffs have come and gone. The highlight of the post season for any Mets fans was seeing the hated Yankees and Phillies eliminated in the first round.  Watching the arrogant and elitist fans of our arch rivals eating crow and looking despondent has become an enjoyable part of the post season for Mets fans. I do hope one day to see the Mets actually make the playoffs, but until then, it's always great to see the Evil Empire and the Phreaking Phillies LOSE.

Go ahead and cry Phillies fans
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals will be playing for the title.  The Cardinals are the team that beat the Mets in the 2006 ALCS so there is no way that I will support them.  They've won enough.  I am rooting for the Rangers all the way.  The only negative thing that I can say about the Rangers is that George Bush is a fan. Aside from that, original Met and 1969 World Series winner Nolan Ryan is part owner of the Rangers. Plus Endy "The Catch" Chavez is on the Rangers roster as is Ian Kinsler. In honor of all Jewish grandmothers in Brooklyn, it's nice to see "a nice Jewish boy" in the World Series, especially one that is actually a great athlete.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mets, Arsenal and Total Exasperation

After witnessing the North London Derby today, I realized that I was out of words to describe the current state of Arsenal.  It has been a terrible start to the new season and it dates back to February and the team's inexcusable loss to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup Final.  Since then the team has been out of sorts and to be honest, a complete mess.

Also annoying the crap out of me this last week was the fact that Jose Reyes of the Mets has taken so much abuse for the way he won the National League batting title.  For whatever reason, Jose Reyes has become the whipping boy despite having an amazing season and legitimately ending the season with the league's highest batting average.

Rob Kirkpatick of The Huffington Post is spot on with his defense of Reyes and the idiotic comments of the critics and naysayers.  As he says in the final line of his article, "he (Reyes) earned the 2011 National League batting title, fair and square.

So, since I am exasperated and at a loss for words, I took a sampling of some of the comments from Twitter regarding Arsenal and Jose Reyes and decided to use them to show some of the thoughts of those in the Twitterverse.

Up first is reaction to Arsenal's 2-1 loss to bitter rivals Tottenham:

As an #Arsenal fan abroad, really pains me that Fox has started broadcasting games in the US in HD during a most abysmal start to our season

Arsenal lost again... I guess its really a difficult time for us... We will survive

Last thing I'm saying on #afc is that times are rough, I'm gutted and not happy. But these things go in cycles. They'll all get theirs too

Footballs just depressing me now another weekend ruined. Hurts to say but fact were not good enough

We need big changes in January- this is now a 'Damage Limitation' project- Top 4 is a distant Target but a target nonetheless #AFC

being an arsenal fan is so stressful.

Spuds, you may have won the battle, but you'll never win the war. #NorthLondondIsRed #61neveragain

Arsene Wenger's frustration at Arsenal's extremely disappointing start to the season shows no sign of going away.

Negatives : Jenkinson is way out of his depth , Ramsey gave away possession too often , Arteta ineffective and was Walcott playing today ?

Players/ team sad but we must except it... Spend or pay or we will be well and truly fucked,that's how the game as moved on AW must act...

We are def a cursed club at the min #goonerfamily

As if losing to Sp*rs was not enough, our best defender fractured his fibula. Nothing more to say now, i'm off

All we can do is get behind the team and manager 110%. Nothing will change until January at the earliest. We need to ignore the fake fans.

Its never nice to lose to the scum... But onwards and upwards I say#keepthefaith#coyg #northlondonisred

Nevertheless i'll always be Gooner 'Till The End! #NorthLondonIsRed

Wenger also looks like a beaten man who had no idea anymore. #shame

At least Song had the better of Adebwhore today...surely didn't want that friggin' clown to score. #GoonerFamily #Arsenal #AFC

Depressed as fuck, so taking a time out. #Arsenal forever.

As for the Reyes situation here's a sampling of the vitriol from the haters and the support from fans:

I'm still tripping over the jose Reyes bunting and walking out the game for the Mets last week!

Sure, Jose Reyes may have won the batting title, but Ryan Braun was actually good enough to help his team to the #PostSeason. #beastmode

Dear Jose Reyes, I saved my 3-for-4 for when it counts, during the playoffs. Enjoy your trophy at home. /s/ Braun #BrewCrew

I'm not a #brewers fan, but the way Jose Reyes "won" the batting title was shameful. #mets #MLB

Ryan Braun is a class act, Jose Reyes takes the easy way out and Braun takes it like a professional. Give him the batting title, not Reyes.

In Today's State The Obvious: Jose Reyes Is No Ted Williams -

Braun, 2nd in batting tie to the wussy Jose Reyes, is 3-4 today. Good hitter.

Braun got his 3 for 4, one game too late. Hope jose Reyes is enjoying the show (at home)

Everyone hating on Jose Reyes.. Fuck them

Congrats to Jose Reyes on the batting title - skills and smarts.

Congrats to the NL Batting Champ Jose #Reyes - Let's hope Sandy and staff work out a solid deal #mets

if you talk shit about Jose Reyes #YouNeedToShutUp

Just in case I didn't make it clear enough: 2011, final stats. Jose Reyes, BA .337 . Jimmy Rollins BA .268 .

Hey @AmyKNelson, Can you ask Jimmy Rollins why he's so concerned about Jose Reyes and the Mets (like normal) rather than the Cardinals?

Seems Like Jose Reyes Is Forever On Jimmy Rollins Mind; Does Jimmy Have An Inferiority Complex?

So, congrats to Jose Reyes for being the first New York Mets to win the National League batting championship and I hope the Mets do the right thing and re-sign him.  For now the Mets' season is over and it's time to root for the Yankees, Phillies and Cardinals to lose in the playoffs.

As for Arsenal, the season is young and I really believe that they can turn things around.  Everyone seems to forget Liverpool's start last season where everyone was talking crisis and relegation.  They turned things around and shut the critics up.  Arsenal needs to do the same.  As for the fans, they need to do that, remain fans.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Are Arsenal Becoming The New York Mets?

Parnell blows another lead
Part of the fun of supporting a sports team is the opportunity to escape from the everyday and enjoy watching your team perform well.  Unfortunately, lately I've needed to escape from the teams that I support.  Both the Mets and Arsenal are are giving me agida and frankly driving me crazy.

The Mets bullpen has been horrible with Bobby Parnell the leading culprit in surrendering leads and Jason Bay continuing his yearlong immitation of a Major League hitter.  However, with a little more than a week to go in the season, they will finish the schedule close to .500 and that in itself is an achievement.  So, rather than dwell on the negatives, here are a number of positives to take away from a year of recovery from the Madoff scandal and a new regime in the front office and dugout.

Jose Reyes, the first Mets batting title?
Going in to the start of the baseball season, I really didn't expect much from the Mets.  Aside from a terrible start to the year and what looks like a terrible finish, the Mets have actually played hard and given their fans hope for the future.  Despite all the injuries to core team members, the emergence of players such as Lucas Duda, Dillon Gee, Ruben Tejada and Justin Turner were nice surprises.  Plus, as of this writing, Jose Reyes is in the lead for the National League batting title and would be the first Mets player to lead the league in hitting.  So while the remaining games mean little for the team overall, fans will be rooting for Reyes to finish the season with the highest NL batting average.  (Here's a look at which Mets players were good and which should be cut).

Meanwhile, over in North London, Arsenal have made a horrific start to the season and, dare I say it, are starting to resemble the New York Mets.  After five fixtures, Arsenal have just 4 points and sit 17th in the table.  To say that the Arsenal defense has been awful is an understatement.  They have been downright horrid and frankly embarassing.  (Sort of like Bobby Parnell and Jason Bay). Arsenal, the club known for its great defensive teams of the past are leaking goals all over the place and the team's dip in form is so drastic that they are almost unrecognizable.

The pundits and the media are pililng the criticism on Arsene Wenger and fans of other teams are heaping abuse on Arsenal supporters and taking pleasure in our problems.

Perhaps I've been spoiled as an Arsenal fan as they have been one of the top teams in the league ever since I began following them in the mid 90's.  However, the lack of activity during the off season, a miserable pre-season and the defections of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri have contributed to the mess that is currently Arsenal. 

Wenger did bring in some good talent at the close of the transfer window, but getting a team to gel while the season has already begun is a tough task.  Fans, including myself, are frustrated and asking questions.  Why wasn't the squad upgraded during the off season?  Why weren't the Fabregas and Nasri situations resolved earlier?  Why is our defense so porous?  Has Arsene Wenger lost the plot?  Are changes needed at the top of the club?

Being of the "In Arsene We Trust" mindset, I really want to believe that Wenger knows what he is doing and will turn things around.  Unfortunately, his post game press conferences are starting to sound like a broken record and I am beginning to worry that perhaps his time with the club is nearing its end.  Hearing that we have a good team "spirit" over and over is getting old.  The man has been the greatest coach the team has ever had, but something is just not right with Arsenal.

The Arsenal defense self implodes
Getting hammered by Manchester United 8-2 was shocking and hard to take.  Losing a lead to a crap Blackburn team and ultimatley losing 4-3 with two own goals was a nightmare.  A 1-3-1 record after five games is insane.  It's Arsenal's worst start to a season in 58 years!!!!!!!!  For the first time ever as an Arsenal fan, I am actually nervous and find myself waiting for a collapse every time they play.  This is not Arsenal like at all.  This is actually more like being a New York Mets fan!!!

One thing I have learned from being a Mets fan, however, is no matter what you have to stay loyal to your team and as Tug McGraw once declared back in the early days of the Mets "Ya Gotta Believe".

In Arsene We Trust.
I am therefore going to believe and remain confident that Arsene Wenger is still the right man for the job and that Arsenal will move past their terrible start and start putting together the results that will have them fighting for trophies.  I cannot wait for all the critics to have to eat their own words.  Come on Arsenal, let's get it going and put things right.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Arsenal Stars Turn on the Team, Reality Sets in as Replace-Mets Begin an August Swoon

Arsenal's disastrous collapse that began with last February's Carling Cup defeat to Birmingham has become a lingering funk that has brought about a sense of uncertainty and angst amongst supporters that has lasted well in to the summer, the pre-season and now the beginning of the new campaign.  Add to that the fact that the media and pundits have been piling on with gloom and doom scenarios regarding Arsenal and Arsene Wenger.  Suffice it to say that it was a summer of discontent for Gooners everywhere as their beloved Arsenal seemed to be under attack from all directions.

As for the transfer market, Wenger brought in striker Gervinho from Lille, defender Carl Jenkinson from Charlton and "Alex" Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton.  Outside of Gervinho, fans were less than satisfied and wondering when Wenger was going to splash the cash and land the star players that the team needs to fill in their holes.  Instead of signings, Arsenal fans have witnessed an ongoing exit of squad players...Eboue to Galatasary, Vela loaned out to Real Sociedad (I still don't understand why he doesn't get playing time with Arsenal), Clichy left to join the oil barons in Manchester and Denilson was loaned out to Sao Paulo.  Meanwhile, players that fans wanted to depart...Almunia, Bendtner and the much despised and useless Squillaci still remain.

Another troubling element of the Arsenal pre-season saw two major players depart the team following prolonged transfer sagas which played out like soap operas.  In my opinion both players were selfish and one in particular was outrageously classless. 

The Barca boys club always wanted Cesc to join them
Everyone knew that Cesc Fabregas wanted to return to his boyhood club Barcelona one day.  However, he signed for Arsenal at the age of 16 and manager Arsene Wenger brought him through the ranks to the point where he was team captain and the focal point of a major European club.  Yet, his incestuous Barcelona buddies continually courted him in the press and at Spanish team events.  It was almost as if there was some bizarre Barca love in going on. 

Cesc played coy throughout the long winded affair and instead of speaking up, hid behind the headlines.  In the end, Cesc was respectful and thankful to Arsene Wenger & the fans in his departure.  It may be just my opinion, but I have to question why a very young player who has been put in a powerful position with a major team and has the chance to become a legend, would give it up to go home to a team where he will be just another piece of the puzzle in a star studded team.  I feel that Fabregas owed more to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger in particular.

Judas "It's not about the money" Nasri
The Samir Nasri transfer is probably the most ugly and disrespectful thing I have witnessed in all my years of supporting Arsenal. (that includes Adebayor, Hleb, Petit, Cashley, etc.)  Arsene Wenger gave Nasri the opportunity to shine on a large scale and in the end, he completely turned his back on the manager, the team, the club and the fans who he seems to have held the most contempt for.  Lots of players switch teams in their careers, but Nasri made his change an ugly and contentious affair taking digs at the manager, the stadium and the fans in the press.  The Nasri situation bothers me more than most would as he was a player that I held in such high regard.  I considered him the new Robert Pires which is truly a compliment.  In the end he proved a disloyal, greedy, two faced fraud.  While Manchester City are flush with money now, Nasri refers to them as a "bigger team" than Arsenal.  Richer, yes.  But bigger, hell no.  In fact as recently as 1998 they were playing in Division Two. They managed to work their way back to the top flight for the 2000-2001 season only to be relegated again.  During City's up and down status, Arsenal were only representing the Premier League in the Champions League every season (and continue to for the 14th straight year).  I hate to wish bad things upon people, but I hope Nasri gets what he deserves.

Of course with these two transfer dragging on, Arsenal did not sign needed players and the pre-season play was totally uninspiring.  This malaise continued in to the start of the new season with a scoreless draw at Newcastle and a red card for Gervinho brought on by Joey "Thug" Barton who violently pulled Gervinho up by the collar and acted as if Muhammed Ali had punched him when Gervinho defended himself from the assault.

Theo's goal sealed Arsenal's progess in to the
Champions League group stages for the 14th season in a row
Then in Arsenal's first home match against Liverpool, the team came up on the short end of a 0-2 result with yet another red card for the exuberant youngster Emmanuel Frimpong.  The press just piled it on with every negative angle they could cover.  Even a 1-0 victory over Udinese in the first leg of their Champions League play in match was picked apart and looked at as a negative result?  Yes, Arsenal won, but the press found fault in their win.  Well, Arsenal showed up all the doubters by going in to Italy and coming away with a solid victory and team performance that once again has put them in Europe's elite tournament.

The transfer window is open for another five days, so fans are hopeful that Wenger will bring in some reinforcements.  Regardless, true Gooners stay loyal while frauds like Nasri jump on the money train at the first opportunity.

As for the Mets, to be fair they have given the fans much more than anyone ever expected coming out of Spring Training.  Depleted by injuries all season long (Reyes, Wright, Niese, Santana, Hairston, Davis, Murphy, Young, Beltran, Pagan, Bay, etc.) and at times fielding a team made up of their AAA squad from Buffalo they have remained competitive and really given the fans some hope for the future.  I've said it before, but this team that was supposed to be horrible, played better, were more likable and were more exciting to watch than the Mets teams of 2007 and 2008 that were supposed to be good.

Lately the Mets have been losing more than winning, but rookies like Dillon Gee, Justin Turner and Lucas Duda look like players for the future, while old timers like R.A. Dickey and Jason Isringhausen have brought great attitudes and leadership to a team that needed it.  Of course the fact that the cornerstones of the current Mets franchise, David Wright and Jose Reyes, remain with the team is a plus moving forward.

With just over a month to go in the season, the Mets are currently six games under .500, which in itself is pretty amazing.  They have hovered around the .500 mark all year long and if they can finish the season strong they will have achieved more than anyone could have hoped for.  In fact, Spring Training 2012 is now something to look forward to.

2011 Mets have given their fans more than was expected

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

London is burning, Arsenal fans are asking questions and the Mets are surprising everyone

The footage out of London this week is truly horrifying and disturbing.  One of the greatest modern cities in the world is being terrorized by groups of opportunistic disenfranchised thugs with no regards for anyone but themselves.The images of businesses being looted and set aflame, regular citizens being mugged and terrorized and a police force unable to contain the madness are shocking.  Now it's spread to other cities in the country as lawlessness has become chic.

While I've been to London many times and know the city pretty well, I can't understand how something like this could be allowed to escalate to the point where businesses and offices are closing early, people are locking themselves in their houses and scheduled events are being cancelled.  While I am totally anti-gun, in this instance the British police force should be armed and taking control over this situation.

Obviously there are social issues that have ignited this violence, but the path chosen by these hooligans to express their outrage does not merit a dialogue.  It takes real geniuses to destroy their own neighborhoods and thus make the economic troubles they already face even worse. These idiots should be dealt with using force and heavy handed policing as they have lost their right to be treated with dignity.

Of course these morons are causing the start of the football season to be affected.  Several Carling Cup matches have been postponed as has England's friendly versus Holland at Wembley.  No decision has been made about the opening round of fixtures in the EPL this weekend, but the fact that this is taking away from what should be an exciting week for football fans is ridiculous.

But enough about these dopes.  Us Arsenal fans have other worries.  While I'll always support my team and remain optimistic, this off season has pretty much been a train wreck.  With three days to go before the start of the season (unless the rioters continue to wreak havoc), the Arsenal squad is looking thin and totally unsettled.

New signing Gervinho, proud to wear the Arsenal shirt
Arsene Wenger has not addressed a number of glaring problems with the squad; specifically the team's weak defense.  With Gael Clichy taking the money of the Man City oil barons and the less than stellar performances by Squillaci, Eboue and Djourou and relative newbies in Gibbs and Jenkinson there doesn't appear to be any improvement.  While the transfer window stays open until the end of the month, the season starts NOW.  If a defender does come in, it's going to take time for that player to gel with the team.  Why the long wait?

The no loyalty twins, Fabregas & Nasri
Then of course is the never ending Cesc and Nasri sagas.  My opinion...they are both major disappointments.  Fabregas is 24 and the captain of a major European team that made him a star. Poor baby wants to leave to go hang out with his buddies in Barcelona where he won't get to play every game and will just be another piece of the puzzle instead of the leading man.  Then there's Nasri.  I thought this guy was going to be another Robert Pires, instead he's another Adebayor.  Any respect I had for this player is gone and it's a real sad statement on the state of sport today.  To turn your back on the man and club that put you on the map and the fans that sang your name week in and week out, solely for more money than one person can spend is downright gross.  Plus, his assertion that he wants to win trophies so he needs to leave is hysterical as he was a part of the reason that Arsenal didn't win trophies.  Nasri it turns out is just another greedy mercenary.

So, with three days to go, both are still on the Arsenal roster as are Nicklas Bendtner and Manuel Almunia who should both be leaving.  It seems crazy to me to go in to a new season with a squad that is still not settled or complete.

The more pleasant surprise comes from the most unlikely of places...the New York Mets.  Going in to the season Mets fans had very low expectations and were prepared for a miserable and embarrassing season.  Since going to the NLCS in 2006 the franchise has been on a continual downward spiral.  Add to that, ace pitcher Johan Santana has been out all season, Reyes is on the DL for the second time, Ike Davis is out for the year, David Wright and Angel Pagan have both missed time with injuries and now this week Daniel Murphy goes down for the rest of the year.  Of course the trade of Carlos Beltran to San Francisco depleted the roster of another key player.

New manager Terry Collins deserves a ton of credit as he has had to use tons of minor league call ups and other assorted castoffs in order to field a team every night.  No one expected much from the "Replace-Mets" and if they had faded in to baseball oblivion no one would have been surprised.

The "Replace-Mets" pull out a comeback win
Instead, something else has happened.  This band of spare parts has been bringing fans back to the ballpark and showing fight and tenacity that better Mets teams never were able to produce.  Take Monday night's game for example; when Pelfrey and the bullpen were once again ineffective and gave away a 4-1 lead to the weak hitting Padres.  Unbelievably, this collection of misfits (like the land of misfit toys from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) overcame an 8-4 deficit in their last two at bats with Lucas Duda providing the game winning walk off single for a 9-8 win.

Then tonight, the Mets were down 4-2 in the 8th inning and again found a way to come back and secure a 5-4 victory.  Mets teams of the past few years, with better players and higher expectations rarely came through in these situations.

The Mets have been hovering at the .500 mark for weeks now, but that in itself is amazing.  While trophies may be important in sports, sometimes just playing the game hard and giving your fans something to cheer for is enough.  Despite the low expectations of fans at the start of the season and all the injuries that have continually gripped this team, the 2011 New York Mets have been fun, exciting and most of all likeable.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vindication - Football, a.k.a. Soccer Comes to the Home of the New York Mets

It's true, soccer at the home of the Mets
I apologize in advance for going a bit off subject, but I promise that this rant will be worth it. (Plus, the game in question took place at Citi Field where the Mets play and I saw several folks wearing Arsenal jerseys so it's somewhat on topic).

I used to work at the biggest sports talk radio station in the country (no I was not on the air) and in the five years that I was there the sport of soccer was barely given any attention.  In fact the area's local MLS team was ignored to the extent that even the scores of their games weren't announced.  It was as if the city's professional soccer franchise and the sport itself didn't exist.

"Real" U.S. soccer fans of all ages
 The know it alls at this station called soccer boring and only popular with foreigners and kids. While I love "America's pastime" of baseball, it's ironic that the same folks who talk non stop about everything baseball would call soccer boring.  If you really look closely at the game of baseball, (even though I love it) it can be extremely boring.  While in baseball there are constant time outs, trips to the mound, pick off attempts, stepping in and out of the batter's box, etc. the game of soccer is non stop action for 90 plus minutes.  While fat tubby guys like Bartolo Colon and Prince Fielder are playing baseball, soccer players have to be athletes in top condition in order to keep up with the pace of their sport.

Maybe us Americans just like high scoring games and soccer matches are often tightly contested.  Perhaps if every touchdown that Peyton Manning threw only counted for one point rather than 6, American football wouldn't be as popular.  Imagine the Colts beating the Patriots 3-2 instead of 21-14.  Would that make football boring too?  After all as the Wall Street Journal reported, while an NFL game is 60 minutes long, in reality there is a grand total of 11 minutes of action.  Add in the commercials, time outs and half time and your average 60 minute football game lasts 3 hours, yet contains only 11 minutes of play.

While working at the radio station I often tried to check out what was going on in Champions League matches on one of the station's many newsroom televisions. I was pretty much laughed at and usually the channel would be changed to horse racing or something "more suitable".

The radio station's office was located in an area known for its high Greek population.  After the final match of Euro 2004 ended I made a bet with a couple of co-workers that if we went outside we would hear horns honking and people cheering within 5 minutes.  The bet was accepted and sure enough cars were driving by with men waving Greek flags and horns were honking like crazy.  Of course that was dismissed as something that only the local Greeks cared about.

While the rest of the planet was following the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the radio station pretty much just mentioned the scores of the games in brief updates.

Eventually I was able to get one of the more open minded on air hosts to come with me to check out an Arsenal vs. Manchester United match at Nevada Smiths.  At the time, Nevada Smiths was one of the only bars in New York that showed live soccer.  In fact to this day, Nevada Smiths uses the tag line, "Where football is religion". 

Due to the 5 hour time difference, we entered Nevada Smiths at 2:30 in the afternoon and as I expected, the place was packed with folks wearing Arsenal and Man. U jerseys.  As we squeezed in to find a spot, the singing began, the pints were flowing and I could tell that my guest was beginning to sense the passion and the meaning of the game to these fans.  While I can't recall the final score (I'm sure Arsenal won), as we left the still packed Nevada Smiths and emerged in to the late afternoon sunlight, the radio host told me that he loved the experience and defnitely got a better understanding of the sport and its fans.

Becks, more than just a pretty face
One of the most arrogant know it all hosts at the station, begrudgingly allowed MLS Commissioner Don Garber on air for an interview when the news of David Beckham coming to the states first hit.  It was probably the only time the sport had received more than a passing mention on air in the station's history.  I'm pretty sure it happened only because Beckham is a celebrity and on the pages of gossip magazines...not because he played soccer.

While this particular station continues to this date to ignore the sport of soccer in its own city, country and around the world in favor of baseball, NFL football, basketball and sometimes hockey (they don't really think anyone cares about hockey that much either), soccer has taken off big time in the U.S.

The NY area is now home to one of
the world's greatest soccer stars
Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry

  • Major League Soccer has continued to grow with regular expansion in to new markets: Seattle, Philadelphia, Vancouver, Portland and Montreal in 2012, with increasing attendance and a clear plan for continued growth.
  • Big name players have come to the states to play in MLS: Beckham, Henry, Angel, Márquez, Ljungberg while MLS players have gone on to Europe and succeded: Donovan, Friedel, Dempsey, Holden,  Altidore, Edu.
  • Here in New York (sorry New Jersey) the Red Bulls have a beautiful brand new soccer specific stadium and a growing fan base.
  • The US Men's national team topped their group at last summer's World Cup (sorry England) and stirred up a bit of soccer fever throughout the country.
  • Most recently the Women's national team, yes the women, were being talked about everywhere, were all over the television and the entire country was caught up in their run to the final.
  • Fans no longer have to head to a pub at 7 a.m. to see a game as Fox Soccer Channel has become a staple of cable television and even ESPN has begun to broadcast EPL and Champions League games along with their MLS coverage..
  • On a typical weekend, soccer fans in the states have viewing access from home to about 5-6 EPL games, 2-3 La Liga and Serie A games, the occasional Bundesliga, Eredivisie and Ligue 1 match as well as Mexican league games and some South American games.
  • This year's Champions League final was broadcast on Fox, yes national network coverage of the European championship in the U.S.
  • Fergie in New Jersey
    2 things I never thought
    would go together
  • This year's MLS All Star Game with Manchester United at Red Bull Arena was a sell out with tickets being scalped for as much as $300.
  • Each summer more international superstar filled teams continue to come to the U.S. for exhibition matches (and of course to sell merchandise) and play to large crowds.  This summer's World Football Challenge featuring teams such as Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid includes 14 matches in cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Which leads to the match that I attended this past Tuesday at Citi Field, the home of baseball's New York Mets.  Club America of Mexico met Juventus of Italy as part of the World Football Challenge in conjunction with MLS.

While in my past life (when money was falling off of trees in the years prior to 2008) I used to get press passes and backstage credentials all the time, in my new recession life these type of perks have been much rarer.  Thus, I was thrilled when I was approved for a media credential for the match.  Along with the free food, following a sporting event from the press box is the way to go.  The stats are distributed the key plays are announced and of course you're protected from the elements (in this case there was a torrential downpour and lightning storm).

Holy crap, Buffon on the same field
where the Mets play?  Wow.
 The atmosphere inside the stadium was fantastic and despite not being a sellout, supporters of both teams made so much noise with fans decked out in team jerseys, carrying banners and even some vuvuzelas left over from South Africa.

When speaking with groups of fans for my game coverage, every single one of them was from the New York and New Jersey area and were thrilled to be able to see the team that they follow in their own backyard.  I truly felt vindicated and saw real proof that the know it all sports radio talking heads are missing the boat on the most popular sport in the world.  Yes, it's true...regular people, citizens of our very own country, in our very own city and surrounding areas are interested in soccer!!!!!!!!!!!!

As for the article, if you're interested, here it is.

Becks takes a corner in front of a SOLD OUT out NY
crowd.  Maybe there's something to this "boring" sport
Next post will be back on track about Arsenal and the New York Mets.