Friday, 26 December 2014

Arsenal v QPR Preview

The festive schedule kicks into overdrive today when there are 10 Premier League games and Arsenal play the last of them at home to QPR this evening. After the draw with Liverpool last Sunday Arsenal need to get back to winning ways and what better way than a home game against the team with the worst away record in the league. With trips to two of the team's above them to come in the next week it's a game Arsenal have to win. 

Arsenal's injury problems are well documented and their squad is down to the bare bones at the moment. With so many games to play in such a short space of time there is a need for rotation though and Arsene Wenger has to rest some players while playing a team which can beat QPR. He welcomes David Ospina, Yaya Sanogo and Tomas Rosicky back to the squad, but the chances of any of them starting are slight.

If he's going to make any changes from the team which drew 2-2 at Liverpool then Nacho Monreal, Lukas Podolski and Joel Camobell are the players most likely to get a game. Theo Walcott was on the bench against Liverpool, but I would be very surprised if he started as he hasn't started a game in almost a year now. At the moment the Arsenal midfield is the part of the team struggling the most because of injuries and the three players who played against QPR are probably going to have to soldier on again.

There's less than 48 hours from this game until the one against West Ham and the recovery time really isn't enough for the players who will start both games. The squad will be stretched to it's absolute limit, but both QPR and West Ham will have the same problems too. I thought some of the Arsenal players looked tired against Liverpool and quite a few of them could do with another couple of days rest at least.

That rest won't be coming their ways in the next few weeks, but things will get a little easier as each of the injured players returns. That's always assuming no more players will pick up knocks and that's a huge assumption to make considering Arsenal's injury woes. There's still a strong enough team available to give QPR a torrid afternoonn and improve Arsenal's fairly ordinary home record this season.

Not only have QPR lost all eight of their away league games so far, but they have scored less and conceded more than any other team away from home so far this season. Nothing other than a victory will be acceptable yet QPR will feel they have a chance of getting something from the game. They have the league's in form striker in Charlie Austin and he's a player Arsenal have to be very wary of. He's scored nine goals in his last eight league games, but eight of those goals were at home.

As well as Austin QPR can boast Joey Barton as being among their ranks and he will like nothing better than putting the boot in against Arsenal. He may talk a tough game, but we can remember when he feigned being hit by Gervinho to get the Arsenal player sent off when Barton was a Newcastle player. He's a lowlife who deserves all the trouble which comes his way and the Arsenal players have to be aware of how he approaches a game and how he will put the boot in or attempt to get them into trouble with the referee.

Arsenal have had their fair share of poor refereeing decisions this season and they could really do with a referee who can see what is going on around him. Mathieu Debuchey got a yellow card last week after Raheem Sterling took a dive against him and there is no way to appeal that card as it was only a yellow. He has been punished for an opponent cheating and and there really should be a chance for retrospective action against cheats.

I don't think QPR are capable of putting up a strong defensive wall against Arsenal and Arsenal are going to get plenty of chances in this game. QPR will look to make a few chances of their own and Arsenal have to make sure they make the best chances and put enough of them away to win the game. The three points are absolutely vital to Arsenal with two much tougher tests coming up in the next week as well as a repeat of last season's FA Cup final in the third round of the cup.

It's impossible to know what you will get from this Arsenal team, but I hope to see the team who sets out to win games from the first minute. QPR are certainly there for the taking as are Hull in the cup next weekend, but both West Ham and Southampton will be much tougher tests. Four wins into those games would be fantastic and put the team in a place where they're much more likely to finish in the top four.

I know a top four finish is not a trophy, but it's infinitely superior to the alternative of playing in the Europa League or not playing in Europe at all. The game against Hull is another must win game with the FA Cup being Arsenal's best route to a trophy this season. If they can go into that game on the back of three good results this week I think they should make a much easier job of beating Hull than they did in the cup final.

First of all they have to beat QPR and hopefully do it with a bit of style too. They have the opportunity to improve on their pretty average home form this season and I think they will do just that. I think Arsenal will win by a couple of goals at least before they play two away games which could have a huge bearing on where they finish in the league this season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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