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Queens Park Rangers 2 Arsenal 1

So it was back to Loftus Road, our first visit since 2004 when we were in the process of completing the unbeaten season. Pre match plans were made to meet in the Central Bar, a Wetherspoons inside Shepherd`s Bush`s Vue shopping centre. But being something of a beer snob, myself and Lord Lowe eschewed the crowds and the platiscy airport pub vibe and instead headed to The Swan, a delightful Nicholson`s pub in Hammersmith. With three pints of Jaipur India Pale Ale in our sails (just your 5.9% volume), we took to South Africa Road in good spirits. Arriving in the School End upper tier just ten minutes before kickoff, I had to abandon the mission to urinate such was the uncomfortable and pretty unsafe tightness of the concourse. Though Ricky`s custom designed Rocky Rocastle tee shirts ensured we were looking good!

Arsene elected again to select Aaron Ramsey on the left. At Everton, I felt it had been a tactical move in deference to Everton`s weak right side. But I may have given the manager too much credit because to repeat the trick here made little or no sense. Recently Tottenham`s slump of sorts coincided with Redknapp needlessly tinkering with his winning system and I fear Arsene has done the same with this sort of rotating diamond he`s been trying. Gervinho may be a bit leggy still but in Chamberlain we have a natural asset on the left and to jam Ramsey into that role again did not make sense and, frankly, it didn`t work because we carried no threat down that side.

The Gunners didn`t begin the game very brightly. We got the committed harrying game we would have been expecting from QPR. Too often the man in possession in our midfield was blunted by a lack of movement from those around him, with few making themselves available for the pass. The home side might have had a penalty in the opening ten minutes. Taarabt`s corner was swung in towards Zamora and Song left a trailing arm up next to his head. For my money, Song`s hand was in an unnatural position and I`d have appealed fervently had a Rangers player had his hand up and connected in our area. The Hoops were causing problems from set pieces with Taarabt`s delivery. He flung in a right wing free kick which Zamora headed just over unmarked.

But the home side did race in to the lead half way through the first half. Clint Hill`s pretty aimless pass forward was allowed to drift through our entire midfield like a leaf that gently picks up pace in an upward wind. It meandered to Taarabt, who deftly turned Vermaelen before steering the ball beyond Szczesny. It`s Arsenal`s rigour and professionalism that has brought them good results so it was incredibly disappointing to concede such a slapstick goal. But gradually the Gunners began to win a few more midfield duels- which were something of a downfall all day. On 37 minutes, they equalised. Rosicky found van Persie on the edge of the area; he muscled the attention of Hill and cutely flicked the ball into the path of Walcott. Taiwo had neglected his defensive line and played Theo onside. The first attempt hit the base of the post but the rebound was kind and rolled straight back to his feet and Walcott made no mistake, burying the second chance with the side of his foot. "Paddy Kenny, he eats what he wants" was the mocking cry from the School End.

Though I`d predicted a draw prior to the game; I felt the equaliser would see us establish our supremacy and utilise the confidence garnered from seven consecutive wins. Ramsey gave Rs fans brief reason to be fearful when he collected Arteta`s cutback and sent a daisy cutter narrowly wide. But in the second half, I fully expected Arsenal to go on and win the game. However, that dominance never arrived. Rangers still bested us in the midfield duels and the Gunners` movement wasn`t sharp enough to cause problems. A sniff of a chance came courtesy of the two fullbacks. Sagna`s cross whipped with menace to the back post, Gibbs connected but saw his header bounce just wide. But the real opportunity arrived just before the hour mark. Song`s pass carved the Hoops defence; Hill had switched off momentarily, playing van Persie onside. The Dutchman bore down on goal and looked to smash a left foot shot into the top corner, only to be denied by an excellent save from Kenny.

Six minutes later, Rangers, who had contained us without troubling us unduly, pounced on another error. Nedum Onuoha clipped a relatively harmless pass down the line. Vermaelen was in position to deal with it but lost his footing on the unctuous turf. Jamie Mackie stole in and cut the ball back for Diakite, who was completely unmarked to pass the ball into Szczesny`s net. Much of the blame seems to have been apportioned to Vermaelen. Unfairly I think. He was in the correct position, but slipped. Unfortunate really. The angle of the goal from behind the goal shows Arteta and Song both stood in the centre circle whilst Diakite is allowed to stroll into our area unmanned. That`s a far bigger error in my book.

Arsenal toiled but never really looked like equalising. Gervinho, Chamakh and Chamberlain were all tossed on. Rosicky had a long range shot saved comfortably by Kenny. Rangers might have made it safe in the dying minutes. Mackie held his run on the right, Barton found him with the Gunners over committed. Mackie cut back to Barton whose whipping shot was brilliantly turned over by Szczesny. In the end, Arsenal did not really turn in a performance worthy of much more than they got. Rangers shut us out quite comfortably and pounced on some silly errors. "Robin van Persie, he don`t score round here" was the chant from the gleeful home crowd. There might be some value to this defeat if lessons are learned and it`s used properly. Our support has got way ahead of itself with the "mind the gap" rubbish, taking it as a fair accomplit that Spurs were out of sight. So if it gives us a little more humility it might not be the worst thing in the world.

Overall, I`d have taken 21 points out of 24 had you offered them around the time Adebayor was slotting a penalty at the Emirates. The midfield was nowhere near as functional as it has been and that came down to hard work. We didn`t work as hard as Rangers did. The system looked confused. I`m at a loss to understand why the manager tinkered with the midfield after a run like this but hopefully this means an end to it. It`s not like we don`t have left wingers in the squad. But it was disappointing to see a lack of movement, whenever Song or Arteta had the ball, there weren`t enough players making themselves available for the pass. Again, that simply comes down to endeavour. Seven games left, we`re level with Spurs. They have a better run in on paper. It`s exciting, that much is true. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 6.KOSCIELNY, 5.VERMAELEN, 28.GIBBS (29.Chamakh `82), 17.SONG, 8.ARTETA (15.Chamberlain `82), 7.ROSICKY, 14.WALCOTT, 16.RAMSEY (27.Gervinho `69), 10.v.PERSIE (c). Unused: 11.A.Santos, 20.Djourou, 21.Fabianski, 30.Benayoun.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday April 1 2012

Time: 8:43PM

Your Comments

I felt Qpr were superb day
Thought Szczesny could have done better with the 2nd QPR goal.
Wyn mills
ramsey & walcott showed no effort in tracking back for their defensive duties. it happened many times before
So when Wenger talks about 'going back to basics' is he talking about defence? And why, at this stage of the season and with so much at stake, should he be having to drum this into the players? We have 7 games left. The prize is in sight and the marathon is now a sprint. To hell with rotation, play the winning team/formation and stop tinkering and being so bloody arrogant.
Wyn Mills
Great reporting, LD. Arsenal could have no complaints about the result as we pretty much asked for it with the lackadaisical approach to our midfield play. I won't blame TV for the 2nd goal either as there should have been adequate cover from our DMs and Diakite shouldn't be getting so much space; same reason you can't blame the keeper, Wyn. Diakite was only about 8 meters out when he struck the ball and it will be asking too much of the keeper to make such a save, in my view. Now, the first goal is a different matter.
Low tempo, low desire and leaden footed. Why we played in 2nd gear throughout the game sans any urgency after more than a weeks rest is a complete mystery. These kind of games when we show up against relegation battlers with a sense of entitlement during the run in were the specialty of our previous young squad - or so one thought. The next game is huge for our season. Unfortunately its also huge for City. Its going to be a battle between our desire to stay in the top 4 and their desire to win the title. Even Sky dont need to hype our next game - its going to be watched by everybody.
thanks for the right up LD, I thought the whole team were complacent, a little too expectant of a positive result had the lads back off QPR. Vermaelen can't be singled out but he has on a number of occasions 'switched off ' of late, wouldn't swap him for any of our other options though.. this certainly livens things up at the top.
*write up*..switched off there ;-)
I thought the Ref was 'consistent' in not given any of the penalty shouts from hand ball incidents in the area. Taiwo did have a few which were not given; I feel Theo has not put enough pressure on the Nigerian full back as he is prone to telling errors when coming up against quick and technical players (he is known to be better offensively than defensively), but Theo hardly used his strengths in that game, despite scoring our goal. In addition the team needed to hold its own on the physical and psychological side of the game. We were bullied all over the pitch and seemed to get carried away with the antics of Joey Barton and winding up of a few other players, something Mark Hughes may have put his team up to. I feel we under-estimated QPR and, perhaps, needed this result to bring us right back down to earth.
Dont think Ramsey on left wing made a huge impact on the game, although he doesnt look so comfortable in that position. We were outplayed everywhere, esp in defence and mid field. Spurs are still favourites to finish 3rd and with games vs city and chelsea, even 4th place is not assured.
Song's an attacking midfielder now though, right?
I think having Ramsey on the left really blunted us. Arsenal is a team that favours the right nowadays anyway, but we couldn't stretch the pitch, which is a pretty big factor on a small pitch against a compact team. I think there is a little too much obsession over Song's precise role and exactly what it means because he has a few assists. Any midfield works better when everyone does a bit of everything and teammates fill in for one another. They each have primary roles of course, but just because Song's played a few through balls, it doesn't mean there's some sort of identity crisis. It's simply cos Song does usually sit deeper and therefore has a bit more time on the ball than his counterparts. So it's made perfect sense to work on his ability to play a through ball.
Little Dutch
Yeah that's fair enough and I wasn't complaining at Anfield, just needs to know when he can do it, as was trying to force it too much on Sat. BTW i'm 99% sure they'd squeezed the pitch, could see where the white lines were before.
The left sided forward position seems to be up for grabs next season. Gervinho has faded in his influence there, AOC is more comfortable on the right side and Ramsey naturally doesn't fit the requirement. It will be intriguing who we use there against City this Sunday. Gervinho or AOC may leave the midfield too bare and that could bring Song and Arteta under immense pressure. Yossi worked against Spurs in a similar high pressure scenario and it may not be the worst option to play him there in the first hour. He has technical ability, work rate, decent positional sense though he too drifts inside too much and is an under rated creative force.
I'd agree shewore. I like Song but I really do think he has a tendency to get a touch of the "I am's" at times, holding onto the ball too long, trying the fancy stuff when it's not quite necessary (that effing backheel against Fulham still annoys me) and now I fear he might start to believe the "through ball king" hype too much. That said, Rosicky wasn't as effective as he has been recently. His form has been based on making himself available, passing the ball, then moving his aris again and making himself available. He was a bit more subdued on Saturday. Song didn't have as many choices as usual. delta, I'd certainly play Benayoun on Saturday. Richards can give them great thrust from right back.
Little Dutch
Even though we beat Everton away with Ramsey playing, I still felt playing him in that position didn't do the balance of the side any favours and while we go the result in the end, it could easily have been a draw. I'm not going mad like some Gooners about the loss, but you had we been in first position and going for a title and lost that game you'd have been absolutely gutted. And we kind of are going for a title; that of 3rd and automatica qualification, so at this stage it is hugely disappointing that we didn't manage not to lose a game where we weren't playing well. I just feel with this Arsenal side that they can't get the balance between confidence and complacency right. Last week against Villa was a super-confident, accomplished performance. Saturday was creeping into expectancy of a result just because we're playing well. Even a point on Saturday could prove vital come the end of season. Anyway, it's how we respond in the next 7 games. We've done it before, so we can again. The number of times I've thought "great, they've had enough rest and should be bang up for this" only for Arsenal to stutter just shows that sometimes the rest ain't all its cracked up to be (as Chelsea showed).
I touched on this in the Villa match report, but I think the complacency was very visible in the second half against Villa. If Bent and N'Zogbia had been playing I fancy they'd have scored. Thankfully for us they weren't and most of their squad is pretty terrible. It's important we use this in the right way, take it as a wake up call but don't let it wreck our belief. It's a tricky one, but it's seven cup finals now. Exciting if nothing else.
Little Dutch
Missed Wilshere badly yesterday too really lacked creativity still cant understand the Ramsey decision when we have both Gerviniho and Chamberlain on the bench.
Van Persie
My feelings about this game are all over the map and I'm struggling to keep them to "of course it's no disaster, there's no way we were going to win every game, we've done pretty well given what has come before yadayadayada..." But the other side of me is just angry because just when you start to think this team has finally finally finally learned the dangers of complacency, learned some maturity against lower level teams like this you get that kind of performance. Which as LD says we also saw against Villa but got away with it. But it's not just the players it's the manager with his refusal to use his bench until the 68th minute, his refusal to change things when the team needs help. I credit AW when he gets things right, and he has quite often this season but Saturday was just infuriating. As to his use of Ramsey...I'm not angry with his selection of Ramsey on Saturday. It looks like AW's been rotating our left midfield side & he felt that Ramsey was good enuf at Everton, an away game that we won. The issue for me was his refusal to change things there earlier in the game when it clearly was not a good choice. If something's not working, then fkg change it in time to save the game, dammit! I also have serious doubts about Rosicky & Ramsey starting together. (I'm not trashing Ramsey, I like him).
BTW, apropos of nothing on this topic--I find it interesting that we've drawn so few games this season, we either win or lose but v. rarely draw (4 games so far). I think I read that we haven't drawn this few games since 1906 or thereabouts.
I think Rosicky and Ramsey are too similar to play together, certainly. Earlier subs are something the manager's rarely used in his time at the club but this season I think it's governed more than ever by a lack of good options. I mean, you're losing 2-1 with ten minutes left ad Chamakh is all you've got to freshen it up.
Little Dutch
Oh and if Djourou had screwed up the way Vermaelen did on Saturday gooners everywhere would be demanding his head.
first class write up LD. Thought we had the ideal balance when we played Theo right and Gervinho left. Agreed with the comment that the urgency of both Theo and Aaron to track back seemed to be missing. In fact i also thought okay once Theo had scored now the fight was starting and IMO their second goal was against the run of play and during our most successful period of play. It grates against the nerves to see players such as Barton co falling over half dead holding shoulders that have been torn off only to see them take a magical drink and hurtle into the next tackle. He is a thug has always been a thug. But hey just like Bale's effort to try and win another penalty against Swansea should give them both hope to a successful acting career after football.
DF, I definitely agree with playing Benayoun on the left side against City, for about an hour. When I thought about our selection for that game, I did have the same thought and his tendency to drift into the middle could be an advantage as he will help out in midfield when we need bodies in there. An alternative will be Santos. Richards isn't going to bully that Burly Brazilian, by any means.
I have had this nagging thought that Arsene must be trying to keep the Ox from the 'shop' window, so it is difficult to select him for the Internationals coming up in the summer. I mean, how else do you explain the decision to keep him out of the starting line up, just when his reputation was going sky high? He is a very potent player and if the team is allowed to get used to his style, teammates would have learnt to cover for any observed short comings he may be guilty of. Just inexplicable that he isn't more regular in our squad.
As with most things Jaelle, players build up, and can subsequently lose, credit. Djorou would get slagged for it cos he's been very poor this season, Vermaelen (Although slightly overrated IMO), hasn't. Really simple.
AW has always blooded young players in much the same way, keeping them grounded just as the hype begins. I think he's also mindful of the fact that we overexposed Wilshere last year and that Fabregas' hamstrings started to turn to jelly by age 22. It makes sense for us to use him sparingly. Because the hype is so big, people block out games where Chamberlain hasn't been effective- such as Sunderland in the Cup.
Little Dutch
You're right though, the issue is the squad, not so much when he makes the subs. Even though this is the strongest squad he's ever had (chuckles), question tho, throw Chamackh on or Bentdner? know who i'd prefer
Guess you have a point, L.D. Just can't help recollecting how Wenger threw in Cesc, Jack and Theo at the deep end and it gave them the young prodigy reputations they've enjoyed. I'd agree it's important to keep the Ox grounded but there must be a balance between that and stunting his growing confidence. Shewore, but for his attitude, Bendtner would have offered us a better option from the bench, no doubt.
the most frustrating thing about the team is, we have the quality to win many more games every season but were always hindered either by the lack of commitment or the tendency to self-implode due to weak "mental strength" in wenger's term. few seasons back, we threw away many games by succumbing to pressure. just when i thought we overcame that, we are throwing away games now due to lack of urgency. we need more players like sagna who are willing to run himself to the ground and put his head where others won't put their foot
This tendency of this (and earlier) Arsenal squads not to learn from their mistakes is down to Wenger. He can criticise the players (who deserved it) but he should be asking questions of himself - even when he has changed the personnel substantially from 3 seasons back, his teams do not learn from their mistakes (they do make different mistakes, but they do make them repeatedly). Something to look at in the summer, coz changing personnel is not solving the problem.
Fair enuf shewore-but this isn't the first time Verm has messed up like this either
Good write up and interesting comments from everyone. Jaelle - I agree that TV gets away from criticism and I feel that that is due to his goal scoring than his defensive performances. I love the guy but he was at fault for both goals.
No 10
I would actually start OX against Citeh. The blue mancs haven't been great away from home and I think a direct player like him will draw a lot of free kicks that have been much more productive for us of late. It's a game he knows he'll have to be on top of his game and I'd hope to get a performance like the on against the red mancs.
No 10
Verm was talked about like the second coming when he was injured for so long, he is top notch and can put in displays of brilliance, but has been at fault a few times more than some people would have you believe.
Think you're right, this blog goes into detail as to how Hughes targets Vermaelen- successfully- every time he plays Arsenal. That Wenger hasn't worked this out and is being outfoxed by a manager that limited is a tad concerning.
Little Dutch
The combination of Mark Hughes, Joey Barton and Bobby Zamora was always going to be a hard one to be up against. I said it in an earlier post on this thread that it is obvious Hughes has set his team up to get under our players' skins while also relying on Barton's usual antics. Wenger has to wise up to these games and so do his teams. Remember how Barton has got Diaby and Gervinho sent off (in separate games), while being a right jerk, himself?
Although TV was at fault for both goals I wouldn't credit Hughes with that. His targeting of TVs tendency to rush out to make a tackle leaving space behind has no connection to the goals scored at the weekend. His slip for the second was made because he was covering space exposed by Gibbs. His fault for the first was not rushing out but in inexplicably giving up on the challenge.
No 10
I don't think he was at fault for the second at all. Indeed, he was in exactly the right position and would have dealt with the ball had he not slipped. You can't really gripe the guy for losing his footing. But for the first goal he was definitely too high up, which gave Taarabt license to turn him. He knew Vermaelen would rush out and get touch tight, leaving space in behind. It makes Taarabt's mind up for him because he knows he's got that space in behind to turn him.
Little Dutch
Also to further try to resist giving credit to Hughes. His earmarking TV (after 4 games) for his tendency to rush out to make a challenge is nothing special. At the beginning of next season just watch any young CB at a new team and you'll see exactly the same thing. Kos was the same, so was Sac and many more.
No 10
But the fact that it worked in exactly the same way again three years later suggests there's mileage in it? I mean, if Vermaelen holds his ground just a little bit when Hill plays that pass Taarabt has no chance to turn him at all and no space to run into. QPR nearly scored a 3rd too as a direct result of Mackie hanging around, lurking on the left with TV5 way up the pitch.
Little Dutch
Oh please Naija, Arsenal are not as good as Spurs this year. That has been apparent all season. Had Harry not literally handed you the game on a plate with his inept tactics, we wouldn't be discussing who is better right now. Harry finally figured out a system without Lennon(4-3-3) and it's game over. Remember this post because Spurs will be third in the end. Please don't come back with the broken record stuff....
And for those who wanted Arsene out earlier in the season. What a bunch of mugs you are. If it were not for your legendary manager you would be sitting mid bloody table! Your a bunch of fa G gots that cannot recognize the problem that it staring you point blank in the face. Your team, as individuals, suck!
@AshMash - I like the idea of taking out little bits of history to make your point work. So if Harry hadn't been inept you would be 3rd. Cool by me. If you only start counting points from September to now I think we would be top of the league.
No 10
asher, I had to scroll up to see where I (or anyone else) mentioned the tiny tots on this thread. Boy! You sure have a way of getting attention. Okay; I should ignore you.
if if if if if....christ in a biplane, if should be sp*rs motto, what's if only in latin? 21 pts to play for and a club with a history of literally sh+tting themselves has the fans with the biggest gobs that is all anyone knows at present.
I think it will go down to the wire and the last game of the season, the sp*rs players unable to contain their fear and the explosive nature of their guts will all spontaneously combust showering the twitchy crook and Joe Jordan in a MrCreosotesque shower of warm butt beer. Arsenal fans laugh and laugh as another chapter of shame will be borne for the skinny chicken, laughing stock of English football as ever.
I also think it will go down to the last day. Squeaky bum time indeed.
It was not Vermaelen's fault for the 2n, with Song & Arteta failing to cover. But it has been his weakness - rushing forward while leaving gaps behind. This was highlighted in an analysis 3 seasons back on a blog (cant remember which one). When we are a goal behind, we love it when he does go forward and score, but he does need to temper his aggression and be more smart while defending.

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