Queens Park Rangers 2-1 Arsenal: Classic Letdown Game

The old theory goes that if you give an infinite number of monkeys an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, eventually they will recreate the collected works of Shakespeare. Likewise, if you give Joey Barton enough tweets, interview time and program notes, eventually he will come up with a cogent, useful point.

Today, the team fighting for their lives and their careers wanted it a fuck of a lot more than Arsenal did, and man, did it ever show out on the pitch.

A full-strength Arsenal side was on display today, and frankly they should have seen off this shower of shite without breaking a sweat. Unfortunately though, that requires a mentality where you don't actually think like that, and once again, the Gunners seem to have been undone by their own hubris and lack of effort.

The visitors controlled the ball for the first five minutes, but once QPR got acclimated to the occasion, they were rarely on the back foot from that point on. Arsenal seemed to be shocked at the ferocity and the urgency with which the home side played, despite the fact that nearly every relegation-threatened team at this stage of the season has displayed those same very same traits. I mean, it's like waking up tomorrow and expressing surprise that the big ball of fire is up there in the sky again.

A goal for the R's was always coming, it has to be said. The Arsenal defense were all over the shop and there was no fluency or cohesion in the midfield. Meanwhile, QPR hunted in packs and continually harried the man on the ball. All of that pressure told in the 22nd minute, when Adel Taarabt opened the scoring.

Taarabt was arguably the finest player in the First Division last season, and was a major reason why QPR won promotion. He has been eternally frustrating to the Loftus Road faithful in this term though, rarely showing the quality he possesses while flitting through games with an air of petulance. He hadn't scored a goal in the Premier League up until today, and he has Thomas Vermaelen to thank for it. Tarrabt received a pass from Clint Hill and was 1-v-1 with the Belgian. I don't know if it was the pitch or what - Arsenal players were falling and slipping all over the place today - but one feint was enough to put Vermaelen squarely on his rear end. Laurent Koscielny tried to get over in support, but he was too late. He could only watch as the Moroccan lashed a purposeful shot past Wojciech Szczesny and in at his near post.

I honestly don't know if the keeper could have done better there - it looked bad at the time, but I do think he couldn't have been set for the shot. I mean, you don't expect your defender to fall over in that spot, do you?

Anyway, an already-sprightly Loftus Road was now a cauldron of noise. With passes going astray and midfielders witlessly running into cul-de-sacs, there was an air all around of This Isn't Our Day. Even when Theo Walcott equalized about 15 minutes later, I never saw us winning this game. It was damn near the only moment in the entire match where Arsenal looked threatening, and it came out of nothing. Robin van Persie somehow was able to thread a pass through to Walcott, whose first shot had Paddy Kenny beaten all ends-up, but struck the foot of the post. Fortuitously, it rebounded right back to Theo, who made no mistake with the open net beckoning.

The Gunners looked a little better after that, and one may have hoped that they'd kick on from there like they have so many times in this recent good run of ours. But, there was a miasma of lethargy among the men in red today, and they never could shake off their jaded state to haul themselves back into the game. If we're being honest, QPR were there to be beaten today. They played their hearts out to the best of their limited abilities, but a more coherent offensive attack would have been enough to wrest control of the contest away from them, never to return.

Personally, my theory is that we've had so many emotional wins and comebacks in this recent run, there just wasn't anything left in the tank on this occasion. With no trophies to play for (the highly-coveted fourth-place one that exists in Arsene Wenger's mind aside, of course), the team just couldn't muster up the will to keep going. It sucks and it's unfortunate, but in a way I can also understand it.

That said, this is where Wenger's substitution patterns continue to sap my will to live. My feeling is that in a game like this, with sloth and lethargy permeating the side and a dogged opponent across from you, I'd have made all three subs right then and there at halftime. Not only does it shake things up, but it also gives you time to explain to the whole team (not just the guys coming on) how you want the new set-up to work. Instead, what we got was substitutions in the 80th minute again (almost 20 minutes after going down a goal), with no clear indication of who was going where. We'll get to that in a bit, though.

Anyway, whatever was said at halftime went in one ear and out the other, as the second stanza looked alarmingly like the first. RVP did test Kenny once with a long-range drive, but other than that, I don't remember the portly Irishman having to make another save. Meanwhile, the odious Barton tested Szczesny with a shot from distance of his own, as the home side maintained their high-tempo play.

Not too long after the hour mark, the home side had the lead for good.

Once again, Vermaelen was badly at fault for the goal - the Verminator clearly having blown a gasket at some point today. The ball was played in to Jamie Mackie on the edge of the area, and again Vermaelen got himself crossed up. With him out of the play, Koscielny again had to come over to help, allowing Mackie to roll it across to the completely unmarked Samba Diakite. Bacary Sagna was not even close to being alert to the danger, having failed to come across once Koscielny had to abandon his post to try and bail out Tommy again. Left with 9 postal codes of space and enough time for those monkeys to type up Hamlet, he hammered an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Szczesny's net.

Despite the fact that there were 24 minutes to go at that stage, it was essentially Game Over at that point. The Arsenal players huffed and puffed and maintained more possession, but in all honesty were much like the cubicle drone trying to look busy in front of his boss late on a Friday afternoon. The bad old tippy-tappy Arsenal "attack" returned, giving QPR about as comfortable of a time as they'll ever have in clinging on to a slim lead.

One of the worst offenders on the day was Alex Song, who had a decent game defensively but kept insisting on trying for those lobbed passes over the defense when it became clear that the R's were not fooled by them. I understand it's been working lately, but you'd think by the 70th minute or so when the 14th or 15th one was easily cleared out, that maybe it's time to try another tack, eh?

Not that anyone else in red was much better. The first change didn't come until the 70th minute, when the ineffectual Gervinho replaced the anonymous Aaron Ramsey. Again, why all three changes weren't made right then and there, I have no earthly idea. QPR were expressly not interested in attacking at that point - they were taking the ball to the corner flag with 15 minutes left to go! There are plenty of options that were available - you could take off a defender and go 3-4-3, you can take off Song and go with an attacking 4-3-3, etc.

Instead, it wasn't until the 80th minute when Mikael Arteta and Kieran Gibbs were withdrawn for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marouane Chamakh. I keep harping on it, but changes at this point in the game give the substitute almost no time to get attuned to the rhythms of the game and allows them precious little chance to make an impact. Once again, we went down a goal in the 66th minute. The fact that it took 14 full minutes - more than 15% of the entire match time - to get those subs on is borderline inexcusable.

Needless to say, Arsenal played like a beaten team and could barely muster any sort of serious attacking threat as their opponents settled into the bunker defense. A couple of free kicks were won, but the efforts were poor (and also, the guy who scored the wonder free kick last week was not on the pitch any longer) and easily cleared out.

Some people will blame referee Mike Dean here, as he did ignore a fairly clear-cut penalty shout when Nedum Onouha handled in the penalty area. However, that correspondingly ignores in turn the clear handball in the area much earlier in the match from Song. As far as fouls not given and such, yeah, Dean missed a bunch. He's a shit referee, what else is new? But a free kick here and there would not have altered the course of this match one iota. We were awful and deserved absolutely nothing from the game today. End of story.

That leaves us still three points ahead of Tottenham, with their game in hand against Swansea City occurring tomorrow. Given that it's at Shite Hart Lane, you have to think the Scum will probably take all three points there. Chelsea also won, leaving them five points back. Hopefully, the side sees this as an unfortunate blip in form and shows up at Eastlands next week ready to take it to a Manchester City side that isn't exactly setting the universe alight themselves. One thing I do know - however indifferent City's form may be at present, if we show up to Lancashire and play like this, we're going to get tonked...and third place may be in serious jeopardy.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Szczesny 6, Gibbs 6 (Chamakh N/A), Vermaelen 4, Koscielny 7, Rosicky 6, Arteta 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain N/A), Song 5, Ramsey 6 (Gervinho 6), Walcott 6, van Persie 6

Man of the Match: Umm, do I have to? Really, it's down to two guys. Walcott did well to follow up on his own miss to score the goal, but other than that he was absolutely dreadful. So, I'm going to give it to Mr. Consistency, Laurent Koscielny, who was the only man in an Arsenal shirt today who can be reasonably pleased with his performance.