Three points are three points. No one will ask how you landed them at the end of the season. What they might ask is why you didn’t challenge for the league. I think today, many factors that make up the answer to that question were on display in all their raw glory.
QPR met the return of Jack Wilshere. He stepped in for Coquelin. Ramsey the undroppable moved onto the right wing, obviously. Giroud returned to the side at the expense of Gervinho and the rest stayed the same. Sagna stole back his place from the in form Jenks.
The first half was a tepid affair. The team was low on confidence which was clear from our poor passing, lack of guile going forward and in some cases, slumped shoulders.
Jack looked strong through the middle, he sat just in front of Arteta, roaming forward but showing enough discipline to support when needed. A one two with Podolski saw him create the opening chance when he teased a cross through the 6 yard box.
Santos was having an absolute nightmare down the left. The big smile is long disappeared along with all confidence. He was making some seriously basic errors with his control, passing and the timings on his tackles. He wasn’t helped by Podolski who took any chance he could to bollock the beleaguered left back… more often than not for one his own mistakes.
Giroud went closest for Arsenal after connecting with a Sagna cross, his looping header clipped the bar. He also let off a rasping low drive that Cesar tipped wide. Wilshere nearly embarrassed keeper when he fizzed a low shot that swerved, the Brazilian spilled the shot but managed to get down for the second.
QPR had very little in the way of possession. You can see why Mark Hughes is under pressure. He has some seriously good players on his books and he didn’t seem to have a game plan.
Overall, a very bland performance. Too many of our players didn’t show up. Too few in the team looked capable of forcing a change in our fortunes.
The second half started off with a bit more zip. We won a couple of freekicks outside the box. Cazorla hit the wall with his, Giroud did the same moments later with his. Freekicks are not a Gooner forte!
Wenger changed things up bringing on Theo Walcott and things did improve. I don’t rate him highly but what you can’t deny with Walcott is his pace scares opposition. His quick feet and hunger to power crosses into the box put QPR under pressure.
We started to test Cesar. The first save he made looked like a deflection, the ball flew back at his goal at height and some how he clambered across goal and clawed it wide. One of the best saves I’ve ever seen!
Andrey was the last roll of the dice for us after Gervinho came on and went off with what looked like a fairly serious injury. Bad times.
Stephen Mbia gave us a helping hand when he swung a retaliatory boot at Thomas Vermaelen. So embarrassingly dim it really did deserve a round of applause. He took a red card and to the delight of most fans, he actually sprinted off rather than take the slow walk option. That was kind.
Anyway, the Russian came on an made the difference. He made the runs, he created the space an he slipped the cross for the goal to the back post, Giroud headed it, the keeper saved, Arteta headed it back at goal, the keeper tipped it onto the bar, then Arteta buried it!
So. Much. Relief.
Things weren’t quite finished. More incredible saves from Cesar followed. Santos curled one at the bottom corner that was pushed wide. Rambo fired a cleared ball low and hard, but again, it was saved.
We still had time to concede and Thomas Vermaelen made sure he was at the centre of both QPR chances. The first he was out of position in the same way he was for the Schalke goal, luckily the QPR man pulled his shot wide. The second saw Mackie walked through the whole team, Vermaelen acting like a ghost at the end. Mannone had to be sharp to save low with his feet.
The game finished up with Arsenal on the side of the big three points but there was plenty to chew over with regards to quality.
We took three points which is always great against a shockingly poor side. Nothing we offered today demonstrated a divide in class.
Aaron Ramsey is not a right sided attacking midfielder. Podolski is not a left sided midfielder (on account of his drifting centrally). Santos is not a defender. We can boast about versatility, but for me, the league is rarely won on an abundance of versatile players, it’s won by having competent specialists. We don’t have that at the moment. That imbalance is killing us.
Worryingly, a lack of a Diaby is the biggest problem.
Still, we move on. We can build our confidence from here and hope the side gels. The big fear is we don’t have much else to offer. We’re heading into the next two months with a group of players who are ill equipped for the fight both mentally and technically.
We’ll see though… for now, it’s one nil to the Arsenal.