The Emirates Stadium, North London
27th October, 2012, 15:00 BST
The myth about the International break being a ruthless monster can be true, after all. Arsenal, who seemed quite charged up for the season after a brave victory at West Ham before the break, have gone into a perennial funk now. Two consecutive losses to Norwich in the league and Schalke in the Champions League means QPR travel to the Emirates to face a highly demotivated football team. The matter of concern is not the losses but the way the defeats came, in which the Arsenal team just didn’t show up - A phrase used in quite a synonymous fashion to describe certain Arsenal games in the last few seasons. As far as records are concerned, that loss to Schalke was their first defeat against a foreign team in the last 9 years at home, in Europe’s élite football competition.
Queens Park Rangers, curiously termed as the Malaga of English football, with richly assembled ‘almost’ stars, are yet to register a win in the league this season. The costly outfit travel from White City, west of London to the costliest league football stadium in England, with the hope of picking up the first victory of the season. With the riches of top owner Tony Fernandes, the club has a long term goal of becoming one of the top clubs in England, in line with the project Manchester City started a few years back. They have managed to install the services of classy players like Ji-Sung Park, Adel Taarabt, Shaun-Wright Phillips, Esteban Granero, Ryan Nelson and Kieran Dyer, among others. But, the team work and team chemistry is still missing, it’s like a bunch of spoiled kids roaming around the park without ambition. Mark Hughes, a Manchester United legend, who managed City when they were starting their ‘project’, has a huge task in hand. He needs to make sure that this team plays like a team and manages to stall relegation by the end of the season – a basic target keeping the situation at hand.
Team News And Tactical Brief
It is certainly not going to be easy for this Arsenal team to lift itself, it has some really experienced players in the side, but the ‘leadership’ material still seems to be missing. The midfield and attack need to work even harder to create chances because that has gone missing completely in the last two games. With ‘impact and direct’ players like Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott out with injuries, Arsene will have to depend on the same team that misfired in the last two games. The younger Englishman, though, has a slight chance of making the squad.
Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna are now into one month of playing reserve games, they are expected to make the bench for this game and even get a few minutes of Premiership action – a welcome return for the fans. Arsene is expected to hold on to the midfield partnership of Arteta and Coquellin, the latter being quite impressive during the midweek game. Aaron Ramsey on the right wing and Gervinho down the middle were absolute disasters, which means Giroud comes back into the side. Arsene will let Podolski and Gervinho switch wings whenever required and keep Giroud as the central striker – the tall Frenchman is capable of shielding the ball, something the Ivorian is not capable of. Santi Cazorla, who carries a lot of expectations from the fans, needs to raise his game by a few notches, if Arsenal are to get back into business.
With Mertesacker being quite ruthless in defense, Arsene will still keep his best defender from last season (Koscielny) on the bench. Santos, who is a real worry on the Left Back, will continue there, and everybody will hope he gets some confidence back. A little help from the rest of the team to cover for his mistakes won’t harm his cause at all. In the long-term absence of Fabianski and Szczesny (still short by a few weeks), Vito Mannone will guard the posts. Gibbs, who has just recovered from a thigh strain, might not be risked straightaway this weekend, but should make the bench.
Arsenal needs to raise their tempo in this game, using the flanks more often than what they have used recently. Cazorla and Podolski need to find the combination and craft with which they were making merry before the break. And, most importantly, the Arsenal defense, in the absence of Gibbs, needs to stick to the basics and deliver for once in recent weeks.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Mannone(GK); Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Coquellin, Arteta; Podolski, Cazrola, Gervinho; Giroud;
Mark Hughes and his team have managed to pick just three points so far this season and are under tremendous pressure from owners to perform. When the season started, QPR had twelve new players on Match-Day One, clearly showing how much of a makeover had happened. It will take time for the players to gel together, but this league is a merciless one, it will wait for nothing, a managerial sack can be round the corner.
Though QPR are finding it difficult to score goals, they have some really potent candidates to deliver on that front. The strike partnership of Hoilett and Bobby Zamora looks very tasty for the West London club, and just needs the requisite amount of service throughout the game. The former Manchester United star Ji-Sung Park, with a wealth of experience, plays in the middle of the park, though he is more suited on the wings. If his days are not over, he can be quite handy with assists for the team. Adel Taarabt, the creative head of the team, needs to start delivering now, he is capable of scoring as well as making those killer passes for the strikers.
With Arsenal playing midweek, QPR are on an advantage getting more days of rest after their positive result against Everton last weekend. With days and experience, this side is playing much better, far from the shocking first day thumping at the hands of Swansea. This is a big opportunity for Rangers to catch Arsenal on the break, the latter look tired and lackluster.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-5-1): Cesar (GK); Bosingwa, Diakite, Nelsen, Traore; Mbia, Granero, Park, Taarabt; Zamora, Hoilett
- QPR had lost four consecutive games this season before drawing against Everton last weekend.
- QPR won 2-1 in the last game between these teams last season, in March.
- Jack Wilshere, if available, will be making his first appearance, after 18 months on the sideline.
Player To Watch Out For
Per Mertesacker (Arsenal)
The only constant in performances this season has been the big German. He has been everywhere, clearing the ball, intercepting, heading off dangerous crosses, tackling when required. He has successfully managed to keep Koscielny out of the team. Arsenal will again look on for more inspiration from Per.
Adel Taarabt (QPR)
The Moroccan has been impressive for QPR in the three seasons he has played for them. He had been instrumental in bringing the club into top tier of English football, when he helped QPR win the Championship in 10-11. The club expects a lot from the crafty attacking midfield man, and his change in form can be the club’s biggest turning point this season.
Arsenal 1 – 1 QPR
With QPR hungry for their first win of the season, they will come all guns blazing at The Emirates. The Arsenal outfit, a little short on ideas at the moment, will raise their game but will find it very difficult to compete all of 90 minutes, with most players fatigued by too many games in recent weeks. One goal in each half, yet an entertaining game, will be the order of the day.