Arsenal go into this game as the form team in the Premiership, having won 7 games on the trot for the first time since the Invincibles season. The return of key players and confidence throughout the team has brought back some breathtaking football to the side and at times they have looked unbeatable. QPR looked to have turned a corner in their fight for Premiership survival after coming from 2 goals down against Liverpool to win 3-2. They followed that up, however, with defeat to Sunderland and sit 18th in the table. They do have an impressive record against the top sides, having beaten Chelsea on top of their unlikely victory over Liverpool, and Arsenal struggled to break them down in the previous meeting.
QPR have leaked goals this season, keeping just 3 clean sheets, and have conceded 3 goals or more on 7 occasions. Arsenal have tallied up 21 goals in their current run, an average of 3 goals a game, so it would certainly seem there will be goals at Loftus Road. Unfortunately for Arsenal, Armand Traore remains out for Rangers with a hamstring injury. With a tackle success percentage of 52%, having been dribbled past 10 times in 18 starts and losing possession 27 times, he would have certainly been a player to target with Walcott regaining his form and confidence. Djibril Cisse starts his 4 game ban and with 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 games this is certainly a blessing for Arsenal.
Laurent Koscielny returns for Arsenal and should make the starting line-up to resume his impressive partnership with Vermaelen.
The panic that echoed around the Emirates when it was announced the Frenchman had injured himself in the warm-up tells you just how highly he’s rated by fans, but Zamora has troubled Arsenal this season and his wrecking ball style of attack will certainly test the centre-back duo. Koscielny will be banned for 2 games if he picks up a yellow card, missing the clash with Man City, so I would like to see him miss this one out, but Djourou’s current shaky form is a worry.I feel he receives a lot of unfair abuse about his ability and is a better player than many like to make him out to be, but his confidence has been knocked with playing at right-back and the run-in to the end of the season isn’t a time to try and get him it back.
Next page: More on the tactics for the game…
Arsenal’s electric form has coincided with the return of Sagna and Gibbs to the starting line-up, with Gibbs opening the scoring against Villa last weekend. In 10 starts the young left back has made 17 interceptions, a vital part of Arsenal’s attack, and his average positioning is usually the half-way line or further forward. Having created 8 chances so far he certainly isn’t wasting his time up there.Sagna has been magnificent since his return with a 100% tackle success rate in 5 of his last 6 games. His ability in the air has also been a welcome addition, winning 100% of duels against Villa and 14 out of 17 against Everton.
Mark Hughes will most likely deploy defensive tactics to try to sneak a point or hit on the counter. It will be interesting to see if he recalls Joey Barton to the starting line-up. The reformed philosopher has a penchant for getting Arsenal players sent-off and despite his poor form of late, I would expect to see him start. This should allow our full-backs to push up and influence the attacking game, however they will have to be wary of the counter.
Midfield and attack should remain unchanged, with the midfield trio of Song, Arteta and Rosicky in impeccable form. They all bring their own unique qualities that the other lacks in midfield; Rosicky’s ability to ghost past his marker, Arteta’s passing range and cool-head and Song’s defensive ability and his new-found love of the lob-through ball. Having created 9 chances in the last 7 games, with 3 assists and 7 successful dribbles he’s beginning to revolutionise the standard thought about the defensive midfield role.
This should be the type of game we’d get a chance to rest Van Persie, but with no alternative he will start up top. With 26 goals so far in this campaign, 7 less than the entire QPR team, against one of the leakiest defences he should have an enjoyable game. With no goals in 255 minutes this is something of a mini crisis for the Dutchman…
Walcott will start on the right who has created 8 chances in his last 3 games. His form has improved, but with only 4 out of his last 15 dribbles being successful he still has some work to do in transferring his ability to results.
Tactically I doubt this will be the most interesting game you could watch this year and I predict we could be in for 90 minutes of Arsenal trying to break down another stubborn defence. QPR will have more fight in them than Aston Villa however and the Gunners will have to be wary, hopefully we can get an early goal and begin to dictate the game like we have shown we can in recent weeks.