Arsenal 1 QPR 0: Breakthrough for the Gunners in Wilshere’s Comeback
The disappointing, toothless and shocking loss to Norwich.
The below-par and shameful loss to Schalke 04.
The feisty and somewhat uneasy AGM.
It has been on hell of a week for everyone connected with Arsenal. In our time as fans, we have witnessed our fare share of back to back defeats, but a third defeat on the bounce against a team rock bottom in the Premier League would have had many ramifications.
The defeats against Norwich and Schalke exposed the frailties in a couple of players, so it was high time Wenger used an iron fist on some of his playing personnel. I expected Andre Santos and Ramsey to be on the end of such an action but when I saw the starting line-up yesterday, I was filled with a renewed sense of optimism.
A fit-again Bacary Sagna replaced Carl Jenkinson while Aaron Ramsey replaced Gervinho on the wings with Olivier Giroud coming back into the attacking fold. The biggest news of all, was seeing Jack Wilshere play his first Premier League game in 17 months, wearing the sacred No. 10 jersey that has been worn by legends like Dennis Bergkamp as well as arseholes like William Gallas and Robin van Judas Iscariot Per$i£.
QPR had a very woeful away record in the Premier League as they had amassed just a point from a possible 33 with their last maximum points away being a victory over Stoke in November 2011. Mark Hughes spoke about his fears of Wilshere starting for the Gunners and it’s fair to say that his nightmare became a reality.
Sagna and Ramsey worked well on the right with Sagna using his burst of pace to evade ex-Gunner, Armand Traore, before drilling the ball into the box. Pepe Diakhite was on hand to block the cross from getting into his danger area.
Every touch of the ball from Wilshere was met with a rapturous roar from the Emirates faithful, which propelled the young Englishman to put up a show to savor. Wilshere’s first telling contribution was to waltz into a pocket before firing the ball across the goalmouth but no Gunner was around to kill off the chance. Wilshere was on the thick if things again, as he lofted a cross to Ramsey, but the Welshman’s header hit the cross bar and went over.
Wilshere continued to run the show, as he executed a neat one-two with Santi Cazorla before blasting a rather tame shot goalwards but Julio Cesar spilled the shot and smothered it in his second attempt.
Andre Santos had a stinker against Schalke on Wednesday, but he was exposed yet again by Shaun Wright-Phillips. However, Thomas Vermaelen tracked back to cover Andre Santos’ tracks this time.
Giroud wasn’t having much joy up front, but he managed to slam a shot from quite some distance, giving Cesar a chance to parry the ball for a corner. When Vito Mannone was faced with such a situation last week, he parried the ball straight into his danger area, allowing Grant Holt to kill off the contest.
Late in the first half, Andre Santos fashioned a chance for himself with his right foot, but that was easy pickings for Cesar.
Arsenal began the second half with more urgency as Per Mertesacker nodded Mikel Arteta’s dead ball with a goal-bound header, but Cesar was on hand to make a good save. That was the first of a plethora of saves from the former Brazil No. 1.
QPR came off their shells when Adel Taarabt and Esteban Granero created a chance for Junior Hoilett with a delicate chip but the Canadian forward strayed fractionally offside. Wright-Phillips continued to get the better of Andre Santos before crossing a ball was almost attacked by Bobby Zamora but Vermaelen made a superb interception to avert the danger. Shortly afterwards, it was Sagna’s turn to make another vital interception to pick the ball off Hoilett’s pocket.
Arsene Wenger brought in the calvary in the form of Theo Walcott and Gervinho for Wilshere and Lukas Podolski. I guess I didn’t get my wish of seeing Podolski play for 90 minutes.
Gervinho almost made an instant impact when he evaded a defender before firing his shot into the side netting. The first glaring chance of the game arrived when Walcott sent a cross into the box that was knocked down on a platter for Santi Cazorla in the penalty spot but the Spanish magician blasted his effort over the bar.
In the previous two games, Arsenal failed to create any chance whatsoever but against QPR, they were back to their profligate best.
The pendulum of the game swung in Arsenal’s favor courtesy of an act of sheer stupidity by QPR’s Stephane M’Bia. With Arsenal fighting hard for that all-important goal, it was expected for the players to be combative and this was on display when Vermaelen and M’Bia raced to the corner flag with the ball as a worthy price. Vermaelen shoved M’Bia in his attempt to get the ball, earning QPR a free kick but a dysfunctional chip went haywire in M’Bia’s head as he kicked the Arsenal skipper in retaliation, rightly earning a red card for his stupidity.
Minutes after the sending off, Gervinho was on the end of a swift counter attack launched by Arsenal but after sending his cross across the box, he hit the turf and couldn’t get up again. After some treatment from Arsenal’s medical staff, a stretcher was brought into the pitch, and Andrey Arshavin was brought on to replace the substitute.
With minutes slowly fading away, Cesar showed off his amazing reflexes when he responded quickly to intercept an imminent own goal from Ryan Nelsen.
However, Arsenal’s breakthrough arrived when Arshavin dinked a cross into the box that was headed goalwards by Giroud, causing Cesar to make another spectacular save. Ramsey and Jose Bosingwa charged for the ball which was floated into Arteta’s path but the Spaniard’s header hit the cross bar and he slotted in the rebound to send the Emirates into rapture.
Many debated that the goal was offside, but I’ll let them know when I give two fledgling fucks.
Ramsey and Santi Cazorla had chances to put the game beyond doubt but Cesar continued to make more impressive saves. In the dying moments of the game, QPR almost delivered a sucker punch when Taarabt floated an over-the-top pass to Granero but the Spanish midfielder fired a rather panicky shot, despite having a great first touch. Stand-in right back, Mackie made a slalom run that saw him evade a host of Arsenal players but Mannone stood his ground to make the save that was the difference between a win and a draw.
When Sagna fouled a player at the edge of the box, chills went down my spine and my heart leapt from my chest to my mouth when Granero fired the shot but it hit the side netting. The ref’s whistle was like music to my ears, as Arsenal has finally secured that all-important win before the trip to Old Trafford to face van Judas Iscariot and his fellow Devils.
Mannone (7.0) made a vital save at the end of the game and finally secured a clean sheet, a feat he hadn’t achieved in a while.
Andre Santos (6.5) put up a better show than that torrid outing he endured on Wednesday’s night.
Sagna (7.0) was a breath of fresh air and his fight with Carl Jenkinson has begun in earnest.
Vermaelen (8.0) was very combative and made a couple of vital interceptions.
Mertesacker (7.5) nullified the threat Bobby Zamora posed.
Arteta (7.5) scored the goal that brought Arsenal’s breakthrough.
Wilshere (8.5) was ubiquitous on the pitch and was always involved in every attack till his substitution.
Cazorla (7.0) had a good game but he could have done better with the chance he had.
Ramsey (7.5) worked really hard for his team.
Giroud (7.0) provided a good focal point for the attack and was unlucky not to score the winning goal with that thunderous header late on.
Podolski (7.0) put up a very efficient outing and protected his left back well.
Walcott (7.0) instilled some life into the Arsenal attack with his pace.
Arshavin (7.0) crossed the ball that instigated the scramble that led to the match clincher.
Gervinho didn’t play long enough to get a rating.
Unlike the Norwich and Schalke games where Arsenal was piss poor, a victory was no less than the Gunners deserved for the effort they put into this game. Despite the heroics of Julio Cesar, the Gunners kept pushing till the end and they managed to grind out a result against all odds.
As the saying goes, that’s what champions are made of.
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