Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side travel to Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, so to find out more we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and journalist Clive Whittingham for their views.
A week since facing Manchester United immediately after the confirmation of their title, Arsenal now travel to Queens Park Rangers immediately after the confirmation of their relegation.
But Arsenal shouldn’t take this fixture lightly, having scraped a 1-0 win over QPR at the Emirates in October, and having been defeated 2-1 at Loftus Road last season.
Harry Redknapp’s side have performed relatively well against top sides - they won at Stamford Bridge, and have held Manchester City and Tottenham to goalless draws at Loftus Road.
"Harry Redknapp’s side have performed relatively well against top sides - they won at Stamford Bridge, and have held Manchester City and Tottenham to goalless draws at Loftus Road"
After considerable sums were spent strengthening the squad over the past couple of years, QPR find themselves without any cohesion, as Redknapp has struggled to find his best formation.
It seemed QPR were playing well with width - Junior Hoilett and Andros Townsend have shown flashes of brilliance, but last week Redknapp selected a very narrow 4-3-1-2 formation, asking Adel Taarabt to create from between the lines.
QPR’s primary attacking threat will be Loic Remy, who sprints in behind the opposition defence with tremendous raw speed, particularly in the right-hand channel. Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker should be accustomed to playing against the Frenchman, however - he played up front for Marseille in the Champions League group stage last season, and Arsenal kept a clean sheet in both matches.
Arsenal’s real focus should be at the other end, and how they can expose QPR’s defensive shortcomings. At left back, Redknapp has used three players in three matches - former Gunner Armand Traore, Nedim Onuoha and Tal Ben Haim.
Traore seems the most likely bet against Arsenal’s pacy attack, although he can get into poor defensive positions, too high up the pitch and too far from left-sided centre back Clint Hill. If Theo Walcott starts on the right, he’ll look to replicate his goal against Manchester United last week.
Hill was excellent against Arsenal in this fixture last season, but in recent weeks has struggled when brought up the pitch, then forced to turn and run.
Arsenal must get runners in behind him, while Hill’s fellow centre back Chris Samba is also significantly more vulnerable against tricky forwards than when challenging in the air, so the absence of Olivier Giroud might not be a issue.
CLIVE WHITTINGHAM, LOFTFORWORDS
The whole season has been disappointing, from the fifth minute of the first match. It's all over with three games left to play and it's not really a surprise that the team aren't putting everything in.
One of the main problems for QPR all year has been the intensity and work rate of the team. That has got considerably worse since the Aston Villa game, which was a massive one.
"The pressure is off but that seems to have had a negative effect. The pressure was off against Stoke in the last home game and, especially in the second half, they were very lethargic and didn't really put up much resistance."
At the moment they are setting up in a 4-4-2, with two wingers. Andros Townsend plays wide on the right. He likes to cut in onto his left foot and shoot. Loic Remy should start up front. He's been the main, if only, goal threat and I expect quite a few clubs will be looking at him in the summer - maybe even Arsenal!
Bobby Zamora has been suspended for the last three games. He's playing with a hip injury which means that he tends to seize up after half-time.
Chris Samba was out last week and Nedum Onuoha played pretty well in his place, though that was against a poor Reading side.
Samba's form has been a bit hit-and-miss but he will probably come back in if he's fit this week.
QPR have lacked pace at the back all season and are alternating between Robert Green and Julio Cesar in goal at the moment.
The pressure is off but that seems to have had a negative effect. The pressure was off against Stoke in the last home game and, especially in the second half, they were very lethargic and didn't really put up much resistance.
Quite a few players will be leaving the club in the summer so haven't got the incentive of playing for their place for next season. In the remaining three games, Redknapp might look at some of the younger players who will be at QPR next year.
Most people thought Redknapp would leave in the summer but he's said he is staying so he might start picking players that he knows will be at the club just to up the work rate.
Hopefully picking those players will mean that QPR have a go at the weekend, but they are a poor team playing poorly and Arsenal are in very good form.
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