Arsenal 1-0 QPR: What Was LearnedPosted: October 28, 2012
Arsenal have never been ones for making life easy for themselves. Faced with a team who had not managed a win all season and had conceded five to Liverpool (!) , they managed to look about as threatening as a kitten in a pillow fort. Another pathetically meek loss followed, this time at home to Schalke. The misery surrounding the Emirates was palpable. The home game against winless wonders QPR suddenly became vital. The over-complicated 1-0 win gave them a massive lift, one which could set them onto a run of good results, and the game revealed more about the side than the average scraped 1-0 win over a side of relegation strugglers.
- The most significant aspect of the day was the return of Jack Wilshere. Considering he has spent the last 15 months since his last appearance in the Arsenal shirt, he was extremely impressive. Arsène Wenger said going into the game that physically he was “about 80-85%” and his performance was about 80% of the player he was in 2010/11. As ever, he looked confident on the ball, his dribbling was stronger than I remember it being and he played as the ball-carrier Arsenal have missed in midfield since Abou Diaby’s latest injury. He was on the end of a few nasty challenges, but they caused no damage, though he did admit he was cramping up on the hour mark. It seems Wenger plans to start him at Old Trafford next Saturday; fully deserved from his encouraging performance today.
- Arsenal desperately miss Kieran Gibbs. Andre Santos has been given a lot of stick these past few days: most of it deserved, some of it overstated. He has looked like the player he did when he first arrived and was struggling to adapt, not the one who looked quite sound defensively who showed himself as October wore on in 2011. They are mainly missing Gibbs’ attacking influence. Santos’ first instinct when charging forward is to run inside, whereas Gibbs stays closer to the touchline. Santos’ movement limits the effectiveness of Lukas Podolski, as it forces him to play as a more orthodox wide player, which he is not. When Gibbs is attacking down the left, Podolski is often seen to run into the box, acting as a second centre forward, or towards the edge and have Santi Cazorla take his place on the left. With a more orthodox winger Santos’ runs are more destructive but playing him with the German it bordering on becoming an exercise in futility.
- Aaron Ramsey on the wings is a tactic that should be used more in away games in which Arsenal are playing more conservatively, looking to be more responsible on possession. At home it does not allow them to be as direct as required and makes them narrower. He looked far more comfortable after Wilshere’s substitution when he moved back into the midfield. Although he needs to work on his long passing, which is erratic.
- Santi Cazorla looked very tired in the second half, which he has done in quite a few games so far. It is understandable: he has moved to a more physically intense league without a pre-season after having played a summer tournament. The sooner Tomas Rosicky is back and ready, the better. He also illustrated that he has to work on his finishing through his awful miss late on. It has been a problem in other games and could have been extremely costly had Mikel Arteta not rescued them (and not for the first time). His finishing is the only thing really lacking from his all-round game.
- Andrey Arshavin demonstrated again that he has something to offer. I wrote this in September about the frustrating Russian and whether he can still be of use to the team; his technical ability was never lacking, but his motivation and physical state were. In his time on the pitch he looked committed and showed again the ability he has to create in tight spaces that even Cazorla does not have with his cross that eventually led to the goal. He even worked defensively! Depending on the extent of Gervinho’s injury, he may be getting more playing time soon.
- Gervinho’s injury, despite his unimpressive recent form, is potentially very bad news. The specifics are unknown at this point, so it may yet prove not to be serious. He is the only proper wide player in the squad, and the only others who are played there are Podolski, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin and Ramsey, none of whom are natural wingers.
- It may be time to end the freezing out of Walcott, for the good of the side. The reasons for leaving him out have been understandable, but if Gervinho is out, he will be needed. His introduction changed the game and saw Arsenal’s attacks became bolder and more focussed. His future appears to be swinging towards his departure, but short of replacing him with someone better – not an easy task in the slightest, contrary to what many think – he is an important player for them.
- Olivier Giroud was very good. He flitted between being a target man, which is not his general remit, and being a team-enabling centre forward, opening up space for the rest of the side with clever movement. He himself did not get any very clear chances, but fashioned a few for others and was a constant source of irritation for the QPR defence. He is adapting to the system and style around him and it too is adapting to him.
- A brief mention for Bacary Sagna: he picked up exactly where he left off before his injury at the end of last season. He showed no signs of rustiness, he went straight back into the side and was pristine. He is consistency incarnate. Although Jenkinson has done very well in his absence, he has some way to go before he reaches Sagna’s levels.
- The performance was not the best, but the result was all that was needed. For a side shot of confidence, winning is the perfect remedy and ahead of the huge game against Manchester United next week, some source of hope. If they are to get anything there they will need to perform much, much better, but a team who has gone 180 minutes without scoring is unlikely to storm forth and trounce their opponents 4-0.
- Between now and the trip to Manchester there it the League Cup clash with Reading. It is not a proper trophy, but 7 years down the line they will take any trophy, proper or not. Manchester City are already out and one of Chelsea and United will go out this week, meaning it is a good chance to get the drought monkey off their backs. If they can claim another win there their collective confidence will only grow. Hopefully they are walking their way back to a run.