The recent weeks has become a little bit boring in all fairness. Who likes to continually read or write about the good stuffs. About how the squad is showing real resilience and fight and courage and we’re suddenly a pretty decent team when we have our players back fit. It’s a match like this that lights up the Arsenal world on the internet. What? Too early for jokes? And I thought it’s the day of the year which is perfect for it.
All jokes aside, it was an abject performance. I’ll come to the part about the title later on but let’s focus a bit on the abjectness and blandness of the performance that Arsenal put out at Loftus Road. Nothing can be taken more in context than where QPR are prior to last night’s game. 18th and only winning 20% of their home games in the league. We though, has helped them increase that percentage to 25%. Helped is very much the correct word here.
That’s not to say we discredit what QPR did, although I’m entirely discrediting Mark Hughes from all these. The home side had the appetite right from the word go. They pressured use and did not allow us time on the ball to spray the passes around. Bobby Zamora gave us a lot of problems whenever he holds the ball up but his constant pressing on Thomas Vermaelen denied us that driving option out of the back. When Laurent Koscielny had the ball, the pressing was considerably less from Zamora. Over recent weeks, we’ve used Vermaelen’s runs to flood the midfield and we’ve missed that yesterday.
Zamora’s damage on us wasn’t only in denying us the service of Vermaelen but also in his hold up play. He used every upper body force he had in him to gain an advantage. You don’t like to say this but he bullied our defence last night. Something which I’ve not seen since Didier Drogba’s domination over Phillippe Senderos. We couldn’t get the ball off him. Some would say he tricked the referee into calling fouls against him but Zamora worked the angle and our defenders accepted the bait.
In particular, Vermaelen had a bad game. He was culpable for both goals that we conceded. He wasn’t aware of where Adel Taarabt was and allowed Chamakh’s fellow countrymen to nick the ball ahead of him. Vermaelen also stupidly picked up a yellow card when he wanted to feel his forehead against Jamie Mackie’s forehead. Had he not done that, he surely would’ve taken down the same player and deny him the free run towards goal. Mackie’s square ball was thrashed home by Samba Diakite. Wojciech Szczesny had one of those nightmarish days for keepers. Nothing to do all match long and still conceded 2 goals, both of which he could do almost nothing about.
A lot was said of why Aaron Ramsey once again started on the left of the attacking trident. Except that when Ramsey plays there, he doesn’t exactly do what Gervinho or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain does and our formation varies slightly. I would argue that the pitch at Loftus Road is smaller and doesn’t suit to have two wide men because there won’t be enough space to stretch the game. Also, perhaps Arsene Wenger was mindful that despite the proximity, this is still an away game and he wanted the extra protection in midfield. In truth, Ramsey was not at his best and won’t be, as long as he plays there. Quite why some people chose to lay the blame on him is beyond me.
Robin Van Persie has earned himself with lots of credit and rightly so, for his performances this season but he’s equally as guilty if not more than Ramsey. Had RvP found the net when he was through on goal, this game might have been different. The substitutions that were made at the end were also baffling. Wenger took off Kieran Gibbs and Mikel Arteta for Chamakh and AOC. When we’ve got the option of a tall striker who can be good in the air, we still kept constantly playing the ball on the ground to him. I’m not sure but I think we put in less crosses into the box with Chamakh on the field than without him. Perhaps Tomas Rosicky was the better option to be taken off instead of Gibbs and we could’ve kept our shape.
Poignantly, it struck me that when we play well, the entire team is usually very good. It’s the exact opposite when we don’t. It’s almost as if everyone are running on the same operating system. There was no one who looked at the team and thought we’re struggling and tried their best to lift the team. Not one single player could say that they were at their above average best yesterday. RvP has been that one who’s done it before this season but no one rise up to the challenge last night.
In summary, the performance was poor and we dropped points we shouldn’t have. Yet, the online reaction post match was shocking. The team had just put in a 7 games winning run in the league. That takes a lot of effort and energy. Yes, we’ve only played 1 game a week and I’m not blaming lethargy here. No one can be at the best at all times, no one but Lionel Messi (at the current state of footballing world). We are bound to have bad days in the office and this was one of them. The important thing is to recover from this immediately and put in another good run of games starting with the Manchester City one next week.
We’ve not suddenly turned into a horrible team again but that was not an Arsenal worthy performance.