This game is a spin doctor’s dream. Consider the following
- QPR have been relegated and have nothing to play for, their players lack motivation and have underperformed all season, so they’ll be lazy and disjointed.
- The R’s are going down and have nothing more to lose so they’ll play without fear or pressure. The liberation would allow their talented players the opportunity to express themselves and they’ll be very dangerous.
- The squad will surely be culled in the summer and many players who might leave will feel little connection with the club so they won’t perform anywhere close to their best.
- This is a good opportunity for players to prove themselves and secure better transfers in the summer.
I can go on and on but you get the drift. One could build whatever narrative one feels like. As fans, sometimes we go by our feelings. A name like Manchester United makes us feel different than a name like QPR. There is almost a degree of entitlement involved when thinking about opponents at the wrong end of the table. A thought like, “It’s QPR! What’s the point in playing if you can even beat them!” might cross many minds.
But the fact is, these games are never as easy as we think because our mind perceives a greater gap between the teams due to the superlatives that we have to endure at all times. Wenger hit the nail on the head,
The Premier League is the Premier League and you don’t win 3-0 or 4-0 in many games. It is always tight.
QPR have lost only 1 home game out of 5 games against the other teams in the top 6. City, Chelsea, Spurs, and Everton have all drawn at Loftus Road. They’ve also won at Stamford Bridge!
Strangely enough, despite the respectable results against the bigger teams, QPR have the worst home record in the League with just 2 wins in 17 games while scoring just 12 goals in the process. That’s the other side of the story.
For Arsenal, these type of games inevitably boil down to terrible mistakes and Loftus Road has some bad juju! The Gunners have not won a Premier League game at that ground in 5 attempts. In the more recent and relevant games, since their re-entry in 2011, the teams have won home games by a single goal margin. The Gunners won the two games at the Emirates by a goal to nil but lost in the last visit by a goal to two. Unless the hosts give up and crumble, this game could again boil down to a single goal result.
At the back, Arsenal will have to deal with Remy’s pace and the individual skills of Taarabt. Pressing high up the pitch has improved in the recent past but will remain a risk if the defenders are isolated against quick and tricky players. I have a feeling Arsenal will need a clean sheet if they want to get three points from this game.
QPR’s organization, when they drop deep, is fairly good, ignore the impression their position in the table might give. Three of the aforementioned draws against the top six teams were goalless while both teams scored one when Everton visited Loftus Road. In other words, Chelsea, Spurs, Everton, and City have only scored 1 goal between them at this ground in 360 minutes of football!
I have a feeling the R’s are able to defend against the bigger teams because they might think a point is good enough and thus they don’t have to commit too many bodies to attack. That way the problem of balance doesn’t crop up and they remain relatively secure at the back. It could be a long, frustrating game for the Gunners if the hosts decide to stay deep, narrow, and organized. An early goal would make all the difference and the blazing tempo we’ve seen at the start of some games could come in really handy in this one.
I don’t think any of their defenders is individually outstanding but good structure and discipline can make up for that as they would cover for each other and close down the limited spaces in the central areas in front of goal. The Gunners might be forced wide and that old weakness could prove annoying again.
Podolski’s ability to play in tight spaces can be useful if Arsenal can get him on the ball and get players close to him. It’s not very hard to imagine Wilshere dribbling past one or two and then getting in behind by playing a one-two with the German. Poldi will have to deal with Samba’s physicality, which might be a new and substantial challenge for him.
Wenger might also want to consider if he wants to pick Walcott on the flank. Oxlade-Chamberlain or even Gervinho might offer better dribbling skills that could be needed against a deep and narrow defence. Theo, as we’ve seen all too often, doesn’t quite enjoy playing against such defences.
If it were up to me I’d also give Santi a break as he’s looked a touch off his best in recent games. A more direct winger or Rosicky could be used on the left. But I doubt Wenger will keep his most influential player out of the starting line-up, not with CL qualification at stake.
I’d like to see,
Szczesny – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs – Arteta, Wilshere, Ramsey – Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Rosicky.
Has this front six ever played together this season? Probably not, but I feel they can do the job as long as the Gunners don’t rediscover their gifting instincts. History is not on Arsenal’s side and it might be a case where patience, spirit, and desire prove vital to success.
On an unrelated note, if you like the tactical analysis on this blog, make sure you read my previous post analyzing Bayern’s dominance over Barcelona. It also touches upon Arsenal’s games against Schalke and Bayern along with a couple of Dortmund ones. But mainly it’s about a key territory in the possession vs counter-attack battle. If Wenger’s side can learn from the Germans they could go a long way in many competitions.Follow @goonerdesi