Saturday, 4 May 2013

It's Do or Die For Arsenal at QPR.

Arsenal have three Premier League games left this season and they're going to have to win them all. It won't be an easy task against teams fighting for survival, but it's one they're more than capable of completing. The first of those games is away to already relegated QPR this evening.

In team news there are no new injuries for Arsene Wenger to worry about so he should have the same squad he had against United last week. There are quite a few decisions for him to make from that squad to find the right team for the game. Their fate could well depend on what his choices are.

I wouldn't be worried about which player he plays at left back as both Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal are more than good enough. I have no doubt his preferred central defensive partnership will continue to play and they deserve to do so. The only possible change might come at right back with the inclusion of Carl Jenkinson for the beleaguered Bacary Sagna.

Sagna has been a great servant to Arsenal for many years now, but his form has suffered seriously this season. It could be a consequence of breaking his leg twice last season or his head could be elsewhere if he really is on his way out this summer. Either way I still expect him to play as the boss isn't one to take risks and he would probably see Jenkinson's inclusion as a risk.

Hopefully Sagna can perform far better than last week if he plays and put the memory of handing United their equaliser out of his head. Much has been made of his inability to deliver good crosses from the right when he gets forward, but with Olivier Giroud still suspended that's not as important as in other games.

In midfield I expect both Mikael Arteta and Aaron Ramsey to retain their places which means the big decision is still who plays in front of them. I still think it should be Santi Cazorla as he is Arsenal's best player in that role, but I have no doubt he will be deployed in a wide left role where he will invariably drift infield and nullify Arsenal's attacking options on the left flank. With a lack of true wide players Arsenal have tried a few options on the left and Lukas Podolski has proved the most effective.

Podolski is going to be deployed as the central striker though with Giroud suspended and that leaves the boss fee to put Cazorla wide and play Tomas Rosicky or Jack Wilshere in the attacking midfield role. It's a case of him picking what he sees as his best 11 and them fitting them into positions. There are a few too many square pegs in round holes for my liking and I would really like to see Cazorla played in his best position in front of Arteta and Ramsey.

The team will almost certainly be the same as it was against United last week and there's little point in changing a team which performed very well against the team that have run away with the league. One or two performances may not have been up to scratch but as a whole the team performed well.

I have no doubt that Arsenal are more than good enough to beat an already relegated QPR team. They have only won two home games in the league this season and only managed 12 goals in the process. They haven't won at all in their last six games when the chips were really down and they had a chance of surviving.

If Arsenal can approach the game with the same attitude and work rate as they showed against United on Sunday they should get their rewards. A little more finesse to go with that work rate and commitment would be great, but once they win I can live without it for the moment.

I don't expect QPR to be too adventurous and they will probably look to defend in depth and hit Arsenal on the break. Arsenal have struggled against teams set up that way at times this season and they cannot afford to do so today. On the face of it this should be the easiest of their three remaining games and they cannot afford anything other than a win.

If things aren't going right there is plenty of quality on the Arsenal bench although the striking options are limited. In a squad game that bench could become very important for Arsenal and hopefully can do the business if called upon.

I'm predicting a win for them and I think they will keep a clean sheet too. Arsenal have only conceded 14 goals in 17 away games this season and that defensive stability has been even more prominent in recent weeks.

The chances are Arsenal will be fifth in the table before kick off with Spurs playing at home to Southampton earlier in the day but I expect them to overtake Spurs again after this game. With Chelsea playing away to United tomorrow and then Spurs traveling to Chelsea on Wednesday night it's a big week for Arsenal's top four ambitions. As I said I'm still confident of a top four finish, but beating QPR will make it that much easier.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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