Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Arsenal Head To Wembley...And The Case of the Mysterious Manchester United Scarf

Samir Nasri takes on five Wigan players
I am not a superstitious person and I generally don't believe in omens and signs from above, but the following event actually occurred yesterday just hours before Arsenal hosted Ipswich in the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-finals in London.

First though, the backdrop.  Arsenal left Ipswich down 1-0 after a frustrating match two weeks back and were looking to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd at the Emirates.  While Arsenal fans everywhere were confident of the team's ability to roll over an inferior Ipswich squad, there were definitely nerves as this was a golden opportunity for the team to head to Wembley for the finals and finally end the club's 6 year trophy drought.

Now the story.  An hour before kick off, 2:45 p.m. New York time, I took Kyrie, my neighbor's golden retriever out for a walk.  Kyrie is a big puppy and is constantly picking up gloves and other lost items that she comes across on the streets of the Upper East Side of Manhattan and carrying them around in her mouth.  So, it was not a surprise when I saw her grab something and not let go.  On a second glance I noticed that it was not a glove but a scarf.  Upon closer inspection, I saw that it looked like a football scarf.  I found this strange as this being New York, football, a.k.a. soccer, is not a particularly popular sport and I generally only see these scarves at pubs and Irish bars that show the games on television.

As I tried in vain to pull the now filthy scarf out of the dog's mouth, I couldn't believe my eyes as I saw the logo and name of the team I hate the most...(next to the New York Yankees) Manchester United.  It was all dirty and black from the snow and being on the street which made me laugh.  Suddenly, I did take it as a an omen.  Yes it's crazy, but this was a sign that Arsenal were going to win today's game and ManUre (as they are referred to by fans of Arsenal) will not win the Premier League this season.  Arsenal will overtake them in the standings and win the title.  On the other hand, it could just be a weird coincidence...but ...I think not.   I'm sure somewhere on the streets of Manchester, England there's a dirty and discarded New York Mets cap which explains why they always implode.  Just a theory.

As for the games: Despite waiting until the last third of the match, Arsenal did come back against a tenacious Ipswich side and won the second leg 3-0.  With a two game aggregate of 3-1, the Gunners will be playing in the finals of the League Cup at Wembley with hopes of bringing home a trophy.

In the EPL, Arsenal manhandled Wigan at the Emirates this past Saturday with Robin Van Persie scoring a hat trick in an easy 3-0 victory.  With the Man. City Billionaire Boys Club losing 1-0 to Aston Villa, Arsenal moved up to 2nd behind ManUre.

As we approach the end of January, Arsenal are the only team in England still alive in all four major competitions.  Next up...Huddersfield at home in the FA Cup 4th round this Sunday and a home tie with Everton in one week's time.

Note:  I plan on washing the dirty scarf and giving it to my friend Dave who is a ManUre supporter.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Arsenal Back On Track...Mets Still Hibernating

Van Persie is back and flying high
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Arsenal's January was tough to begin with, but the boys made things a bit more difficult for themselves with some uninspiring performances against Championship competition.  On January 8th Leeds came to the Emirates and almost knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup.  Only a late Fabregas penalty saved the team from an early exit and set up a replay at Elland Road.

Further worries came on the 12th as Arsenal travelled to Ipswich for the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-finals.  Suffice it to say that the Gunners were a shell of their regular selves and left Portman Road 1-0 down with the second leg scheduled for this coming week in London.  Ipswich are in 20th position in the championship and recently sacked former ManUre dirt bag Roy Keane, so this result was shocking.  Hopefully this embarrassment will be erased and Arsenal will be on their way to the finals.

Following this one week of less than stellar play, the real Arsenal seem to have returned.  Last Saturday West Ham travelled to the Emirates and were outclassed and outplayed easily.  3-0 was actually a flattering scoreline for Avram Grant's team.  Van Persie and Walcott scored in the first half and Van Persie sealed the victory with a penalty shot in the 76th minute.

Yesterday was the FA Cup replay in Leeds.  I actually went to this exact fixture in 2004 when Leeds were still a Premier League powerhouse.  That game ended 4-1 to the Arsenal and I was pretty confident that it would end in similar fashion this time.  Within 5 minutes Samir Nasri had scored and Arsenal pretty much controlled the ball from then on despite an amazing shot and goal from Leeds' Bradley Johnson.  Sagna had an excellent game and scored a rare goal while Bendtner finally looked like a player with a perfect pass allowing Robin Van Persie to head in the game winner.  3-1 to the Arsenal and next up in the FA Cup is home to League One Huddersfield.

Arsenal are the only team in England still in the running for four trophies (Premier League, Carling Cup, FA Cup and Champions League).  Time will tell if they can pick up some silverware, but being half way through January and being in the position they are within all competitions, these are good times to be a Gooner. 

Next up is a home game to relegation strugglers Wigan. 

Willie Harris one of the Mets' spare parts
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

As for my beloved Mets...they say no news is good news, but I'm not so sure in this case.  The club keeps inviting some used parts to Spring Training so we'll see what works and what doesn't soon.  Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month.

Favorite new Arsenal songs:



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Arsenal Celebrate The Holidays In Style, Mets Still On Holiday

Theo and Cesc restore order in London
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

 The "Festive Holiday Period" as the pundits call it in England, is a crazy time for fans of English football.  Arsenal had four games in a space of ten days and while not picking up maximum points, they did make a case for their title credentials.

Normal order was restored in London as Arsenal finally kicked Chelski's overpaid blowhards all over the pitch.  The final 3-1 score in front of the home crowd was highlighted by Arsenal's mastery of the midfield.

Arsenal's main shortcoming, central defense, was the reason they drew with Wigan 2-2 when they should have won.  Sebastien Squillaci was the
hero for Wigan with a boneheaded own goal.

Away to Birmingham, Arsenal ran rampant.  The 3-0 final score could have easily been doubled.

Wrapping up the holiday period, Arsenal dominated title pretenders Man. City at The Emirates and won the contest in every way but with goals.  While a 0-0 draw was a disappointment based on Arsenal's great play, it was clear that City came to "park the bus" and pretty much played an 11 man defense.  Carlos Tevez had about three touches on the ball in the entire game.  City were an embarrasment and Arsenal showed class that will win them future fixtures.

I still refuse to say that Manchester United are going to win the league.  Yes, they haven't  lost yet, but they still look unconvincing.  Every win seems to come in the last minute (Fergie time as it's known - the extra time it takes for Man. U. to score), the opposing team doesn't get a penalty when a Man. U. player clearly handles the ball, or some butt kissing manager fields a crap team and almost wills his team to hand the game to Fergie (sounds like you Allardyce).

The team that really has me chuckling, however, is Chelsea.  They were steamrolling opponents and once they let their assistant manager go, they've been in free fall ever since.  It's like each player has aged ten years in the span of six weeks.  For all their arrogance and money, it's been kind of enjoyable to watch their amazing fall from grace.  Drogba, Anelka, Terry and Lampard don't look so smug anymore.

Man. U. do have the upper hand, but in looking at the remaining games for the top 5, Arsenal have already played the tougher schedule and could benefit from this.  Let's hope.

As for the Mets...Spring Training is about one month away and with all of baseball pretty much awarding the championship to Philly before the season starts, the Mets head in to the season with no expectations.  They've shown they can't live up to pressure when it's expected, let's hope they can do the opposite now.