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.