When Top 4 Ain’t Enough

The league season is over for Arsenal and all that is left is the FA Cup Final against rival and this season’s English Premier League Champion Chelsea. This is Chelsea’s third EPL Championship since I started following the League in 2009-2010. Remarkably it was a defeat to Arsenal in September that changed the course of Chelsea’s season. And in a way changed Arsenal’s too. This is the first time in 20 years that Arsenal missed out on a Top 4 finish and failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. Arsenal hasn’t won the League since “The Invincibles”  2003-2004 season.

There were many common themes throughout the season for Arsenal but the most costly was “poor defending”. It started on the opening weekend of the season and was constantly a problem in various matches. Arsenal’s defense was especially treacherous against the other “Top 6” teams in the League. The Gunners allowed 18 goals (14 in 5 defeats) against the other clubs in the Top 6 while only scoring 15. Arsenal failed to win any of their away games against the other teams in the Top 6. They also allowed the most league goals (44) amongst teams in the Top 6. So by season’s end there was no surprise the Gunner’s struggles against the top clubs continued.

Record versus the Top 6 (Arsenal finish) : W- 2 D- 3 L- 5

Premier League Standings (Top 6 Final Standings)

Team                    MP         W            D             L              GF          GA          GD          PTS

Chelsea               38           30           3              5              85           33           52           93          

Tottenham         38           26           8              4              86           26           60           86 

Man. City             38           23           9              6              80           39           41           78

Liverpool             38           22           10           6              78           42           36           76

Arsenal                 38           23           6              9              77           44           33           75

Man Utd              38           18           15           5              54           29           25           69

*MP – Matches Played, W – Wins (3 points for wins), D – Draws (1 point for draws), L – Losses (0 points for losses), GF- Goals For, GA – Goals Allowed, GD – Goal Differential, PTS – Points

 

The struggle against in the Top 6 was enough to wreck the season but Arsenal took it a step further and dropped points against teams in the middle to bottom third of the league standings. I often listen to the Men In Blazers Podcast and on many occasions one of the co-host – Michael Davies – always talks about how Arsenal fared against teams in the lower half of the table(standings). In recent years Arsenal has been seen as a club that only showed up against weaker opponents. Until this season that was one thing Arsenal could hang their hats on during League play. As you see above, Arsenal finished 18 points behind this season’s champion. Below I singled out 7 matches versus teams outside of the Top 6 (in the final standings) where Arsenal dropped points. The Gunners were only able to get 3 of the possible 21 points available.

Leicester City 0-0 (a)

Middlesbrough 0-0 (h)

Everton 2-1 (a)

Bournemouth 3-3 (a)

Watford 2-1 (h)

West Bromwich Albion 3-1 (a)

Crystal Palace 3-0 (a)

These matches occurred at different points in the season and there are too many ifs, ands, and buts to consider to  say “what if?” But it was unacceptable for the manager Arsene Wenger – in a recent interview –  to blame other clubs when Arsenal only have themselves to blame for how this season played out. Now all that is left is the FA Cup Final which will be followed by a bunch of questions that need to be answered quickly. Arsenal fans can only hope that they take care of those matters better than they handled the season.

Today’s post was inspired by Rick Ross’s song Sixteen

 

Table and stats courtesy of

https://www.google.com/#q=english+premier+league+table&spf=1495559620978

The Arsenal App on Android and iOS

 

 

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When Top 4 Ain’t Enough

The Truth

I have a lot to cover. This sports weekend was one to remember and one to forget for me. We had a World Championship Boxing match that gave us some great action. The 2nd Round of the NBA Playoffs are finally here. We also had the only Game 7 of the Playoffs thus far on Sunday. That Game 7 also saw the end of a career for “The Truth” Paul Pierce. Finally and most sadly for me Arsenal was thumped once again. This time by their rivals Tottenham in the North London Derby.

First the boxing, Anthony “AJ” Joshua was able to defeat – via 11th Round TKO – Wladimir Klitschko in an EPIC Heavyweight match. Both guys looked like some giants or as many proclaim “Super Heavyweights”. No fat to be found on either fighter. Both all muscle and chiseled. The fight moved along well and took off in the 5th Round when Anthony Joshua came out of his corner swinging and caught Klitchko with a good right. Joshua would then chase down his opponent until he was able to drop him. Joshua, a bit too excited had celebrated prematurely AND punched himself tired. Wladimir was able to get up off of the canvas and nearly drop Anthony in the same round. Smartly AJ either leaned against the ropes or held onto his opponent for dear life. The 5th ended with me going nuts. When the 6th Round started it was Wladimir that came out like a house on fire. He set the tone in the round and dropped AJ with a crushing right hand. This was the first time that AJ had been knocked on his backside in his pro career. Joshua was clearly hurt but he managed to survive the round and make it out standing. Klitschko was in control of the fight at that point and went on to control the following rounds. But during that time, AJ pulled another savvy move. He purposefully spit out his mouthpiece and had to get another one from his corner. This was smart because it allowed him to buy some time to catch his second wind and thoughts. In the 9th Round – I was surprised the fight made it that far – Joshua appeared to kick it up a notch. He controlled that 9th and then the 10th. In the 11th, AJ came out fiercely once again. He caught Wladimir with a nice combo that staggered the former champ. Wisely AJ didn’t get anxious in his pursuit of the KO. Instead he stalked his opponent into the center of the ring and caught him with a vicious uppercut. An uppercut similar to the one Tommy Hearns delivered to Martin on that boxing episode. Somehow Klistchko didn’t fall after that punch but he was down a few seconds later after a barrage of punches.  AJ would drop Wladimir again before the referee stopped the fight with AJ swinging away in a corner. This was the type of fight that the sport of Boxing needed from its top division. The star of Anthony Joshua will continue to grow and he’s expressed interest in fighting anyone that wants to go. He’s now 19-0 with all 19 by KO.

 

The Game 7 between the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers ended up being a dud. Utah sent the Clippers home after winning 104-91. Utah will now face the Golden State Warriors with that series starting on Tuesday night in Oakland. Utah’s starting center Rudy Gobert was in foul trouble from the jump and eventually fouled out in the 4th quarter. The Jazz turned to Derrick Favors who provided a solid performance despite fouling out too. Favors had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson combined for 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists off the bench for Utah. The star of the game was Gordon Hayward. Hayward just happens to play the position- small forward – that the Clippers have never been able to fill. Hayward had 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists. He was also a perfect 6-6 from the free throw line. On the other side Chris Paul tried hard to get the Clippers going but had no luck. Paul finished the game with 13 points and 9 assists. He also had a terrible day shooting the ball. CP3 was 6-19 overall and 1-7 on three pointers. DeAndre Jordan was able to provide a whopping 24 points and 17 rebounds despite shooting 6-15 on free throws. Jamal Crawford was the only other Clippers player with a pulse as he provided 20 points off of the bench. The Clippers only got 14 total points from their other 3 starters.

After the game, twitter blew up as expected. Another team featuring Chris Paul is out of the Playoffs again in the First Round. CP3 is a great player but there’s only so far a team will go if he’s the lead player. Chris will be a free agent this summer and must make a decision on the path of his legacy. He can stay in L.A. and get up to $200 million over the next 5 seasons or he can consider a move to San Antonio. He’ll be teamed with a top notch coach in Gregg Popovich and a current top 5 player in Kawhi Leonard. I fully expect him to take the money and stay in Los Angeles. Really can’t fault him for that. If he chooses to stay; the Clippers will have a lot of moves to make in order to get “better”.

The first game of the NBA Playoffs 2nd Round saw Washington take on Boston. Washington jumped out to a 16-0 lead in the 1st quarter. Boston made a run as expected and trimmed that lead to 5 by halftime. Boston outscored Washington 36-16 in the 3rd quarter and never looked back thanks to stingy defense and three point shooting. The Celtics shot 19-39 from three point range as the Wizards never stopped Isaiah Thomas (33 points and 9 assists) from driving and kicking to the perimeter. Jae Crowder was 6-8 from three point range and finished with 24 points. Al Horford was one rebound shy of a triple double. The Wizards got most of their production from their starters. They’ll definitely need help if Markieff Morris isn’t able to return from an ankle injury. As for predictions, I was 7 out of 8 in the First Round. I chose the Clippers instead of Utah. for the 2nd Round I have Cleveland over Toronto in 6 games; Boston in 7 games; Golden State over Utah in 6 games; Houston over San Antonio in 6 games.

Paul Pierce played his final NBA game on yesterday for the Los Angeles Clippers. Pierce aka The Truth is most notable for his time spent in Boston. He was a 10-time All Star and 2008 NBA Champion and Finals MVP. He battled LeBron James a countless number of times and there are some great behind the scenes stories about those two. I first started watching Pierce during his time at the University of Kansas. He was an AP First Team All-American in 1997-1998. He was then drafted by the Boston Celtics and went on to have some fun times playing alongside “Worker #8” Antoine Walker. I couldn’t stand Pierce after he was joined by Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston to form the “Big 3”. He’d hit a dagger shot one minute and then be stretchered out in a wheelchair the next like his life was over. His final 4 seasons he hit a few big shots in Brooklyn and Washington before joining the Clippers close to his hometown of Inglewood, CA. Thanks Paul for a great career and this hilarious moment. It’ll always remind me of why I hate Boston.

 

P.S. I would talk about Arsenal but that’d make me feel like Paul Pierce in the wheelchair. Ok I’m done.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com

The Truth