Date: 26th December 2014 at 11:23pm
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Nobody could accuse Arsenal of lacking passion in this game. They went at QPR with a desire and intensity that hasn’t always been evident in the early stages of other games. That we didn’t have more to show perhaps owed something to its triumph over precision.

We seemed a little better set up at the start of the game with a more familiar back four of which 3 of 4 were in the places you’d expect them to be. Only Monreal was playing out of his ‘natural’ position and once again he took to it like a natural. Mertesacker benefited from being restored to his more comfortable central right berth putting in one of his better recent performances as he concentrated largely on his own job. In truth he would have been pretty comfortable in the first half even if he decided to play in goal but he had more of a point to prove in the second half. He isn’t alone in losing positional awareness when losing his favoured position. Sol Campbell showed similar distress traits when asked to shift to the left and BFG also looks more assured occupying a more familiar berth. Monreal once again proved more than just a competent stand in centre back making some telling clearances and blocks. BFG seemed to dominate many of the aerial balls into the box and made some timely interceptions but this was more of a defensive unit of equals than we’ve been able to field of late.

With Rosicky in midfield in place of Ox we added a little more creativity and control as he passed and probed and prompted intelligently. QPR looked there for the taking and in reality should have been put out of their misery early on. Sanchez had a woeful first half against a hapless Traore but maybe had put his boots on the wrong feet in the dressing room. Making just 26 passes in the first half he failed to find his target with 11 of them though Giroud was even worse. Nobody could fault Alexis for work rate and desire but having also lost possession on 4 occasions in that first half we desperately need him to put his team head on. He doesn’t have to do it all by himself and we really need him to focus on what’s important for the team when making decisions. It proved a poor decision to take the ball from Cazorla who has had some success from the penalty spot recently. Somehow it seemed that this act was rooted in the same conviction he must do it all by himself. Maybe there’s something about players with a natural ability when it comes to penalties and just as Ozil, who seems able to put a ball where he wants when he wants most times, missed one against Bayern, and Bergkamp having missed one against ManU in the fateful Cup semi some years back never took one again, so Alexis produced a really poor penalty that was more missed than saved.

Fortunately his energy and industry got him into the box, ignored by the bemused Traore, to meet a cross from Gibbs that he headed home convincingly. A little less passion and a little more calm precision might have produced more from the first half despite the torrent of passes, chances created and penalty calls spurned.

If the first half had the air of one of those self destruct games we find ourselves in of late then having hovered over the self destruct button we gave it a push not long into the second half when another fairly robust challenge on Giroud sent him sprawling. He got up swiftly as passions ran high and in time honoured fashion put his eyebrows to Onuoha`s and in time honoured fashion the defender threw himself to the ground simulating greater force than was involved. But no matter the referee was well within his rights to see that as a violent act and send Giroud off. He would also have been equally right to have seen Ferdinand’s far more forceful act of gripping Giroud by the neck and thrusting him forward as at least as violent but despite not being able to avoid witnessing it did not feel compelled to take the discouragement of violent acts any further than he did.

Down to 10 men Arsenal created almost as many chances in the second half as we did in the first, had as many shots on target from open play, passed a little more accurately overall, partly due to Alexis upping his pass completion rate from 57% to 79%, and scored as many goals as we did in the first half. Now it was QPR playing with passionate determination that with pretty well the whole of the second half of the game to play there was something for them to take from this game. They saw more of the ball, passed more frequently and a tad more accurately than we did and in a fraught atmosphere within the stadium, created by the tension palpable on both sides, were eventually rewarded by a referee who couldn’t have been resistant to the need to give QPR something for their efforts. It was a close call and you couldn’t really blame the referee for succumbing to the demands for more drama but it was a decision that in a quieter less theatrical point of the game might not have been given.

Fortunately we’d already doubled our lead by then in a rare moment of control and thought as Sanchez broke once more and once more looked to try to take on everyone but with his sight of goal blocked instead played an accurate pass to the free man Rosicky who with calm precise control hit it first time, low and hard across goal and found the back of the net. In truth we’d had more opportunities throughout the second half that poor decisions, lacking calm clinical thought, prevented us benefiting from as we might have done.

This was an exciting game because of the tension we partly created for ourselves, but also because we played it with a great deal of heart and not enough head. Without losing the passion we need to understand we have just as much need for precision in such games.