Eighteen versus third. Or third versus eighteen, depending on where you’re from and how the scores are usually depicted on your screens. It’s a chance for Arsenal to open a 6 point gap to the team in 4th place, 24 hours ahead of their scheduled match on Sunday. A chance to heap more pressure onto the chasing pack. I’m sure Roberto Di Matteo doesn’t want his team to be looking up 11 points behind us.
And that’s the minimum target for today’s match. Not the performance, not the number of goals, just 3 points. At this stage of the season and where we are in the table now, winning every game between now and then, we would be ensured to finished in at least 3rd place. Unless Chelsea conjure up a miracle and wins the Champions League (miniscule chance at best), that finish would allow the squad more time to recuperate ahead of next season and not be thrust into Champions League qualifier.
Mark Hughes has taken over a sinking ship. The only one out of the 3 promoted sides this season that are struggling. The only side out of the 3 that spent big and gambled on “big name” players which failed to spark their campaign. QPR are looking at just a short one season stay at the top flight and the financial implications could be huge. Especially since they have a few on such huge contracts, not common for a Championship side.
Hughes’ side are capable of providing the odd shocks. Chelsea has lost there and more recently Liverpool too, that after taking a 2-0 lead before crumbling. However today, he will have to make do without the service of Djibril Cisse who has earned his 2nd red card in his short stint there. With key midfielders in Faulin still being injured and Joey Barton in a rut, it represents a real opportunity for us to take all 3 points here. Though we must resist the temptation to react to any stoking of emotions that the QPR captain intends to try today.
The good news on our side is that we should have Laurent Koscielny back for today. Johan Djourou was decent in his performance as Koscielny’s replacement in our last game against Aston Villa. I hope that helps to improve the former’s confidence a little but Koscielny should come straight back into the side provided fitness is proved. The Frenchman has struck up a very good partnership with Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of defence. This despite many saying it won’t work because of their similar characteristics. With Koscielny back, we have a very mobile and pacy defence.
The rest of the team should pick themselves out except for maybe one position. That of the opposite flank to where Theo Walcott is. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has played there most in the last few months but Gervinho started there in the previous game while Yossi Benayoun was splendid when given the chance against Sp*rs. I have a feeling that AOC is being protected a little by Arsene Wenger and that should see Gervinho continue in his stead. Which is not a bad thing considering that when players tire midway through the second half, a pacy option in AOC is someone whom we can bring on.
Elsewhere it’s hard to see any rotation being done. Maybe, just maybe Andre Santos will be given a game while Kieran Gibbs gets a rest. But I’d hate to mess with a working defensive unit. Also Aaron Ramsey could get a start if Wenger thinks that Rosicky deserves a little rest. Again, not particularly fond of mixing it up on a midfield that has worked well. In reality, that shouldn’t happen because we’ve had ample time to rest prior to this game and ample time before the next one.
Wenger wants to see the team fighting for everything today. Strong in the challenges and 100% commitment. If that team turns up, our quality will take us through. We’ve come a long way to be where we are now. We are on a very good winning run and it would be such a shame to end that. It will be an even bigger shame to lose it at Loftus Road. No disrespect to QPR but there are more acceptable places to have our good run ended.
Today’s game would not be the only ground where Wenger has to fight on. UEFA has deemed his antics after the AC Milan match to be on the wrong and has given him a 3 match suspension. There’s someone inside of UEFA who has a real grudge either against us or particularly against Wenger. While it may not be right for Wenger to voice out what he thought, none of what he said was wrong. I’m not sure if UEFA has meted out any punishment to the referee for his inept showing. If not, then we really have to ask questions about this organisation and why the protection towards poor performance by their staffs.
The team can help ease some of the worries in Wenger by giving us another performance of intense pressuring and complete effort. Our work is not done yet and there should be no slacking off. Here’s to a good 3 points.
Up The Arsenal!!!