Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Super Bowl Means It's Baseball Season

I'm a Jets fan which pretty much explains why I've never really got too excited about the Super Bowl. When they finally make it to one I'll probably feel differently. However, as this point I find the entire hoopla surround the Super Bowl over the top. 

The fact that the entire country stocks up on junk food and beer and gets excited to watch 6 hours of pre-game and 4 hours of commercials is crazy. I have no allegiance to either the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks (although Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was a one time Jets coach so I'll go for them). Even funnier is that all of this craziness revolves around a game that contains a total of approximately 11 minutes of action.

The real reason that I get excited about the Super Bowl is that it means that it's the end of the football season and ushers in the start of the baseball season. The Hot Stove heats up and it's just a few weeks until Spring Training. 

So enjoy the Super Bowl and it's just 21 days until Mets pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Arsenal 2014-2015 - January

Thursday, January 1, 2015 Arsenal at Southampton 10AM EST

The first match of the new year and it's a tough one. Southampton have been the surprise team of the season and have been particularly difficult at home. I was at this match last season and Arsenal came away from the south coast with a 2-2 draw. Hopefully the team can start off the new year with three points.

So much for a happy new year. This was a deplorable display and a tale of two goalkeepers. In typical Arsenal fashion the Gunners had the majority of the possession and more shots on goal than their opposition. Unfortunately Fraser Forster stopped everything in his path, while Wojciech Szczesny made two costly errors which resulted in Southampton's two goals. 

Szczesny should not be held solely responsible for the loss, however, as once again the Arsenal defense was left looking pretty shaky. Per Mertesacker is coming under increasing scrutiny as his pace and judgement often leave a lot to be desired. 

This was a terrible way to start off 2015 and of course led to more Twitter vitriol from within the Arsenal fan base.

Sunday, January 4 Arsenal vs. Hull 12:30PM EST FA Cup Third Round

There's no time to dwell on the abysmal loss to Southampton as it's time for Arsenal to begin the challenge of defending their FA Cup trophy. As fate would have it, last season's finalists, Hull and Arsenal, were drawn together in the third round with the match taking place at the Emirates.

Steve Bruce's Hull are having a rough go of it this season and nothing but an Arsenal victory will be acceptable.

David Ospina gets the start in goal. It's hard to read too much in to this decision. Wenger has often gone with the backup keeper in cup ties and perhaps this season is no different. However, after Szczesny's nightmare match at Southampton and reports that he was found "smoking in the shower", perhaps he is being sent a message from the manager that he better shape up.

What a difference a few days can make. Despite the final score being just 2-0, this match was never in any doubt. Arsenal controlled the play and Hull could have shot at Arsenal's goal all night and still not have scored.

Mertesacker has received a lot of grief lately for his lack of pace. When Arsenal lined up for a corner in the 20th minute, a friend of mine turned to me and said this is where Mertesacker's height should be an advantage. I agreed but said he never scores regardless. So, what does the BFG do? He scores a header from an Alexis Sanchez corner. I have no problem being proven wrong when it comes to Arsenal goals.

With a slim 1-0 advantage the second half was a bit more nerve wracking than it should have been. Regardless of Arsenal's domination, as we all know, one moment of madness could ruin the day. Therefore a second goal was necessary to calm the nerves.

Of course it was Alexis Sanchez that put the match to bed. Santi Cazorla found Sanchez in the 82nd minute and he coolly slotted the ball in to the back of the net.

In year's past Arsenal always seemed to be drawn against tough competition while Chelsea & Manchester United drew minnows. Of course the same did happen for Chelsea and United in round 4, but for once Arsenal got a kind draw as well. They will travel to Brighton for a fourth round meeting.

Sunday January 11, 2014  Arsenal vs. Stoke 8:30AM

The cavemen are in London today and this is a grudge match where Arsenal must restore order and prove that they are superior to Stoke. For whatever reason this band of thugs have become our bogey team and last month's 3-2 loss needs to be avenged.

The good news on the Arsenal front is the return to the first team of Ozil, Walcott and Ramsey. Fans have been waiting forever to get the chance to see Ozil, Walcott and Sanchez on the pitch at the same time. It may not come today, but at least the possibility is now there.

This was more like it. Arsenal dominated in every offensive category and most importantly on the scoreboard. The 3-0 final is actually flattering to Stoke as this match could have easily finished 9-0.

Of course there was plenty of thug behavior on display and once incident in particular has hurt Arsenal badly. Stoke's Marko Arnautovic clearly pushed Matthieu Debuchy in the back as the defender chased down a ball. The push resulted in Debuchy hitting the advertising boards and the need for the medical staff. In addition to cuts on his face, Debuchy suffered a dislocated shoulder and will certainly be out of action again for a while. We shall see if Arnautovic will face punishment, but somehow referee Jonathan Moss didn't even issue a yellow card.

Arsenal got the match off to a fast start with a goal in the sixth minute.Sanchez sent a cross in to the box which Laurent Koscielny superbly met with his head and put back in to the net.

Tomas Rosicky and the amazing Alexis Sanchez combined for the Gunner's second goal in the 33rd minute. Sanchez is a magician and he proved it when his free kick in the 49th minute got over the wall and by the diving Asmir Begovic to give Arsenal a 3-0 lead. The rest was pretty formulaic Arsenal ball control and running out the clock. 

Ospina wasn't challenged much in goal, but he kept a clean sheet and Arsenal had a solid win against a  much loathed band of thugs.

On another note, Southampton went to Old Trafford today and defeated ManU in front of Fergie and the Old Trafford faithful. So as things stand, "title chasing Manchester United" has just a one point lead on "crisis club Arsenal". Let's see how the media twists this reality.

Sunday, January 18, 2015 11AM EST Arsenal at Manchester City

It's a tough trip to the oil fields of Manchester City for Arsenal and it's time for Arsenal to show that the team has it in them to win difficult games against tough competition. Manchester City have looked less than champions caliber on a number of occasions this season and Arsenal need to show some toughness and determination if they are to start being a title challenger (this year or in the future).  With every team we needed to lose yesterday winning (Manure, Spuds, Chavs, the scousers and Southampton) this match is more important than ever. For some reason I have a feeling of hope inside me today and I'm hoping that that's a sign of something good to happen.

Wow, what a great first half performance from Arsenal at the home of Sheik Mansour and his oil barons. The big news for City heading in to the match was the return of Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany. In the first 45 minutes Aguero hardly touched the ball and Kompany played a big part in Arsenal's opening goal. A mistimed trip of Nacho Monreal in the box  from Kompany was immediately called as a penalty. The always reliable Santi Cazorla stepped up and despite Hart guessing the right way, Cazorla's spot kick was in the back of the net and Arsenal took the lead in thhge 24th minute.

A solid second half performance as well from the Gunners and this time there was to be no capitulation. Despite City dominating the possession and the corner count, the Arsenal defense held solid and I actually felt confident that City were no going to score against our defense. Interestingly enough, confidence is the one thing that Arsenal have been accused of being short on from the pundits...and that has led to a lack of belief among supporters as well. As I wrote earlier above (yes I wrote that prior to the match), I truly had a belief heading in to the match that Arsenal could win. I think that belief was felt by the players on the pitch as well. There have been MANY games where Arsenal have dominated possession in every offensive category and lost. It was nice to see them learn from past mistakes and show that they can also control a game defensively.

Cazorla simply ran the show. In addition to scoring the penalty, his free kick in the 67th minute was met by Olivier Giroud's head and resulted in Arsenal's second goal. Other stand out performances came from Francis Coquelin and Hector Bellerin. Ospina wasn't challenged too much in goal, but he once again looked solid and made the plays he needed to make. He gets the clean sheet and is making a strong case to remain in the starting 11.

Some idiot on Twitter actually said that Alexis Sanchez had a poor match. Totally untrue. In fact, because of so much attention put on him, it allowed other Arsenal players to shine. When Sanchez stars Arsenal are labelled a one man team. When others take the starring role, Sanchez is accused of being poor. Both statements are ridiculous.

All in all, a great display from Arsenal and a confidence boosting victory that will make pundits and opposition take notice. Winning at the Etihad when no a soul thought Arsenal would walk away with anything is a big statement.

Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal: Cazorla and Giroud strike to dent hosts' title chances at the Etihad

rsenal’s Santi Cazorla pulls strings to dent Manchester City’s title hopes

Manchester City 0-2 Arsenal: Santi Cazorla's penalty and Olivier Giroud's header earn Gunners rare victory at Etihad Stadium

Sunday, January 25, 2014 10:55AM EST Arsenal at Brighton FA Cup Round 4

There have been a number of humbling performances top EPL clubs this weekend in the competition. On Friday, Manchester United were unable to score against League 2 Cambridge United. Falcao, Di Maria, Van Purse Strings, all of the "big names" were shut out over 93 minutes. While Manure may still get through in the replay, it was a pathetic performance for the mighty ManU. Let's not forget the club's mauling by MK Dons in the League Cup earlier in the season.

It gets better. The Arab oil barons of ManCity were defeated at home by Championship club Middlesbrough and the Russian oil barons were humiliated at home by League 1 club Bradford City. After going up 2-0, the egotistical one and his club ended up losing 2-4.

More enjoyment was seeing Tottenham blow a 1-0 lead and give up 2 late goals in a home defeat to Leicester.

Another humbling performance was given by Liverpool at home as they were unable to score against Bolton.

A big door has been left open for Arsenal to repeat as FA Cup Champions. But, of course we're getting ahead of ourselves. The FA Cup shows that upsets are always possible, so Brighton will not be taken lightly.

Arsenal do not do a Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, Manchester United or Liverpool and actually win their match versus lower league opposition. Although, to be fair, the old Arsenal reappeared in the second half when they allowed Brighton back in to the match with 2 goals that should not have been conceeded.

The good news for Arsenal was the return of Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil after long term injuries.

The first half was total Arsenal domination. Theo Walcott was back after a long injury and gave Arsenal the lead within 89 second. The Gunners controlled possession and the match and they made it 2-0 in the 24th minute when Mesut Ozil got on the score sheet. It could have been more but the first half ended with Arsenal up by two.

Brighton got back in the match in the second half. They scored in the 50th minute and after the results from the other matches, it became a bit nervy for Arsenal fans. 

Rosicky eased fears with an exceptional goal in the 59th minute to give Arsenal another two goal lead.

Brighton got one back in the 75th minute as it looked to me as if Szczesny was back to his antics. While it may be a coincidence, in the three previous matches with David Ospina in goal, Arsenal kept a clean sheet. With Szczesny back in goal, Arsenal conceded two soft goals.

In the end it was a solid victory with a scoreline that flattered Brighton, who really gave Arsenal few problems.