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

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