Sunday, 28 October 2012

Arsenal Beat QPR 1-0 But Only Just

I was lucky enough to be able to make the trip to Arsenal on Saturday to watch Arsenal play QPR. After losing to Norwich in the Premier League and Schalke in the Champions League it was a game which Arsenal had to win.

When the team news came through I was a little surprised to see both Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna included in the Arsenal team. I thought it was a little too soon for either player to make their first appearances of the season after long spells out injured. Wilshere in particular had not played in 17 months and I felt there could be too much pressure on him to try to give the team the boost it needed.

The players to miss out due to the returning duo were Carl Jenkinson and Francis Coquelin. It meant Aaron Ramsey stayed on the right hand side of the attacking trio with Olivier Giroud returning to play the central striking role in place of Gervinho. I was happy to see Giroud in the team as I think he needs to start more often.

Arsenal did most of the attacking in the first half as QPR seemed content to defend in depth. Sagna looked back to his best already and the team benefitted from the inclusion of the best right back in the league. It's tough on Jenkinson who has been excellent so far this season, but Sagna has to play when he is fit.

Wilshere looked very good too as he was able to take the ball and make forward progress with it. Arsenal have been slow in the build up far too often this season but Wilshere looked to pick up the attacking pace whenever he could. His contribution was very encouraging and I expect to see him from the start away to Manchester United next week.

There were very few clear cut chances in the game but Arsenal thankfully managed to take one of them. Before the goal I just couldn't see where Arsenal were going to score. Julio Cesar was having an inspired game in goal for QPR and Santi Cazorla had missed a great chance for Arsenal.

I thought Cazorla looked tired on the pitch and it's possible the rigours of the Premier League are taking their toll on him. He looks like he needs a rest and at least he won't have to play in the Capital One Cup against Reading on Tuesday night. Hopefully he can use the slight break to get back to his best against United next week.

When the Arsenal goal came it was a little fortunate as Mikel Arteta was offside when he scored it. He put the rebound from his own header into the net after the initial effort hit the bar. He was definitely in an offside position just before the ball came to him for the header.

When Arsenal appeared to be running out of ideas they were helped by Stephane Mbia stupidly getting himself sent off. He was given a free kick after being pushed over by Thomas Vermaelen but got the red card after kicking out at Vermaelen while on the ground. It gave Arsenal the impetus they needed to get the all important goal with only a few minutes remaining.

Arsenal looked nervous after they scored and QPR nearly equalised twice. Esteban Granero shot wide after being played in behind the Arsenal defence and Jamie Mackie had his effort well saved by Vito Mannone. Mackie had run through the Arsenal defence as if it wasn't there and they were very lucky Mannone was on hand to save them.

From my vantage point in the upper tier behind the goal it was very obvious how poor a defender Andre Santos was on the day. He made a few good tackle and interceptions but his positioning was awful at times. He seemed to be content to leave the wide right player for QPR in acres of space as he tucked in beside Vermaelen.

It's hard to fathom how Steve Bould could be the defensive coach of a player who just didn't seem to know where to be on the pitch. The quicker Kieran Gibbs is back the better as far as I am concerned as Santos could be a real liability against United next week. I wouldn't be averse to seeing Sagna play at left back in that game with Jenkinson on the right if Gibbs hasn't recovered.

I don't think it's fair on Ramsey to play him on the right hand side of the attacking trio. He's no winger as he doesn't have the speed or guile needed to take full backs on and beat them. His positioning in that role isn't what it should be either but he did his best to be fair to him.

Arsenal didn't have a genuine wide player on either wing and their game was very narrow as a result. It meant there were very few crosses of any quality for Giroud who is so good in the air. The first decent cross he got was from Andrey Arshavin and it was his header from that cross which lead to the goal.

Cesar made yet another great save from that header but Arteta was on hand to score the winner. Arshavin had come on for Gervinho who had in turn come on for Lukas Podolski. Gervinho injured his ankle in winning a corner for Arsenal and he could be out for quite a while as a result.

The team was lacking in shape at times and it's an issue which had to be addressed. I would love to see Arsenal sign a genuine winger who can take players on and beat them. The option of using a player like that when the slow build up of their passing game has stalled would be a great addition to the team.

This weekend's game against United could be a really tough test for Arsenal and it's one they have to be ready for. United got so many refereeing decisions on their favour against Chelsea yesterday that hopefully they won't get their usual favouritism on Sunday. It's probably a forlorn hope but Arsenal will need anything and everything they can get in that game.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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