Arsenal are on the cusp of something special. No Premier League side has won 8 in a row this season and only two have done so across the big 5 leagues in Europe. Granted it’s not title-winning special but if achieved, it will certainly play it’s part in shaping the summer’s internal and external transfer business.
QPR will try to stop the Gunners and it is probably a bigger game for them given their battle against relegation. Once again, theoretically, this should be a comfortable game for Wenger’s side. But we all know in practice it’s never as straightforward.
The hosts have had a difficult season but they do have genuine quality in their squad. It’s worth noting that two of their three home wins have come against Chelsea and Liverpool. Another interesting fact is that most of their games have been very close. In the first seven games – a juncture I seem to have developed a fixation for – they played four games, losing three, where the result had a gap of two goals or more. But 19 of their last 23 games have seen a goal difference of one or less. That includes Arsenal’s hard-fought 1-0 win at home earlier in the season. To me it says they aren’t a team that has been played off the park as often as their league position might suggest to some.
In terms of individual talent Zamora, Taarabt, Wright-Phillips, Barton, and others are quite capable of holding their own, at least on their day. Perhaps consistency has been their problem and maybe an inability to click as a team, but one must definitely expect a fighting display from Mark Hughes’ side. Speaking of whom, I am also a tad worried this could turn ugly at some stage but let’s not focus on that.
The aforementioned talent in their ranks can hurt Arsenal’s defence. They’ve some pace to burn and players who can take opponents on. QPR also have players who can score from distance and tight angles. But their biggest threat will come from their aerial ability in the box. I haven’t had the chance to check but I won’t be surprised if they’re among the top teams when it comes to scoring headed goals.
In that regard it will be good to have Koscielny back. He isn’t as tall as Djourou but I think he attacks the ball better.
Apart from the centre of defence it’s difficult to see too many changes to the line-up. Wenger will probably pick one of Gervinho or Ramsey but the other areas seem well settled. I am not convinced Santos is at the right fitness level and there is really no reason to dislodge Gibbs just when he’s started gaining some form and fitness.
Szczesny – Sagna, Koscielny (Djourou), Vermaelen, Gibbs – Song, Rosicky, Arteta – Walcott, RvP, Gervinho.
We will see whether the recent trend of a midfielder in one of the wide areas for away games continues in this fixture. Gervinho did well in the last game and brought the left side into play a lot more than we’ve seen recently. So even though I prefer a possession-based player on one of the flanks, especially if he has the knack of getting into good positions in the box as Ramsey does, I also feel this Gervinho-Gibbs axis also deserves a run of games.
While most of QPR’s recent games have been settled by a one goal margin or less, I do expect the Arsenal attack to trouble their back four. For that the Gunners need to challenge them through constant movement, interchanging of places, and combination plays that involve many players. The hosts are conceding over 1.5 goals per game at home and I’ll be surprised if Arsenal don’t manage to get at least two. That might not be enough, as Liverpool found out, but it should make the game very interesting for the spectators.
Before ending I want to mention that this is a busy weekend for me as Mrs. D and I are helping my sister and brother-in-law with their apartment move. There probably won’t be time to catch the game live so the match report will be delayed till Sunday afternoon or evening here in the Midwest. Apologies to those who like a quick one. Also, if the result doesn’t quite work out you know who to blame for breaking the pattern 😉Follow @goonerdesi