Football on New Years Eve!? Do the FA not give any thought to the bloggers having to write match reports?
Anyhow, QPR were the latest visitors to the Emirates during this crazy Christmas period. With Liverpool already picking up 3 points a day earlier against Newcastle, and with United, Chelsea and Spurs all expected to win against relegation fodder (see what I done! He he), it was imperative that Arsenal return to winning ways and pick up maximum points against Neil Warnocks men.
Line ups were as expected with a fully rested Arteta and Ramsey returning in place of Rosicky and Benayoun. The only real shock being the return of Arshavin to the starting berth in place of Gervinho.
Arsenal started a little slowly and it was QPR who had the first shot in anger with Bothroyd forcing an easy save from Szscesny. It was QPR again looking threatening moments later as Wright Phillips and Taarabt combined well to produce another good stop from the Gunners keeper.
QPR, despite their bright start, were expected to park the bus, however, it soon became apparent that they had brought the minibus as Arsenal, and in particular Van Persie, started to find space. The first Gunners chance came when Van Persie twisted Connelly inside out before firing with his left straight at Cerny. Minutes later it was RvP with another chance from a beautiful Ramsey cross which the Dutchmen did well to stretch and direct just wide of the far post. Arsenal were moving up the gears.
Then came a crazy few minutes where the home side should have gone at least 1 up. Djourou dribbled from right to left before feeding RvP in the box, who in a flash turned Young into old before firing over with the keeper diving at his feet. Seconds later Arsenal were awarded a free kick when the enemy, Barton, was booked for a late lunge on Arteta. Robin fired the free kick deep towards Koscielny who managed to direct a header down to the feet of Walcott who could only volley a difficult chance back across goal when he could’ve, and maybe shouldve, done better. Arsenal were beginning to turn the screw, but the best chance of the half ended in frustration again as Vermaelen floated a beautiful ball over the top of the static QPR defence to find an onrushing Van Persie, who could only fire over from 15 yards with his right foot volley. Unlucky.
As the first half drew to a close, the referee decided to get involved in the game. First of all he decided that it was no penalty when Young handled from a Koscielny volley. 50/50 if I’m honest. Then, bizarrely, it was a question of mistaken identity as Vermaelen was booked for a challenge made by Koscielny! I think Atkinson had started the NYE drinking early!
Just before the half time whistle Arsenal had another great chance as Ramsey’s volley was cleared off the line by Barton. It was starting to feel like one of those days!
Into the second half and QPR again started strongly. Old boys Traore and Bothroyd linking well down the left before the latter fired a great ball across the 6 yard box that Szscesny did well to parry before grabbing a weak follow-up from Faurlin. The poor start to the half was then made worse when Vermaelen (still on a yellow, as apparently they couldn’t change it!) had to be replaced by Coquelin after picking up a knock. 2-3 weeks out apparently and a loanee defender needed, though with the way Coquelin played we may have enough cover.
Arsenal may have started the second half a little shaky, but it wasn’t long before QPR were being ripped apart again. This time it was the lively Ramsey with a defence splitter that found Theo sprinting through on his own. Unfortunately, Walcotts legs seemed to take him to the goal quicker than his brain wanted and by the time he had thought about where he was going to place it his right boot had already struck the ball 4 yards wide! Henry, looking on, must’ve wondered why they didnt retire the number 14 shirt. Poor effort.
Arsenal had been wasteful thus far, but, as they say, If you create enough chances then eventually you will score, and so it proved. Ironically, after so much good play from the home side, it was a QPR mistake that lead to the goal. A loose pass from SWP fell straight to the feet of the much improved Arshavin, who, for all his faults, still knows how to make a perfectly weighted through ball look simple. RvP had nothing to do except slide the ball past the onrushing keeper to make it 35 goals for 2011 and beat Henry’s record. 1-0 to the Arsenal. Easy.
Arsenal could finally relax, and the football that followed reflected the change in atmosphere. Firstly, Arshavin was denied by a fantastic, last ditch tackle from the evergreen Young. Then, moments later, Ramsey couldn’t quite find RvP in the box when maybe a shot was the better option. QPR, however, were still in the game at 1-0 and Taarabt forced a fine save from the Arsenal number one at the other end as the away side pressed for an equaliser. Arsenal had to be careful.
QPR were starting to push forward, but with Koscielny and BFG looking solid, the nearest they came to an equaliser was when Taarabt decided to audition for his Olympic diving team in the Gunners box. He would’ve qualified!
In the latter stages, Ramsey and especially Gervinho, a replacement for Walcott, were responsible for keeping the score at just one. Firstly, Gerv decided to try and dribble through a crowded box when a left foot strike would have been the better option. Then seconds later RvP shrugged off SWP in the box to cut back for Gervinho who should really have scored with his left from 3 yards, but he somehow put it wide (maybe that’s why he didn’t shoot earlier with his left!).
The last 5 minutes would usually be squeaky bum time for an Arsene Wenger side, but with Kozzer and BFG looking solid, this Arsenal team never looked like conceding.
A solid NYE performance from the Gunners but they were definitely guilty of some poor finishing. Hopefully, the return of Henry will see that rectified, but based on the build up play, it’s only a matter of time before others in addition to RvP start finding the net.
MoTM for me was RvP, I thought his control at times was outstanding and he gave the defenders a nightmare, could’ve had 3 or 4 but only because he created so many chances for himself, especially first half.
Great results elsewhere means Arsenal ended the day in 4th and on the heels of the other CL pretenders.
No ratings from me due to having to watch the game on a terrible stream! Feel free to add your own.
Written by FatGingerGooner
Belated Ratings from Harry:
Szczesny: 7.5; Oozed Confidence, positionally sound, loved the way he closed down SWP early doors. His distribution was sound and in keeping with his improvement, he looks to move it quick but is more considered, rather than rash.
Djourou: 7; Much better, not a favourite of mine at the moment, like TV he is slightly out of his comfort zone, but he is getting better. Still drifts to middle and lets wide players in behind, lacks confidence, when in tight situations with pressure been applied.
BFG: 8; Reads the game so well, made 3 or 4 telling interceptions. He mops up the loose and distributes well, with bumpy passes!!
Kozzer: 9; This guy is unreal, tackles, blocks and reads danger with his eyes closed, for me he is the French Keown! MoTM by a Kilometre, RVP rightlty gets the plaudits for been able to score the goals, but behind every genius you need the Grafters and boy does Laurent do that, at the moment, 1st name on the team sheet with Szcz and RVP. Please stay fit………..
Vermaelen: 7.5; Our Belgique Warrior, steady and determined as always, tracked players well and let no one in behind. Incorrectly booked due to mistaken identity.
Song. 7; Did his job, but not at his usual imperious best, some wayward passing at times. Was strong in the tackles and broke up play.
Arteta.7; Again did his job with minimal fuss, kept the ball well and picked out some great passes, but seemed not quite as sharp as usual and for me it slowed us down on the break, plays game in game out. Was hacked down by the 8th Archangel JoeyHades.
Ramsey. 8.5; This boy is more energetic than a duracel bunny, he must have a rolls royce engine under that rib cage. He ran, he closed, he delivered some great crosses. The occasional pass failed the odd audacious back heel came off. Unlucky with a delightful volley on the edge of the area, which deflected wide. Pushed Kozzer for MotM. By the way some of the abuse this lad gets from the fans is unreal
Arshavin. 4; Gets the 4 for the key assist for RVP, 1 or 2 tackles and a 2min spell where he seemed interested, apart from that, he was shocking, something is not right.
Van Persie: 8.5; Outstanding game and will be some peoples choice for Man of the match. Took his goal well, he bamboozled QPR defenders with his nimble footwork, unlucky not to score 2 or 3 others, the volley in the 1st half by his majestic standards was a surprising miss, did everything right, but was just slightly leaning back as he struck it.
Walcott: 7; Worked hard and got forward well, won us most of our corners, ok lets get to it, in the 2nd half he went through one on one and fluffed his lines, for that I wont defend him, he needs to to take these chances or at least let the keeper make a world class save. The abuse he gets is vile and unjust, he wont stay at our club, which will please some people, it wont me.
Coquelin: 7: On for TV, did ok in yet another position for the young french prodigy. Although an attempted Kung Fu Clearance near the end was a tad naive.
Rosicky. 7: Added much needed urgency and gets involved everywhere, just wished he could last 90mins, he would be in the 1st 11 everyweek.
Gervinho. 6: Shocking miss, had 2 or 3 chances to help wrap the game up, one immediately after coming on, was unlucky with that, but then on he made some poor decisions.
I thought the team had a better balance than against wolves, but some players were tired, I thought he should have brought on Ox as did everyone else!! But did subs at right time, for him!, I would have subbed AA at Half time.
3 points were vital, before the scores of others were known, with them scores in, the 3 points felt like 6, winning ugly hasnt been in our make up, so its good we have that again now, but I wouldnt mind a pretty win once in a while, need to play at pace………
Happy New Year, into 4th and into the Transfer Window, surely????