Mikel Arteta struck late on to give Arsenal a 1-0 win over lowly QPR at the Emirates. Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna both started the game. Wilshere may have been out for 17 months injured, but he certainly gave a much needed boost to the team as they looked to recover from two straight defeats in what has been a tough week for the club.
Wilshere got through 67 minutes and there was a scare when he was brought down by Estaben Granero in the second half. Wilshere got up and didn’t seem to have picked up any fresh injuries. Wenger confirmed after the game that he will not play at Reading in the League Cup next week, but is available for Old Trafford next weekend and could be starting.
Andre Santos was criticised for his defensive display midweek against Schalke, but his deflected shot nearly crept in early on. Aaron Ramsey’s header hit the bar and went over in what was Arsenal’s closest effort of the first half. Lukas Podolski then fired wide as Arsenal began to look dangerous. Wilshere then hit a stinging shot that was dealt with by Julio Cesar in the QPR goal.
QPR got more into the game with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jose Bosingwa taking advantage of Santos’ weak defending once more, but then failed to deliver the right ball into the box.
Olivier Giroud then had a shot unconvincingly saved by Cesar in the QPR goal. After he spilled the shot, nobody followed it up for a tap in, the nearest was Aaron Ramsey.
Per Mertesacker then flicked on a header from Mikel Arteta’s free kick in the early stages of the second half. However, the visitors showed their threat when Junior Hoillet chipped the ball over Vito Mannone but he was flagged for offside.
Wilshere came off in the 67th minute for Walcott as understandably he got more and more tired as the game went on. Gervinho then replaced Podolski a few minutes later as Wenger went for the win. QPR threw on a few players too, including Jamie Mackie and Djibril Cisse, Mark Hughes was also showing his intent to steal three points late on.
Walcott soon whipped in a fine cross. Giroud couldn’t get head on it but the ball fell invitingly for Cazorla who blazed his shot way over the bar from 12 yards out. It was a great chance for the Gunners who had struggled to break down a solid QPR defence.
The game changed with 10 minutes to go. QPR were looking comfortable in defence and Stephane Mbia was fouled by Thomas Vermaelen as he was about to clear the ball. He then lashed out at Vermaelen by swinging a leg at him for no apparent reason. He won the free kick from Vermaelen and his team could have wasted some more time with the ball. He did it out of frustration rather like Joey Barton on the last game of the season in 2011/12 against Man City. It cost his team.
Gervinho was taken off injured shortly after coming on for Podolski. His replacement was Andrei Arshavin. The little Russian was needed. His cross into the box was met by the head of Olivier Giroud. Cesar made a good save and then Mikel Arteta followed up by hitting the crossbar but finally Arteta just about stabbed the ball in from close range. QPR appealed for offside, but the referee disagreed and the goal stood. Looking at the replay, QPR can feel hard done by there as Arteta looked offside to me.
Arteta’s goal may have come in the 84th minute, but the game wasn’t over by any means. Aaron Ramsey nearly made the game safe with a neat effort that was saved by Cesar in the QPR goal once more. Santi Cazorla then curled a lovely shot that was again tipped away by the keeper, who was keeping his side in it.
Estaben Granero slid a shot wide late on for Rangers. Granero should have gone off as he was given one booking and to be honest there were three or four ‘bookings’ he should have received but did not. Jamie Mackie then went on a superb solo run that saw him go past Arteta, Santos and Vermaelen before Mannone denied him one of the goals of the season with a block from point-blank range.
You could argue that the ten men were worthy of a point today. Arsenal weren’t convincing at all and if Mbia hadn’t have been stupid enough to get himself sent off, I’m sure that we would be talking about a goalless draw here. It doesn’t get any easier for the Gunners who have 3 away trips in a row. Reading are first up in the League Cup on Tuesday night before a lunchtime kickoff at Old Trafford on Saturday against Manchester United. If that’s hard, three days later they play Schalke away, the side that beat them earlier in the week 2-0.