In-form Arsenal’s unbeaten run came to an abrupt end in disappointing fashion, with a 2-1 defeat to QPR at Loftus Road on Saturday.
The first Premier League goals from Adel Taarabt and Diakate for QPR ended the Gunners winning run – whose strike came from Theo Walcott.
With seven straight Premier League victories behind them, the visitors bossed the early stages but found their relegation-threatened London rivals in determined mood.
Although Arsenal dominated possession by 68% to 32%, they failed to carve out any real opportunities of note in the opening quarter.
The hosts grew in confidence and it was no real surprise to see Taarabt bamboozle Thomas Vermaelen with a slick change of direction, advance on goal and wrap a low curling shot round Wojciech Szczesny to put his side ahead on 22 minutes.
Indeed, the only surprise was the quite amazing statistic, this was the Moroccan first goal of the season – and with this shot being his 69th attempt.
Arsenal who have won the most points (19) after being behind in the Premier League this season continued to control the majority of the possession. The Gunners were back on level terms before the break (37) when Walcott found space in the box to side foot into an open net after his first attempt had come back off the post. This was the England forward’s 10th goal of the season.
Arsenal began the second-half stronger and Alex Song created a wonderful opportunity for Robin van Persie to put his team ahead when put through on goal. The Premier League top-scorer, without a goal in his previous two games, hit a fierce shot towards the net but Paddy Kenny was perfectly positioned to palm the effort away.
Ironically, QPR’s winner came soon after, in a period where Arsenal were in the ascendency and looking capable of completing their comeback.
Once again, the mistake came from an unlikely source. Vermaelen slipped on the edge of the penalty area, leaving Jamie Mackie time to pull the ball back to Diakite, who hammered the ball high into the net.
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As you can see from the statistics above (via our Stats Centre powered by Opta) the Gunners’ complete domination of possession is illustrated by the fact, the midfield quartet of Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey & Song completed 295 passes together – more than the entire QPR team combined, who completed just 207.
However, despite this amazing statistic – the balance of the team using this formation, which was in-effect a diamond midfield hindered the Gunners and played right into QPR’s game plan. Arsenal lacked their normal balance and urgency.
The similarity in Arsenal’s midfield made it easier for QPR, whose tactic was to soak up the pressure and hit the visitors on the break.
Tactically, the Gunners failed to alter their methods. Even after it became obvious what QPR’s intentions were, Arsenal did not modify the balance of the side. The lack of penetration from the midfield simply allowed QPR to stand-off and wait to pick-off the Gunners.
The diamond midfield attempted nine dribbles in the match – with only two proving successful. Also, the Arsenal midfield was dispossessed nine times with Ramsey (4) and Song (3) the biggest culprits.
Overall, QPR’s Bobby Zamora kept Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny busy all afternoon. The Arsenal centre-backs combined to make 12 interceptions and nine clearances. However, Vermaelen was definitely at fault for both goals and although out-of-character – both mistakes were suitably punished.