Queens Park Rangers Preview: Another Win Would Be Simply Gr-eight
When Arsenal hosted Queens Park Rangers in the last game of 2011, Robin van Persie was a hattrick short of making Premier League history as he had scored 34 league goals in the calendar year. England great and record holder Alan Shearer had tipped Arsenal’s talisman to break his record and all eyes were firmly fixed on van Persie that evening.
The Dutchman received a nice through ball from Thomas Vermaelen but he skewed his effort over the bar. Shawn Wright-Phillips was having a good time down the right but he gifted Arsenal a goal when he handed a pass to the much criticized Andrey Arshavin that did well to tee up van Persie early enough for the Flying Dutchman to slot home his 35th Premier League goal of 2011.
Arsenal began 2012 on an all-time low, losing three Premier League games in a row and followed it up with a disappointing boring stalemate against Bolton. Since the beginning of February though, Arsenal is unbeaten in eight league games and have won seven games on the bounce, overhauling the Chicken on a Basketball in third place. Those 5pur2′ fans that bought their “Mind the Gap” t-shirts are going bonkers because there’s no refund.
QPR have picked up more red cards (6) than any other team in the top flight this season, half of which have come since Mark Hughes took over. They have won just two of their last 18 Premier League matches and QPR’s only victory in the last two months came in that dramatic 3-2 turnaround against Liverpool. It is a run that has seen them join the relegation dogfight for survival. It’s also worth noting that no side have dropped more points from winning positions than QPR in the Premier League in 2011-12 (15).
Mark Hughes replaced Neil Warnock in a bid to change the club’s fortunes and a lot of money was invested in January to bring in players that seemed good enough to keep the club afloat in Premier League waters but Sparky is no better than Warnock at the moment as his side is presently a position below Warnock when he was relieved of his job.
They were in 17th place when the Welshman took over and they are presently sitting in 18th spot and with difficult matches against the top sides still to come. To add to their misery, their most potent attacking force Djibril Cisse, earned himself a four-match ban after seeing a red card against Sunderland, his second from just five league games.
QPR’s skipper Joey Barton has some history with Arsenal this season and there’ll be no love lost when he takes onto the pitch with Gervinho and 10 other Gunners.
His recent form hasn’t been sky-high, but Joey Barton should return in the QPR starting eleven, not only because of his experience but also because of his propensity to get Arsenal players sent off. Abou Diaby and Gervinho can attest to that. Arsenal will also have to contend with the threat of Adel Taarabt and the winger whose full name is even taller than him, Shaun Wright-Phillips.
On the treatment table, QPR have doubts over the fitness of DJ Campbell (doubt – hamstring), Hall (doubt – knock), Heider Helguson (doubt – groin) while Djibril Cisse (suspended),Arsenal old boy, Armand Traore (hamstring) and Kieron Dyer (foot), Faurlin (knee) will definitely miss out.
Arsenal on the other hand are riding high and like DJ Khaled and T-Pain shrieked, all they do is win, win, no matter what. The Gunners arrive in Loftus Road with confidence levels so high, that it can be the jet fuel for Emirates Airlines. Arsene Wenger called for focus in his press conference:
I see us fighting like mad to win the game tomorrow, I don’t look further than that.
We are focused on QPR, believe me. We know that is always a tricky game for everybody and that is what is important to us. After that we focus on the next one and our capability to finish the season in a strong way depends on just how much we focus on every game.
I’ve also learnt that Arsene Wenger will be facing a three-match ban from UEFA and a fine of €40,000
Arsenal have scored 27 goals away from home so far, and their defence has really improved on the road too and they have won a lower percentage of games against QPR than versus any other opponent in Premier League history (22%). The Gunners have seen more opposition players red carded against them than any other team this season (5) and with QPR’s poor disciplinary record, I won’t mind another early bath for one of their players.
Arsenal now have the joint-longest run of consecutive league wins (7) in 2011-12 Premier League. They last won eight in a row in March 2004 and since his arrival in England, Thomas Vermaelen has scored more goals (12) than any other Premier League defender. It’s also worth noting that Arsenal have won more points from losing positions than any other team this season (19).
To team news, I expect an unchanged lineup from the squad that gazumped Aston Villa last week. Laurent Koscielny has passed his fitness test for today’s game but I expect Wenger to throw caution to the wind with half an eye on next week’s crucial clash against Manchester City.
Today marks the 11th anniversary of David “Rocky” Rocastle’s tragic death. Rocky was 33 when he lost the battle in North London derby. Also extend your prayers to Aston Villa’s Stiliyan Petrov, that was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Arsenal, another win will be simply gr-eight.
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