Some games are about the performance, others are about the points… others are about the points and what everyone else does around you. Yesterday, the final day of 2011, was about the latter. Arsenal took 3 points in a nervy encounter over a very solid QPR side, whilst almost everyone around them faltered.
Spurs drew with Swansea after taking an incredibly lucky lead. Chelsea dropped 3 points against Aston Villa after going in front and finally, Manchester United kept Steve ‘The best manager in Scotland’ Kean in a job for another month with a stunning victory against United at Old Trafford. I was doubly pleased after watching De Gea fluff his lines again, conceding a shoddy goal from a cross.
As good as Chesney? In your dreams United fans…
The big talking point before the game was the inclusion of Andrey Arshavin in the starting line up. Could he shake off the worst run of form we’ve seen from a top class player in an Arsenal shirt, or would he melt into the background and prove he’s no longer good enough for a place at Arsenal. Other than that, the team was pretty strong.
QPR started more solidly than Arsenal. Traore nearly found himself clear in the box, thankfully Mertesacker read the pass well and intercepted. Moments later, Wright-Phillips danced free of the German, an alert Chesney was on hand to deny his shot with a great block.
The game ambled along in a bit of a midfield game of chess. Arsenal were playing the patient game trying to pick out Robin whenever they could. Ramsey created the first half chance launching a superb cross to Koscielny, the Frenchman couldn’t jump high enough to turn the ball goalwards. Song found Robin shortly afterwards with a looped chip, the Dutchman brought the ball down with a deft touch and managed to trick his way into the box past Connolly, his shot with the outside of his boot was equalled by Cerny with a smart save.
The refereeing debacle started after Tarrabt slammed Andrey to the floor with a blocked elbow to the face. A clear straight red, shockingly none of the official picked up on the foul.
Rambo fired another solid cross into the box, this time Robin managed to manoeuvre his body to land a header, a shame it went just wide! The Dutchman was running the show up front, JD of all people played him in for his next chance with a quick pass across the box, Robin jinked inside his marker but his flick over the keeper was high and wide. Theo also went close after another Ramsey cross was flashed across the box, the Englishman didn’t show much conviction when going for it and his eventual shot was dragged horrendously wide. Apparently he hasn’t scored a league goal at home for a year?
It looked like Robin was played through again by Mertesacker from the back, his half volley with his right foot was blazed just over the bar. Was anything going to drop for him? If it was, one of Theo or Arshavin were going to have to pull their finger out. Anonymous performances should not have been on the agenda from those two.
The officials had another chance to balls up the game when they watched Luke Young make a superb diving save to keep out Koscielny’s shot. A blatant handball with no excuse. A few minutes later, the Frenchman hacked a QPR player down out wide, the ref rightly played the advantage but wrongly booked Vermaelen for the offence when the ball went out of play. What a plank.
The last good chance of the game came from Ramsey when he half volleyed a loose ball on the edge of the box, Joey Barton did well to stand his ground and clear off the line.
The players went into half time with their heads down. Robin was showing us up as a one man team. Others needed to start taking some responsibility and showing their quality.
When the second half opened, it was QPR who came out the traps looking like the team chasing a top four place. Two offside decisions early on prevented them from creating a couple of good chances. I only mention those events because I was shocked the lino knew what his flag was for! They did actually cause a bit of bother when a rogue cross caused confusion between Koscielny and Chesney, the keeper palmed the ball out to the edge of the box, and managed to gather the return shot.
Things took a turn for the worse when Vermaelen started hobbling. His 50 straight games that were promised by Arsene were in tatters and Coquelin had to fill in at left back. A nervy introduction, especially as QPR were taking the game to us.
We nearly took the lead when Ramsey played Theo in on goal with a superb early pass, Theo had all the time in the world, but predictably pulled his shot wide of the near post. A shocking finish from someone who constantly whinges about not getting a chance as a central striker.
Thankfully we do have a player who knows where the goal is. His name is Robin. We also had a player raised on Arsenal in SWP playing for QPR. He saw Arsenal were struggling so passed back to Andrey under no pressure. The Russian took advantage and bounded forward, he slipped Robin in perfectly and the Dutchman made no mistake with his finish it, powering the ball low into the bottom corner.
Robin broke Thierry’s record and the crowd came alive. We were a one man team, but what a man our one man is!
The game wasn’t won though, Taarabt finally woke up and started pulling some nuisance strings. He launched a speculative shot at goal, Chesney did really well to keep out the ball that bounced awkwardly in front of him. The Moroccan nearly won a penalty when he dived cunningly inside the box when it looked like he’d broken free of Coquelin. Good refereeing for once.
Down the other end. Alex Song played an awkward ball into Robin, he somehow managed to control it and cut the ball back to Gervinho who did his usual and turned a simple tap in, into a horrendous 6 yard miss.
Arteta made everyone smile when his poor freekick came good, smashing Joey Barton from ten yards. Coquelin was doing very well under pressure. QPR were targeting him as you would if a novice defensive midfielder was playing left back… thankfully he’s a quality novice.
Our attacking disasters weren’t over. I couldn’t work out if the team were desperate for Robin to take the Shearer record, or we are so dependent on his goals, the only player we see when we move forward is him. It reminded me of the team under George Graham with Ian Wright as our sole outlet. Gervinho found himself in space again, but his effort on goal was abysmal. Part of me was wondering whether a holiday to Africa would do him some good… I know, a naughty thought, but he really does look a mess in front of goal lately.
We used our experience to see out the game… it’s never nice watching teams time waste in the corner, but I’m not too snobby about that anymore. We’ve given away so many games in the last ten minutes… it was nice to see the players actually using their brains for once. The ref blew up for full-time and we took the three points. Ugly, but effective. Like Lionel Messi… or Susan Boyle.
You can’t batter every team and we certainly didn’t do that to QPR. However, you can accept that a win is a win. When Chelsea, United and Spurs drop points against inferior opposition, you have to hold you hands up and be thankful to the footballing gods. We created 16 chances and had far more off target than on. Still, we are creating chances. When Thierry comes into the side, I’m hoping we’ll convert more. Our major problem at the moment is the over dependence on Robin. Fine if he’s the indestructible Thierry in his prime, not so great when you know there’s an injury around the corner.
Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin looked very mediocre today. The Russian at least managed an assist, but outside that, he was quiet compared to the sparkler of a player he used to be. Theo was totally shown up by one of the worst left backs I’ve seen at Arsenal. Really shambolic when you’re supposed to be England’s major hope next year. Gervinho also disappointed. I really like him as a player, but his finishing seems to be regressing.
In midfield, I was really pleased with Aaron Ramsey. People complain about him because his attacking passing isn’t always up to Cesc standards… they forget he isn’t a Cesc type of midfielder. He creates and he goes direct. He was a menace today, but he really needs to be paired with a creator. Wenger needs someone outside Jack he can call upon in midfield. Arteta isn’t really that man and nor is Song most of the time. The team needs creativity and it needs it soon.
Our other major problem is in defence. Losing Vermaelen is a bit of a worry. Even if it’s only a niggle, those niggles tend to turn into full blown injuries, especially when you’re coming back from a long lay off. We need to bolster defence because Coquelin at left back isn’t a good idea.
Our next game is against Fulham, which doesn’t gives us much resting space. I do expect Wenger to address these issues. I’ve been told first hand a small squad with injuries leads to more injuries. Wenger will know that, let’s hope he doesn’t decide to wing it again… because that rarely works out long term.
That’s my first post of the year, welcome to 2012, enjoy your hangover and make sure your New Years resolution is talking more Arsenal in the Le Grove comments section!
Have a great day, and a fantastic New Year.
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Pedro & Geoff