The run had to end sometime and to me the result wasn’t as much a surprise as it might have been to some people. Games at this level are very tight and often decided by minor details. Since this is a late post I don’t want to dwell on too many aspects of the game that would have been difficult to take for many. Here are some points that seem important.
Vermaelen obviously got some flak for his mistakes but this is neither the first nor the last time he’s made those kind of errors. His game is based on attacking the ball and there will be moments when an unfortunate slip or a poor decision – when to go for the ball and when to hold – will expose the goal. Usually he has some support, either from his central defensive partner or a full-back or a midfielder, but in this game Arsenal didn’t have sufficient depth to their defending.
Taarabt and Zamora were 2-v-2 with the central defenders for the first goal. The midfield was too far away. Song was running forward when he should have been reading the danger behind him. Arsenal’s shape was questionable given the ease with which a defender could play a simple pass forward that became an assist.
For the second goal Mackie and Diakite were able to get forward with ease. Gibbs got sucked up the pitch which pulled Vermaelen wide. How on earth did Diakite find himself completely free inside the edge of the box?! Once again the midfield was nowhere to be seen.
The defenders have done well in recent weeks but they will make mistakes under pressure. The winning run wasn’t based on top class collective defending anyway, especially in the away games. There was a bit of luck and some last gasp defending involved, and that can’t last forever.
Arsenal had a lot of the ball, attempting close to 650 passes and completing over 550, but most of the play was very inefficient.
Song made the most passes but I got a feeling he couldn’t quite bring the others into play as well as he wanted to. One also got the impression that he was trying too hard to find the incisive pass when he might have been better off leaving that task to others. Physically the Cameroonian did have a very good game.
Rosicky couldn’t make any sort of a consistent attacking impact. That position is one of Arsenal’s weaknesses at the moment. In such a game the Gunners need someone who can push up to receive the ball in front of the central defenders before making decisive contributions in tight spaces.
Van Persie moved around a lot and his effort cannot be questioned but the team might have done better if he’d stayed central and limited his movement. Arsenal needed bodies in front of QPR’s back four but they rarely got there. It was a weak defensive unit that just wasn’t challenged often enough. The goal came through that route, albeit from a transition, and Arsenal should have played with two or three attackers up against the back four for longer periods, especially at the start. RvP also missed a great chance to make it 2-1 but it doesn’t always work out. To know more about that watch out for my post on clear-cut chances that will be published on EPL Index in a day or so.
Of course, it’s also important to complement the hosts for their work-rate, discipline, and attacking talents. They forced Arsenal into safer passes and defended the central areas fairly well. It’s the sort of challenge the Gunners must learn to overcome but few teams can do it with such consistency while retaining an attacking edge.
The result means Ramsey’s position on the left will again be questioned. I thought the problem again had more to do with Arsenal’s inability to use the space on the left than the choice of the individual. Song did try to spread some balls to the left, towards Gibbs, but it didn’t quite work out. The Welshman, for his part, struggled with his duels and couldn’t really make a meaningful contribution. Without him Arsenal might not have seen as much of the ball but it’s tough to say whether that would have worked for the betterment or detriment of the side.
Unfortunately, Arsenal didn’t have enough quality on the bench to make a difference.
In a way one could say there wasn’t anything new to discuss from this game. The problems have been there for a while. They won’t go away overnight either. Usually the effort and abilities of the players can conceal them or the opponents don’t show the ability to capitalize on them. That does set up a tough run-in for Arsenal. Couple of the home games are against big sides and the away fixtures are always challenging. The 5 point gap over Chelsea is not that big as we’ve already seen bigger leads disappear. One just has to hope that Arsenal can fight harder than they did in this game and find greater inspiration when they are in control.
This wasn’t a typical analytical piece and I want to apologize to the regular readers who’ve come to expect that but there are times when analyzing such games in detail two days after the event seems pointless. I would have done it earlier but the whole apartment moving experience was extremely tiring and I couldn’t find the energy to watch and write on Sunday.
Here’s to a lethargy-free run-in for everyone in the Arsenalsphere.