My two favorite football teams are in serious trouble through the first few weeks of their seasons. No, I’m not one of those weirdos who supports two NFL teams (no offense, weirdos). I support the Indianapolis Colts, who play American football, and I support the Arsenal F.C., who plays football (soccer) in the Barclays Premier League in England.
As a supporter of both for as long as I can remember, this is the first year that I’ve been simultaneously, seriously worried about the two. It’s strange. What’s even stranger is that the two clubs seem to be having parallel seasons with parallel issues.
Let me break it down for you.
Arsene Wenger, the manager for Arsenal, has always taken pride on building from within and not relying on the offseason transfer window to find superstars for his team. He believes in building from the Arsenal youth club and teaching those young players the Arsenal play style. It was a great system for a long time but with the new trend of rivals like Chelsea and Manchester City spending their entire budgets on superstars from other leagues, it’s become increasingly difficult to crack the top 4, let alone make a true run at the league championship.
Ryan Grigson, the GM for the Colts, apparently takes pride in pissing off the rest of the organization and not relying on free agency to get a decent offensive line to protect Luck or a secondary to ensure Luck isn’t throwing from behind every week. It’s never been a great system and rivals like the New England Fucking Patriots have a jaunty laugh every year when they demolish Indianapolis.
When the transfer window opened this past summer, Wenger was said to be changing his ways a bit, putting in bids for superstars like Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. As a team desperate for a great striker, this was extremely encouraging for us Arsenal fans. But after wasting nearly a month of back and forth, it was reported that Wenger cancelled his pursuance of Benzema over 2 million English pounds. At that point, there was barely enough time to resume the striker search and Arsenal wound up with nothing that could truly help the team make a run at the championship.
When free agency opened this past summer, it looked like Grigson was an absolute genius. Quickly securing future possible Hall of Famers Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, it seemed as though the Colts were immediately in the running for a Super Bowl appearance. But after wasting the Colts’ first round draft pick on yet ANOTHER wide receiver, it was reported that Grigson was drunk and seemingly forgot that his star quarterback needed an offensive line, not another target to throw to.
See? The situations aren’t identical but they have some parallels. Stick with me.
Early Season Woes
The Arsenal and Indianapolis Colts seasons could not have started worse. Arsenal went out and lost to perennial middle-of-the-pack West Ham United and immediately ensued panic among the Arsenal faithful. The Gunners’ top striker, Olivier Giroud, started off the season woefully and has not looked good all year. If he can’t get in form, there’s absolutely no chance for the team to contend for the title.
The Indianapolis Colts went out and lost to perennial crazy person Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills and immediately ensued panic among the Colts faithful. The Colts’ best player, Andrew Luck, could not find any rhythm with his receivers and his offensive line never gave him enough time to do so. The Bills masterfully utilized their new starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, and the Colts’ run defense allowed some very inexperienced running backs to pound the ball and set up Taylor for some fantastic throws. If the defense can’t get on the same page and Luck can’t find protection from his offensive line, there’s absolutely no chance for the team to contend for the Super Bowl.
Arsenal hasn’t really bounced back from that early loss, opening up the UEFA Champion’s League with a loss to the Croatian club, Dinamo Zagreb. Mental errors and the loss of Giroud to a red card killed the already stagnating Arsenal side and Dinamo Zagreb capitalized, winning the first match in the Champions League group stage.
The Colts definitely didn’t bounce back from that first loss, opening up their home games with a Monday Night Football loss to Todd Bowles’ New York Jets. Luck’s mental errors and a supremely depleted secondary killed the already stagnating Indianapolis side and the Jets capitalized. New York teams have not been nice to the Colts so far but hats off to both of them for playing extremely well.
How to Get Back on Track
The sad part about the Barclays Premier League season is that Arsenal’s chances of winning the championship are already very slim and the season is only six games old. With a dominating Manchester City at the top, a lot of work is going to have to be done for Arsenal to have a chance of winning. The mental mistakes have to stop. Two straight games with red cards for Arsenal players cannot happen again. The team is not really talented enough to win a game without 11 men on the pitch. Olivier Giroud has to find his form again and score some goals when it actually matters. Arsene has to get off his high horse and actually go find a second option for striker during the January transfer window. If Giroud can’t snap out of it and the team can’t score goals, Arsenal has no shot of winning the league championship.
The relieving part about the NFL season is that the Colts’ chances definitely aren’t over. 0-2 through the first two games isn’t good but we saw the same song and dance last year. The Colts ended up winning five straight and eventually found themselves in the AFC Championship game. However, for this to happen again and for the team to have a chance to win that Championship game, the mental mistakes have to stop. Frank Gore first downs cannot be taken away due to bad holding penalties and Andrew Luck has to find his form again and throw some touchdowns when it actually matters. Grigson and Pagano have to figure their issues out and go find some free agent options for the secondary and offensive line. If Luck can’t snap out of it and if the line can’t protect him, the team has no shot of going to the Super Bowl.
So there you have it. My two favorite football teams are in serious trouble. Things can be done to get back on track but will they be done? For the sake of my sanity, happiness, and liver, I certainly hope so.