Errors Costly as Arsenal Slips to Defeat
Queens Park Rangers 2 – 1 Arsenal
1 – 0 Taarabt (22)
1 – 1 Walcott (37)
2 –1 Diakité (66)
Arsenal lost 1-2 to Queens Park Rangers in an unattractive game at Loftus Road on a grey Saturday afternoon. We enjoyed long spells of possession, but were unable to capture the same attacking zest that characterised the recent run of wins. QPR took the lead midway through the first half after Taarabt tricked Vermaelen and tucked the ball past Szczesny.
Arsenal struck back through Walcott shortly before the break with our best attack of the half. Twenty minutes into the second half, as Arsenal began to look comfortable, QPR grabbed a goal from nowhere – an unfortunate slip by Vermaelen let in Mackie down the right who squared for Diakité to score.
The opposition was industrious, physically powerful and ruthless in capitalising on our two defensive errors. Arsenal was one-paced and short of ideas, especially after going behind in the second half.
The lineup was the same that faced Everton ten days before, when they produced what was possibly Arsenal’s best defensive performance this season. In this away formation, Aaron Ramsey starts on the left and tends to float infield. The rationale being that he should make the team a little more robust, offering better ball retention, recovery and physical endurance.
In the opening minutes Arsenal looked smart on the ball, and chased QPR down. Van Persie had the first shot on goal, from a free-kick that found its way through the wall and trickled into Kenny’s arms. Our captain appeared to be wearing some kind of support high on his right thigh. Last week during the Villa win it looked like something was inhibiting his movement. If there is some kind of niggle it might account for the little dry spell he’s going through.
After about ten minutes in QPR started to put us under pressure, on and off the ball. Really it was pretty benign – a series of balls lofted into the penalty area from free-kicks by the touchlines. But while Szczesny was never tested, Arsenal were on the back foot and getting drawn into a scrap. Epitomising both QPR’s industry and brawn was Jamie Mackie, who clattered Szczesny after the ‘keeper made a routine catch. Arteta and Rosicky were both caught in possession under pressure from the snarling home side.
Arsenal was unable to regain their composure in midfield, but QPR hadn’t offered much imagination despite bundling into our area a few times. That was until Taarabt collected a long straight pass from deep in their half. Thomas Vermaelen’s tracked him, but his marking was a bit loose. As he tried to recover he found himself on the wrong side of Taarabt, who flicked it forward, strode into the space and guided a low shot past Szczesny to score his first goal this season.
The goal was followed by a relatively even spell. Arsenal was dominating possession, but our only shot up to this point had been van Persie’s free-kick. What was noticeable was the amount of times Arsenal and QPR players were slipping, especially around Paddy Kenny’s area. It was an ominous sign of things to come.
Anyway, QPR had maintained a breakneck tempo throughout. In structure and attitude I thought they were quite similar to Mark Hiughes’ Fulham side when we lost there last season. Dogged off the ball, sitting relatively deep but breaking quickly. Where Fulham had pace, QPR had industrious and burly forwards in Mackie and Zamora.
Arsenal still hadn’t settled, but drew level all the same. Song won the ball in midfield and the ball was played forward via Walcott and Rosicky to Van Persie on the edge of the area, who turned inside and nudged it behind the QPR backline for Walcott. He curled his first effort onto the right post, but showed impressive calmness to turn the rebound home.
With a dreadful record from winning positions, Queens Park Rangers looked like they were about to wilt – the goal hushed the home fans and hit their team like a body blow. In the next few minutes Arsenal worked their way into some dangerous situations and created a couple of half chances. Ramsey’s shot from outside the area bobbled wide, and a fluid move culminated with Song releasing van Persie, who had strayed offside.
Arsenal’s dominance continued into the second half. QPR were beginning to look discouraged and tired, as Arsenal went about building attacks with patience. After ten minutes of sustained possession, Song slipped a pass through for van Persie but Paddy Kenny made a reaction save to push it past his left post.
After that chance Arsenal looked to be in a good position to get the next goal and claim a battling win, but QPR struck from nowhere. Barton decided he didn’t have the bottle to go shoulder to shoulder with Song down the right wing and conned Mike Dean into awarding a free-kick and booking Song. The Arsenal defence spent the next couple minutes trying to clear its lines before Mackie got the ball down their right wing.
Vermaelen went across to cover but completely lost his footing in the turf, allowing Mackie to square for Diakité, who sidefooted into the top right corner. Given Arsenal’s hegemony before the goal, an equaliser or even winner still looked possible. But the minutes began to tick by, and Arsenal were unable to muster a shot on Kenny’s goal. The confidence that had been sapped by Arsenal’s equaliser had come flooding back for QPR.
Now Arsenal were looking a bit lost. Chamakh made a rare appearance, and Szczesny went up for a corner, but Arsenal’s efforts to get back into the game were meek and the score remained 2-1. It helped QPR that their midfield and defence had avoided yellow cards to this point, as Arsenal’s late efforts to get an equaliser were halted by some crude tackles by Ferdinand, Barton and Diakité.