Queens Park Rangers haven’t won a game since they beat Stoke 1-0 at Loftus Road, in May. QPR are bottom of the table with the worst record in the League (0 wins) and second worst defensive record (conceded 17). Their season has been nothing short of disastrous when you consider how much money they have invested in the squad. It’s been so bad that manager Mark Hughes has gotten the dreaded “vote of confidence” from the owners. But if you think this is going to be an easy game for Arsenal to “get healthy” off after consecutive difficult losses to Norwich and Schalke, you better think again.
Mark Hughes is a barely competent manager who was given the wealth of the Sheiks and who built a vastly overpriced Manchester City team that wouldn’t start competing for titles until it was largely dismantled. Still, he has a decent understanding of how to play Arsenal – because sadly, even a halfwit like Mark Hughes knows to play against Arsenal: stay compact in defense, try to draw the center backs out, hit them on the counter. I mean, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist.
The bad news is that QPR have a host of attacking players who have all stung Arsenal before. Adel Taarabt was one of the most profligate strikers in the League last season. He took 88 shots and netted just two goals. One of those goals was against Arsenal when they beat the Gunners 2-1 at Loftus Road. He’s actually in good form at the moment, with two goals off just 15 shots. He is bumping his fucking gums about getting Rangers their first win of the season against Arsenal.
Junior Hoilett is a dribbler. He used to play for Blackburn. He got an assist in the game Blackburn beat Arsenal 4-3. He’s actually in good form at the moment and his goal against Everton was top notch. He normally plays on the left but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Mark Hughes’ one brilliant idea tomorrow is to move him to the right where he will attack Arsenal’s achilles, Andre Santos.
Ji Sung Park used to play for Man United. He scored 2 League goals last season. One of them was against Arsenal, in the 8-2 win.
Oh and one more thing, goal keeper Julio Cesar has an assist already this season. Ummm… long balls anyone?
Perhaps its fatigue, more likely it’s indiscipline in team shape, but since Gibbs went out injured and Andre Santos took over, Arsenal have struggled up front. At first I was excited by the introduction of Santos. I thought he would give Arsenal more options down the left and that his crosses in to the center forwards would prove useful. But Santos doesn’t cross, instead, he dribbles right into the spaces that Podolski, Giroud, Gervinho, and Cazorla are trying to occupy. It’s unfathomable to me that Podolski, Arsenal’s most clinical finisher, has only had one shot in the last two games. And Cazorla, Arsenal’s most creative player, was completely stifled by Schalke.
Worse than that, in the game against Schalke, Arsenal’s left flank was left exposed time and again as Santos bombed forward. That left Jefferson Farfan free range to get on his horse and gallop through the Arsenal back line. You can see exactly what Mark Hughes’ side’s shape will look like tomorrow in this average position graph for Schalke. They will have six players back, sitting compact, and will force Arsenal into the middle of the pitch where they can gobble up all the final balls. And yes, I just used “gobble and balls” in the same sentence.
The good news is that the QPR defense is a shambles. Stephane M’Bia was bought from Marseilles and nominally plays as a destroyer in midfield but every game I’ve seen him play he’s been terrible. He’s bumping his fucking gums about getting a result at Arsenal. They are terrible at the back, he is a terrible shield in front of the back four and I really hope Arsenal find a way to get around them.
It might take a major change for Arsenal to do so. Perhaps someone can literally tie Santos to Vermaelen. Either that, or, with Koscielny back healthy, play Vermaelen as left back. Actually, scratch that. I don’t think wither of those would help since Vermaelen loves to get forward and Sparky will be tempting him to do exactly that.
Ok, I know this is grasping at straws but why not start both Jenkinson and Sagna? Jenkinson hasn’t done anything to deserve to be dropped so why not play Sagna as a left back and drop Santos? Santos has done more than enough to deserve to be dropped — the two goals where he played the opposition onside were enough weren’t they?
Since none of that is ever going to happen, instead of two central midfielders standing on top of one another in midfield, have a midfielder protect the left flank? Jack Wilshere is back, if he’s 100% maybe he will start on the left of the Arsenal three man midfield.
OR! They could play a 4-4-2, with Cazorla on the left, Jack and Arteta in the middle, and Gervinho on the right. More straw grasping, I know.
Up front, why not play Podolski as the center forward? He’s Arsenal’s most clinical finisher and while I understand that Gervinho has scored a decent number of goals for the shots he’s taken, it’s not his shots/goal ratio that bothers me, it’s the shots he doesn’t take. Against Norwich, I aged 10 years as Gervinho was played into space, with no defender, and took an ice age to make up his mind as to what he was going to do. A similar thing happened against Schalke. Put Gervinho on the flank and let him dribble all over Bosingwa and hit those lovely drag-backs to Podolski. You do that and Poldi will put them away.
I don’t know. And that’s the problem with Arsenal right now. Everyone knows the prescription for how to play against Arsenal but no one knows the prescription for Arsenal to get better. All I do know is that if this Arsenal teams goes into tomorrow’s game thinking QPR are going to be an easy game, there could be real trouble at the Emirates. I hate saying this because it sounds so trite but Arsenal need to show what they are made of tomorrow.
Hey wait… Maybe, for once, the opposition will take an Arsenal win for granted and we will steamroll them. That would be a nice change of fucking pace from the last week.