Football

Complacency could define Champions League race

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A number of the teams vying for third and fourth place in the Premier League learnt a lesson in complacency last weekend, though not all were able to heed it in time.

 

It won’t be much of a stretch to work out which of the sides failed to shrug off the heavy sackcloth cloak of underestimation and contentedness.

 

Arsene Wenger admitted his side has “missed something” as they succumbed to a lacklustre defeat at the hands of Mark Hughes’ QPR on Saturday afternoon.

 

The Arsenal boss even agreed that complacency must have been a factor in the Hoops ending a seven-game winning streak for the Gunners.

 

On the other hand, their rivals reacted successfully to the touch of complacency they felt during their respective victories.

 

Arsenal’s arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur appeared to be heading for a similar fate, as their complete dominance for much of the first half was nearly thrown away in a wash of lethargy upon returning to the pitch.

 

Rafael van der Vaart’s coolly finished opener was just rewards for Harry Redknapp’s side, who had harried and hassled would-be pass masters Swansea City into unfamiliar discomfort.

 

Gareth Bale had returned with some of the vim and vigour that has made him one the most feared players in the Premier League, and it was the Welshman who provided the set-up for his Dutch team-mate to score with a punch-like finish that did not have back lift.

 

However, the work-rate that was so notable in the first half disappeared shortly after the break and the Welsh side began to play themselves back into the game, culminating in the equalising goal form in-form Gylfi Sigurdsson.

 

It was a shock to Spurs’ system and they registered this quickly as, almost immediately, they resumed the high tempo game that had been so successful in the first period.

 

Something similar went on in Chelsea’s victory at Aston Villa, where the Blues’ early dominance and two-goal lead evaporated in a hectic few minutes.

 

This had the potential to be even more damaging than the others due to the timing of the home side’s fight back, but they quickly regained their composure to re-take the lead.

 

Many Chelsea fans must have feared the worst when Roberto di Matteo’s side were pegged back, but the Italian coach must come in for praise once more as his side dusted themselves off to secure three crucial points.

 

There may not have been so succinct a reply to Villa’s equaliser a few weeks ago and it highlighted how much the mentality of the Stamford Bridge club has changed since Andre Villas-Boas was dismissed.

 

Newcastle United can only be mentioned by the sheer superiority of their display as they brushed aside a Liverpool team who are looking more and more like damaged goods.

 

The one saving grace for Kenny Dalglish’s side when they were being criticised for a lack of goals was their undoubted defensive stability, but this has disappeared in recent weeks.

 

Arsenal fans can only be hoping their response to a setback comes in a fixture where complacency should not really be an issue, as Manchester City’s visit to Emirates Stadium is unlikely to dumbed down by a quiet build-up.

 

They will need to reassert the principles that provided the basis for their winning run – the fact that making a win look easy comes from working incredibly hard.

 

QPR put up a solid defence, essentially working harder and going about their business with greater desire.

 

The vociferous home crowd also deserve praise for supporting their side with great passion throughout and there is no doubt that it both helped Hughes’ side, while also subduing the Arsenal players.

 

Complacency is a devil when it comes to the end of a season, where mistakes made have little time to be rectified and can cost a club dearly.

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Topics:
Tottenham Hotspur
Arsenal
Robin Van Persie
Football
Manchester City
Premier League
Fernando Torres
Gareth Bale

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