Arsenal only have themselves to blame following the 2-1 defeat over the weekend to Mark Hughes’ QPR side.
The result meant that the Gunners now have to sing their own chorus in soliloquy, ‘mind the gap’, as their north London rivals barraged Swansea to collect all three points the following day, putting them level on points with Arsene Wenger’s side, separated only by their goal difference.
The result, however damning, left us with a few positives to talk about.
In most of my years of following (since 1998), I have never seen Wenger come out and directly apportion the blame on the players, usually it is a referee that has done wrong, or in other cases the surface of the pitch gets the blame, but never his personnel.
So the excuses, however true, left the critics with a trump card, claiming Arsenal don’t know how to win dirty.
The reality now is that they have managed to pick up results even when they played average, one of such was at Anfield when against all odds Robin van Persie fired home a left foot volley in the dying minutes, confirming maximum points and condemning the Kop, who have only managed one win in their last seven fixtures in the Premier League.
It was Sir Alex Ferguson who was famed for scolding his team, especially when they performed below standards, in what Mark Hughes termed, ‘the hairdryer treatment’. Not always, but he used this tactic masterly and it usually sent fear or a warning to his lads.
Wenger appears to have learned the trade, as he handed his side his own version of a tongue-in-cheek rebuke over their weekend slip up:
‘We played against a team who fight for survival. We missed something today. The pitch was bad but that doesn’t explain our poor performance. The performance of QPR explains our poor performance.’
Few words, but point noted.
One person who must have taken these words to the heart is Van Persie. The skipper has now gone three games without finding the back of the net. He has hit the woodwork and even had many goal-bound opportunities saved by Paddy Kenny on the day.
Truth be told, if Van Persie scores when he wants, then he must be under so much stress to fail to score. Wrong.
The 28-year-old needs to find his form once again and hopefully this weekend we see more goals added to his tally but, more importantly, full points against title contenders Manchester City.
One player who has managed to answer his critics in the same currency, although belatedly, is Theo Walcott.
The Englishman now boasts double figures in assists (10) and has bagged goals twice in his last three fixtures, against QPR and Aston Villa.
On the back of this revelation, one hopes that Wenger would give more time to his fringe players in the wake of stubborn opposition.
The likes of Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have the ingenuity and pace to unlock a dozen of sides, it is just a shame that they are rarely given enough opportunities and time on the pitch to display their qualities.
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