Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger and his players welcome QPR to Emirates Stadium on Saturday so, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and Clive Whittingham of QPR website LoftForWords for their views.
Queens Park Rangers arrive at the Emirates as the bottom club in the Premier League table, but after their impressive performance in the 2-1 home win over Arsenal in March, this will be a difficult tactical test for the Gunners.
Hughes has named an unchanged back four only once this season, and Arsenal should take advantage of that unfamiliarity at the back. Last weekend, QPR conceded an extremely sloppy set-piece goal when Sylvain Distin was left unmarked to head in Everton’s equaliser in a 1-1 draw, an example of why the Rs have conceded 17 goals in eight matches so far.
QPR boast one of the league’s most impressive central midfield duos, with Argentine Alejandro Faurlin joined by Esteban Granero. Faurlin tends to do the defensive work while Granero distributes the ball calmly in the manner of fellow uncapped Spaniard Mikel Arteta, but both players are technically gifted and Arsenal won’t dominate possession as clearly as against Sunderland or Southampton, for example.
The key to understanding Hughes’ intentions is the identity of his third central midfielder. Away at West Brom he selected Stephane Mbia in the holding role – he’s a physical player who can also play as a centre back, and sat solidly in front of the defence. At home to Everton, however, his midfield duo sat slightly deeper with Junior Hoilett deployed as a central attacking midfielder – the Canadian dribbled forward on the counter-attack and scored the opener.
In last season’s victory over Arsenal, QPR stretched the play on the right with Jamie Mackie attacking Kieran Gibbs, but brought Adel Taarabt inside from the left into space between the lines, from where he scored the opener and was the game’s star player.
A similar strategy is likely this time, although captain Park Ji-Sung seems a natural option on the right, considering his good defensive work against Arsenal in a Manchester United shirt, not to mention his ability to counter-attack quickly. Carl Jenkinson should have freedom to get forward, however, and must force QPR’s left-sided midfielder towards his own goal.
Defensively, QPR will try to replicate Norwich’s strategy from last weekend, remaining compact between defence and midfield, denying Santi Cazorla space between the lines. Their attackers are also likely to press the Arsenal defence when Vito Mannone has the ball – forcing him to kick the ball long downfield, which might be a problem if Olivier Giroud doesn’t start up front to add height and aerial ability to the attack.
CLIVE WHITTINGHAM, LOFT FOR WORDS
It will be a very tough proposition for QPR. Arsenal away is not the sort of game we need with the run we’re on. But we did beat Arsenal last season so you never know. We have some good players and there were positive signs against Everton, plus Arsenal haven’t had the best of weeks, so it’s not as cut and dry as it maybe appeared a week ago.
We’ve played 4-1-4-1 and 4-4-2 this year, as well as a 4-2-3-1, which is our best formation in my opinion.
Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett have played well recently and posed a threat in front of goal.
Taarabt got left out for a while and said himself that Hughes had spoken to him about his attitude. He looks like he’s got a point to prove and is a bit fitter and slimmer than in the past. With his attitude correct and fitness under control, hopefully he’ll finally start fulfilling his potential. He can be a fantastic player.
Despite being bottom of the league we have quite a few decent players. Esteban Granero has played really well since he came in and was excellent against Everton. Samba Diakite is a good player, as is Alejandro Faurlin.
QPR haven’t defended well. We haven’t had a settled back four due to injuries so we’ve struggled with basic things like organisation. We conceded a really bad goal from a set-piece against Everton and have looked vulnerable from those all season. You can’t really pin the blame on anyone, I think all four full backs were injured at one point and we’re rotating centre backs. Once we get a settled back four, that weakness won’t be there.
From someone who in the 46-game Championship season only got one score right, my head says 2-0 to Arsenal and my heart says maybe we’ll get a 1-1.
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