The weekend did not prove to be too kind to Arsenal's prospects of finishing in the top four. They lost to QPR and their rivals, Chelsea, Spurs, and Newcastle all caught a headwind to put Arsenal's hopes for a top four finish in jeopardy.
In doing so, a few atavistic features resurfaced again, buried in that seven win streak. Soft in the midfield, lack of width, too slow and error prone on the counter, and too unfocused on defense.
Arsenal's giving away goals is sort of expected. But the winning streak was conjured up because of a few good things. None of that happened on Saturday.
QPR was allowed to boss around in midfield because Arsenal seemed to have smoked some good stuff (right on cue Marouane Chamakh brings out the shisha). They lost all the important tackles. Aaron Ramsey's inclusion on the wing is a classic Wenger brain fart. We've seen this before. Sometimes Wenger's tactics are dictated by a sense of fairness rather getting the best XI on the pitch to achieve a desired a result. "Oh, he's the captain of Wales, he deserves a start." Gervinho or Ox should have been the natural choice. Why they whey were not there is a mystery that boggles just like those disappearing socks in a dryer.
There was hardly any movement on the wide areas as Ramsey drifted into centre creating a redundancy with Rosicky. And when it came to the counter Song and Rosicky tried to force the issue with a spray of errant passes. What had worked in those stirring comebacks came to nought against QPR.
Arseblog correctly points out it wasn't just Thomas Vermaelen at fault for the winner. He slipped yes, but Samba Diakite was allowed that much space because Song and Arteta did not react to close the gap between Vermaelen's slip up and entry into the box. Sagna and Kos were present in the box but out of position. It was a moment of indiscipline and inattention to an unfolding situation. And oh, Arsenal just get the wobbles everytime a physical centreforward like Bobby Zamora charges ahead.
Arsenal's remit through a process of elimination is very clear. It needs to finish in the top four. Unlike Spurs or Chelsea there are no distractions like the CL or the FA Cup left. Chelsea's player mutiny ended with Roberto De Matteo taking over and they've been on the up ever since, Newcastle are riding a hot streak since their Arsenal loss, and Spurs are swinging back around after being battered the last month.
This coming weekend Arsenal face City desperate to close the gap between Utd and a title. Later in the month, Chelsea who are direct competitors come visiting. And two relegation threatened teams in Wigan and Wolves. All these teams have huge stakes in a win. Arsenal need fire in the belly and no break downs in concentration and discipline. They can ill afford to slip up. Fans have to keep up the pressure, RVP has to exert his captaincy and regain his scoring touch (yes, two games without a goal constitutes a crisis), and Wenger and Pat Rice have to devise methods to ensure every Arsenal player does what he needs to do to win.