On April 1st, Arsenal defeated Newcastle 2-0 and in doing so moved up to third in the Premier League table. With seven fixtures remaining it looked like the Gunners were on their way to finishing in the top four and returning to the Champions League.
That optimism from just one month ago has all but vanished. Somehow Arsenal have managed to pick up just four points out of a possible 18 with losses to Everton, Crystal Palace, Wolves and Leicester. Last weekend’s home draw with Brighton was pretty much the final nail in Arsenal’s top four coffin. With one match remaining, Tottenham would have to lose to Everton on Sunday, and Arsenal would need to defeat Burnley while making up an eight-goal differential. In other words, it’s not going to happen.
This Arsenal choke felt very familiar to me. That’s because I’ve experienced similar late season capitulations by the other team that I follow, Major League Baseball’s New York Mets.
Back in 2007 the Mets had a commanding seven game division lead with 17 games remaining. Of course they blew that lead and it came down to the last game of the season. A win and the Mets would make the playoffs. Veteran Tom Glavine was sent to the mound and proceeded to give up seven runs in the first inning. The Mets’ collapse was complete before most fans had even taken their seats.
Skip ahead to the last game of the 2008 baseball season. Once again, a win and the Mets would make the playoffs. Adding to the excitement was the fact that this would be the team’s last game at Shea Stadium. The club had a special post game celebration planned featuring former players Tom Seaver and Mike Piazza. Surely they would win!
In typical Mets fashion, they lost the game and then proceeded to try and have a celebration as fans sat in stunned silence in the stands.
On Sunday Arsenal had to pick up three points versus Brighton for any chance of achieving the team’s goal of a top four finish. It should have been an easy win. Brighton are just above the relegation zone and Arsenal were playing at home. The mood before kickoff was positive and the fans were encouraged to stay after the match for a guard of honor for departing players Aaron Ramsey and Petr Cech.
Arsenal were deservedly booed off the pitch at the final whistle. The team’s collapse was complete. Then, just like the New York Mets fans of 2008 Arsenal supporters were expected to celebrate after witnessing a gut-wrenching performance.