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QPR Review: Arsenal Fail To Avert Ranger Danger

Premier League 2011-2012 / Game 31 / Loftus Road

Queens Park Rangers       2   (Taarabt 22, Diakite 66)
Arsenal                              1   (Walcott 37)

Arsene chose to start with the same eleven that began so brightly at Everton ten days ago, with the returning Koscielny replacing Djourou and Ramsey coming in for Gervinho. It was an understandable decision, based on the opening 20 minutes at Goodison Park, and the manager’s recent preference of playing a four-man midfield for away games.Arsenal’s winning run of seven games was halted by London neighbors Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road yesterday, inflicting a first defeat for Arsene Wenger’s men since 22nd January 2012, when the Gunners lost by the same score to Manchester United at home.

QPR lined with Zamora up top on his own, and a solid five-man midfield of Derry, Barton and Diakite in the middle, with Taarabt left and Mackie right. At the back, the Rangers moved Onuoha to the right with Hill partnering Ferdinand in the centre and Taiwo at left back.

We dominated early possession without creating too much – a feature of much of the afternoon. QPR came into it quickly enough though, both Zamora and Mackie trying to make runs behind the back line. As the half wore on, the Rangers midfield started to press the ball much better, forcing Rosicky into losing possession on more than one occasion.

Our attacks were consistently narrow with both Rosicky and Ramsey preferring to cut inside at each opportunity. QPR were set up for breaking Arsenal’s play through the middle and they did just that.

At the other end, the home side were looking increasingly dangerous when Jamie Mackie or Adel Taarant were on the ball. Zamora was causing problems for both Koscielny and Vermaelen, holding the ball up well, drawing fouls and winning free kicks just outside the box.

Ranger’s opener came in the 22nd minute, after some brilliant work by Taarabt. The talented Moroccan wrong footed Vermaelen before going past the Belgian far too easily and then beating Szczesny to his left with a right footed shot. QPR had looked the more threatening, and the goal had been coming.

Arsenal were  stunned but could not muster an immediate response. Our defensive difficulties down the left side seemed to be growing. There was a lack of communication between Vermaelen and Gibbs, both defenders often going for the same ball with Ramsey still upfield. The Welshman did track back to help out in defence, however Mackie, Zamora and Barton were winning most of the tackles.

Arsenal’s equalizer came in the 37th minute after some good defensive work by Alex Song to win the ball deep into Arsenal’s half. A few passes later, it fell to Robin van Persie at the edge of the box, who managed to poke the ball into the box for Theo Walcott to run onto. The Englishman fired a right footed shot past Kenny, only for the ball to cannon off the post. Luckily, it fell straight into Theo’s path again and he coolly finished into an open net.

At 1-1, Arsenal did start to see more of the ball but never looked in total command and at half-time, Mark Hughes would have been the happier of the two managers.

After the break, the expectation was that Arsenal would come out firing and put the home team on the back foot. It did not happen that way, although as the half progressed, we did look more assured and kept possession without creating many clear-cut chances. There was one lovely through ball by Alex Song to set RvP into the box, and it looked like the Gunners were going to take the lead, but Captain Vantastic’s strike was well saved by Kenny.

By this time, the pitch was starting to fall apart. Whatever tips the curator at Loftus Road got from his counterpart in Milan, it certainly worked. Big chunks of grass were coming off, the ball was bobbling around and players were slipping all over the place – mostly Arsenal ones, it has to be said.

And the second QPR goal came from one such slip. Vermaelen was marking Mackie on the edge of box, when he lost his footing allowing Mackie to stroll past him, look up and find an unmarked Diakite running into box. The Malian made no mistake with a side-foot finish which gave Szczesny no chance.

Arsene Wenger made substitutions, taking off Ramsey for Gervinho and later replacing Arteta and Gibbs for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marouanne Chamakh. The Ox made a couple of good runs, we huffed and we puffed, but never really looked liked scoring. And so it ended 2-1 to the Rangers.

After the game, a disappointed Arsene Wenger had this to say:

Our performance was not good enough to win this kind of game, especially in the duels. They had a little bit of extra special commitment that took advantage of us in some specific positions defensively. Overall we can only congratulate QPR for their attitude and be unhappy with our own performance.

When asked if the result was down to a little bit of complacency, he said:

It is difficult to single out one reason but why not? We played against a team who play for survival. We prepared properly but we missed something today and you could see that.

So what went wrong?

The simplest answer is that we just didn’t play well enough yesterday. We failed to show the qualities which have brought us success recently – determination, energy, crisp passing, high tempo, good movement and finishing were all missing from our play. Considering the momentum we had built up, it was a strangely low key performance from Arsenal. It seemed we did not have a response to the combination of a Milanesque pitch, the physicality of Bobby Zamora up front and the work rate of the QPR midfield.

Did we get our tactics wrong?

Not really. Although as we were playing the 18th placed team in the league, I’d felt Arsene Wenger would have chosen to play this like a home game and retained our winning 4-3-3 formation. Still, I think it was more o a personnel issue than a tactical issue. Whatever Arsenal’s formation on paper, the wide midfield players usually interchange positions at the best of times.

With a predominant right foot and lack of genuine pace, Aaron Ramsey is unsuited to playing on the left hand side. QPR lined up with three holding midfielders, so it was always going to be difficult to create chances through the centre. The Welshman cannot be faulted for effort, but he does not look comfortable out wide, probably contributing to his current form as well.

On the other hand, both Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have the ability to run down the outside or cut inside. As neither of them started, our attacks were predictably through the centre and the QPR right back was never tested. Combined with the fact that Walcott did not have the best of games, our wing play was non-existent on the left and not threatening enough on the right.

Even when Gervinho came on, Arsenal did not try to use the width and stretch play. Instead of whipping crosses in towards the end of the game when Chamakh was brought on, we continued to try to play our way in through the centre. RvP did not have a good game, and there were many occasions when he was not able to hold the ball up or create a clear cut opportunity.

This is the ideal game for Arsenal to evaluate, and work out a response to going behind against teams that sit deep and narrow. Namely, a plan B. We’ve seen Manchester United win tight games time and again by getting down wide and whipping balls into the box while midfield runners cause panic among the back line by pulling them in, to then invariably have a forward step up and tap in.

We ourselves have done this recently against Newcastle, where the pressure of dealing with balls into the box told on the visitors in the end, Vermaelen scoring in the last minute of injury time. Yesterday, we never really showed a desire or awareness to use this direct route after going down.

Overall though, we must maintain some perspective. The stats show we dominated the game in certain aspects. We bossed possession at 67%, attempted 649 passes to QPR’s 296, and completed  85% of them compared to QPR’s 70%. We had more corners than the home team, more crosses and a better crossing accuracy.

Crucially though, QPR won more possession duels and more tackles than we did. It’s an indication of what we saw visibly, that QPR competed with Arsenal throughout the match, even though they were seeing lesser of the ball. Still, we may have got something out of the game but for two mistakes by one of our defenders.

That’s football and that’s the Premier League. Maybe we were a little complacent, although it’s not only the players that got it wrong; the author of this post predicting yesterday that Arsenal would comfortably come out on top.

The one positive from yesterday was that Laurent Koscielny played the full 90 minutes without picking a yellow, meaning he will be eligible for the Manchester City game.

I think this is a good wake up call for us. Chelsea won yesterday and if the Tots do the same today, Arsene’s warning that we could finish anywhere between third and sixth will certainly ring true.

We have certainly been ‘up for it’ against the bigger sides this season, discounting the United game in August of course, so I am confident the players will refocus after this setback and come back strong against the Blues. Chin up and let’s move forward.

That’s it for today, your comments most welcome. Until tomorrow.

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9 thoughts on “QPR Review: Arsenal Fail To Avert Ranger Danger

  1. I CANT BELIVE WENGER!!!!! once again he starts that piece of crap Ramsey!!!!! The lad is total poo and should never bee in the first eleven especially when OX is sitting on the bench I just can’t belive it I’ve been arguing with people on this blog all season about Ramsey and another avrage player ARTETA another player who isn’t good enough for arsenal hr got pushed of the ball like a little baby yesterday and yea he makes lots o little passes but they don’t effect the game at all he might aswell be playing it bk to SCZNY the whole game….
    GOTZE, PODOLSKI amd even more key than any of these players is having wilshere fit again!!!!!

    • I can understand your frustation at yesterday’s performance Paul, but I have to disagree with you on Ramsey and Arteta. Yes, he’s not been in the best of form lately, but Ramsey’s a good player he will develop into a world-class one – sooner rather than later. Regarding Arteta, he was never brought in to be the creative force of the midfield, but to retain the ball and keep play moving, which he does brilliantly.

      Yesterday, Ramsey was not effective because of a combination of factors:
      1. The whole team played with less drive and determination
      2. We did not pass the ball with a high tempo
      3. The pitch was making it difficult to implement a pass and move game
      4. QPR played with three defensive midfielder and all three played very well, closing everything that came throught the middle

      These factors made it difficult for Ramsey to have an impact, and being totally right footed, he does not have the confidence to run down the flanks. Which is where I feel either Gervinho or Ox starting would have given us a different dimension to stretch the play more. In the second half, Arsene did bring Gervinho on the wing but we still failed to penetrate.

      Again Paul, it’s all hindsight isn’t it? The same combination worked like a charm at Everton because the whole team played well. So we can’t just blame one or two players.

      • Paul on said:

        I could go on and on about this all day with u mate, just answer me 1 thing you say Ramsey and arteta are world class??? So what does that make fabregas, nasri, viera, petit, edu, gilberto, hleb the list goes on and on these are WORLD CLASS players arteta is in his prime and falls well short of arsenal players over the years and Ramsey is young yes but compare him to wilshere who looks like a young version of INIESTA on the pitch it’s clear to see he does not have the potential u think!!!!

      • I never said Ramsey and Arteta are world class, Paul. I said Ramsey WILL be a world class player, and that’s my opinion, you don’t agree and I can understand that. But he’s certainly not as bad as everyone makes him out to be just after we lose a game. He’s been played out of position at a time when his form is not the best. Still, he’s showed signs of that talent, as against Everton.
        Also, we can’t have a squad full of ‘world-class’ players. Firstly, we’d then be called ‘Manchester City’ and secondly, it does not in any way guarantee victory – see the City game yesterday.
        Look, I am as frustated as you are at losing, but let’s not get too carried away with the praise when we’re winning and the insults when we’re losing. Whether you think a player is good or bad is one’s personal opinion but to call them names when they are playing for the team you love is not class.

      • Paul on said:

        Well he’s been playing pretty much the whole season and what he’s had a couple good games LOL not good enough!!!! When we finish in 5th and are playing Chanel 5 football next season let’s see how happy u are with the avrage players we have in tge squad.. That’s the problem with arsenal supporters now days your to used to being in 4th and not winning anything yes man city have a team of world class players but are they fighting for the PREM???? Are they on top of us???? So who would u rather Ramsey and arteta or yaya toure and silva????

      • Paul, you obviously want to remain unhappy, so I will leave you to it. Have a good day and thanks for reading.

      • Paul on said:

        Lol I will class that as u agree with everything I said and have no more argument!!! 🙂 beta luck next time

  2. ChrisN on said:

    World Class – someone who can play at the highest standard on the international stage at (supposedly) the next level above club football. As the successful captain of Wales, Aaron Ramsey has definitely satisfied the definition of ‘world class’, as has that other much slagged-off player Arshavin and also Diaby. I’m a bit bored of people going on and on about it and misusing the phrase. All of the above players have sometimes found themselves a little lost un premiership clogging matches. How would those players who fans worship (entirely because of fame and hype), the Hazards, the Gotzes, the Iniestas even, cope in English matches where they were kicked to bits day in and day out without protection? We may never know. We spend, it appears, a colossal amount of time slagging off our flair players who at least try. What happened when Fabregas left for a land where he got protection from refs? He got much much better and got regular goals.
    We’re in third after a really shit start to the season because we worked hard. The first slip up and stinking little fog horns instantly appear with their nasty little opinions and prejudices about pet players and pariahs. Fans? My arse. at some point when you post comments and get involved, you realise that the bad smells are not coming from people who actually are writing in support of their team, but rather people who like looking at their words in print because it makes them feel important.

  3. Paul on said:

    @CHRIS.N mate your a total donut!!!!!! So the reason cesc has scored all them goals is because he’s being protected from the ref???? I thought it was because he’s playing with the best team in the world but I suppose that has nothing to do with it u joker!!! And don’t try talking about “fans my arse” I’m a season ticket holder and the same season ticket has been in my family for 40 years I’m a SUPPORTER o the club ur prob just an everyday armchair fan u tube and if u think Aaron Ramsey is WORLD CLASS then that shows just how much u know about football…

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