QPR Preview: A Win To See In The New Year Please
Queens Park Rangers arrive at The Emirates this afternoon, supposedly the Premier League team which has the power to defy the odds against Arsenal. We have been told that plucky little QPR have avoided defeat in all but one of the clashes between these two sides since Sky invested their billions in football. What we are not told is that (a) the last meeting between the two in the League was in March 1996 and (b) the last meeting between the two sides in any competition was an FA Cup tie at Loftus Road which ended 6 – 0 to Arsenal. In January 2001. None of those stats has any relevance to the encounter this afternoon.
It is the same as observing that John Jensen scored his only Arsenal goal against QPR in this fixture on this day in 1994. A bit of fun but entirely irrelevant. For what its worth Siggi Jonsson scored his only Arsenal goal against QPR as well. Hold on, there’s a pattern; Chamakh and Park to start please Monsieur Wenger.
New Year’s Eve and to be honest 2011 has been a memorable year for Arsenal. It has not delivered any silverware but my goodness me, I cannot recall twelve months which has given us searing highs, plummeted to such desperate lows before rising again. Turbulent does not seem to me, to be a descriptive enough word.
Arsène seems to be of that mind as well,
It was a very difficult year where the Club was tested in every department. But I believe it will be seen as a very important one in the history of the Club. Despite all the problems we faced the Club has been resolute, united and stayed at the top. We are one of the two English teams qualified in the Champions League, and after a difficult start and difficult summer, we have come back to a good position in the League. It was certainly a year in which Arsenal have shown they are a Club that is brave and has exceptional qualities.
So here we are. Fifth place at present, spurning the chance to go fourth with what was essentially believed to be a home banker, followed by another match which Arsenal are favourites to win whilst once more waiting for Chelsea and others to drop unlikely points for upward progress to be made. Recovery has been swift, perhaps swifter than expected. Perhaps this has been helped by the release of any pressure surround a title challenge. Some, I know, cling onto the recovery of a bigger points deficit in 1997-98 but that came with the bonus of games in hand and chasing one team; there are four ahead of us at this moment in time. Optimistic as we might be, we have to be realistic about what this squad can achieve.
Having advocated resting players before the Wolves match, I would go against that grain now. For today and Monday, play the first XI both times, injuries permitting. Wenger is erring toward that as well with Robin van Persie being assessed post-match in terms of rest. Unless there is a real necessity for him to miss either of the next two fixtures, he should play. Let Henry come into the frame for the FA Cup tie against Leeds with Park, Arshavin or untested youngsters.
Whilst the manager is sure that re-signing Henry on loan is a good thing, others remain unconvinced, specifically former players such as Ian Wright, Alan Smith and Lee Dixon with age seemingly the biggest concern. The sensationalist should not detract from some valid points raised. Arsène has made his views clear, his certainty that Henry can fulfil a role is the only decision that matters. It is, after all, that which he is paid for. And now that decision has been taken, let us all stand behind the players as they seek to push on in 2012.
That push starts today. Touted as the most likely to survive of the three promoted teams, Rangers have suffered the fluctuations of fate this season with lows such as the opening days thrashing by now bottom of the table, Bolton, compared to the home win against Chelsea. They would probably like mid-table obscurity come the end of the season but will probably settle for one point more than the last relegation spot. That might be tough; they have not won a match since their controversial single goal victory over Chelsea in October which remains the only points gained from top six sides this season. Their poor run may yet be costly.
The team I would expect Arsène to go with is:
Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Vermaelen; Ramsey, Song, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
And that is a team which is good enough to deliver the required three points. Let them do so and allow us to, footballing-wise, see in the New Year with a smile on our faces. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.