Arsenal ground out a crucial 1-0 victory at Queen’s Park Rangers on Saturday to lift themselves back into the top three.
The only goal came after just 20 seconds. The timing of Theo Waclott’s strike matched Gilberto’s goal against PSV in September 2002 and therefore became jointly the Club’s fastest goal since modern records began.
However, having taken the lead, the visitors did not really kick on. QPR were already down but they battled back into the game without ever really threatening themselves.
"The timing of Theo Waclott’s strike matched Gilberto’s goal against PSV in September 2002 and therefore became the Club’s fastest goal since modern records began"
Their only real chance came seven minutes from time and after a sustained spell of Arsenal pressure. Loic Remy’s low shot seemed destined for the corner before Wojciech Szczesny tipped it behind.
This was not a vintage performance from Arsène Wenger’s side. In fact it was much more akin to George Graham's team. But Arsenal battled resolutely and kept their defensive discipline.
The victory means that now the onus is on Chelsea and Tottenham, their rivals for the top four, who meet on Wednesday.
Because, once again, Wenger’s men showed they have found a winning habit at just the right time.
Despite the draw against Manchester United last weekend, Arsenal’s form was solid - one defeat in their last 13 Premier League matches – so Wenger made minimal changes. Kieran Gibbs’ thigh problem meant he dropped out of the squad. Nacho Monreal came in at left back.
Seconds before kick-off, news filtered round that Gareth Bale’s late strike had secured Tottenham a narrow but crucial win against Southampton.
The pressure was on Arsenal. By the next time they played, Chelsea and Tottenham would have just one game left.
They would respond immediately.
Walcott had struck after less than two minutes against Manchester United but, this afternoon, he was quicker still.
After just 20 seconds, Arteta nudged him through on the right of the area and he fired into the far corner.
The timing of the strike exercised not only the Arsenal statisticians. It was the quickest goal in the Premier League this season and the earliest in the competition for seven years.
The effort, Walcott's 20th of the campaign, was just what Arsenal required but, at the same time, did little for the game as a spectacle. QPR were flat after their relegation and the early blow only pushed them lower.
"It was enough on a day when the performance mattered little. It is all about the points right now. And Arsenal had all three."
Arsenal went for more. Walcott’s volley and Santi Cazorla’s drive were blocked then, midway through the half, Lukas Podolski flicked Aaron Ramsey through but the Welshman was muscled out.
Arsenal had total control and they nearly grabbed a second after 24 minutes when Walcott swiveled and fired low against the base of the post.
But, as the half drew to a close, QPR started to stir. Ji-Sung Park blazed over from Bobby Zamora’s flick and, six minutes before the break, Tel Ben Haim forced Szczesny into his first serious action with a drive from distance.
Eight minutes after the restart, the keeper batted away a swirling effort from Andros Townsend. The home side had come out for the second half with enthusiasm and started to mount pressure for the first time in the match.
It gave Arsenal a jolt. Laurent Koscielny ventured forward and forced a comfortable save from Green. The keeper was much more uncertain in repelling Cazorla’s effort soon afterwards.
Twenty minutes from time, Green completed a rapid hat-trick by saving from Walcott’s low, near-post effort.
Arsenal had taken the initiative. Podolski’s low cross was batted behind and then Walcott stung the hands of Green once more.
QPR claimed a penalty when Zamora tumbled under Koscielny. The referee waved play on. The home side were having their last stab at snatching a point.
Six minutes from time, Szczesny made a crucial save after Remy’s first-time curler looked like it might find the far post.
It was perhaps the key moment of the game.
As the seconds ticked away, Wenger made changes to shore up the points.
It was enough on a day when the performance mattered little.
It is all about the points right now.
And Arsenal had all three.
Referee: Jon Moss
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