Pre-Match Report

Premier League: Arsenal v QPR - Match Preview

Emirates Stadium

By Richard Clarke

"I feel in both games that, physically, we were not at our best, not at our sharpest. Hopefully we can get over that.

"It works a bit in cycles sometimes; you have one game where you are a bit sharper and one where you are a bit more laboured. 

"We have gone through that now but it is important that these two results don't affect the confidence of the team. We must come back and focus on the way we want to play football."

That was Arsène Wenger ahead of, what has become a crucial game against QPR at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.

The defeats to Norwich and Schalke over the past week have been painful but the damage can be recovered - in the Champions League the redress could take just 90 minutes.

The same cannot be said for the Premier League and, all of sudden, the manager admits his side could do with the type of injection only an assured victory can provide.

"We had a very promising start," said Wenger. "We have hit the wall a little bit in the last two games but we have just to focus again on the quality of our play, the way we want to play and not concentrate too much on who we play against.

"With the quality we have, the results will come back and I believe that this team wants to do very well.

"At West Ham, before the international break, we looked outstanding going forward. We were dynamic.

"Then, suddenly, we had two flat performances. It is difficult to explain.

"Norwich defended well and we then had problems to penetrate Schalke, who were very compact. We just did not find our rhythm in the game.

"We came out of it a bit shocked because we aren't used to not creating chances. That's perhaps the common denominator between the two games.

"That means the speed and quality in our passing has gone down a little bit and we have to take care of that."

If change is necessary the manager has the capacity to adapt his side as key players are returning from injury. Bacary Sagna, Jack Wilshere and Emmanuel Frimpong could all make their first-team return on Saturday having recovered from long-term problems. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is also "60:40" to be back after picking a hip injury at Norwich last Saturday.

QPR are bottom of the Premier League and without a win. However last week's draw against in-form Everton was a significant sign of upward movement. And, remember, it was Mark Hughes's side who ended Arsenal's seven-game winning streak so abruptly last March at Loftus Road.

Significantly, they have only been shut-out once this season but it has been almost 18 years since QPR last won at Arsenal. And even that 3-1 victory on New Year's Eve 1994 saw cult hero John Jensen famously net his first goal for the Club.

"From game to game QPR are improving," said Wenger. "You could see that against Everton.

"You look at their team-sheet and they have good players. Mark Hughes is slowly turning them around.

"They are a team with big potential which hasn't clicked yet. But they started to do better in their last game and that improvement is what the Premier League is about.

"Our players will be conscious that it is an important game and we'll aim to do well.

"But at the moment I feel it's more important that we take care of our potential and come back to what we think we are strong at - our team-play, our passing game and our ability to create chances."

That last point is significant. Win, lose or draw, Wenger's Arsenal has always been about carving out goal-scoring opportunities. Something they have lacked in their last 180 minutes of game-play. Still let's look beyond the last eight days.

At this time last year all sort of statistics seemed stacked against Arsenal and yet they recovered to a satisfactory level.

Premier League seasons are one long Q&A session these days with any answer not seen as 100 per cent affirmative seemingly interpreted as a negative.

Football is not that simple and it is certainly is not that easy.

It has been a tough week, one we could do with putting behind us. But between the first and the last whistles on Saturday let's just concentrate on the only thing that really matters.


* Saturday's game will focus on the Club's Arsenal for Everyone initiative, an ongoing scheme which embraces the diversity and equality of the Club and its fan base. 


Team news

Arsenal: Oxlade-Chamberlain (doubt - hip) Gibbs (thigh) Szczesny (ankle), Walcott (chest), Diaby (thigh, 10 Nov), Rosicky (tendon), Fabianski (ankle)

QPR: Dyer (doubt - calf), Park (doubt - knee). Da Silva (hamstring), Johnson (knee)


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