Arsenal vs. QPR: Final score 1-0 as Gunners edge out win

Shaun Botterill

The Emirates welcomed back Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna to the Arsenal team. More importantly, the fans were able to welcome back winning football following a spell of three losses in four games. A visit from bottom-of-the-table Queens Park Rangers was just what the doctor ordered, but the Gunners didn't really make the most of the opportunity as they struggled mightily to make an impact, only going ahead (through a Mikel Arteta effort) after their guests had seen Stephane M'Bia sent off.

The hosts were the better side from the beginning -- no surprise, since they are Arsenal and QPR are QPR -- and it took a great save from Julio Cesar to first deny Santi Cazorla from a tight angle then kick away the rebound under heavy pressure. Seconds later, the crossbar came to the visitors' rescue when Aaron Ramsey met Sagna's tenth-minute cross with a looping, perhaps mis-hit header.

Wilshere got in on the action too, forcing a spill from Cesar after a neat interchange with Cazorla through the middle, although the goalkeeper was able to seize the loose ball just before it was turned in from close range by the Spaniard. But for all of their possession and play, Arsenal simply weren't doing enough in front of goal to merit going ahead, and were perhaps best summed up by the moment when Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud took turns to swing and whiff at a cross.

The Gunners were also allowing QPR an alarming amount of space, especially on the left, where Andre Santos continued his poor impersonation of a competent left back. Fortunately for the home side, Mark Hughes' outfit were completely hopeless at turning said space into chances, mostly wasting their few opportunities with poor crossing and worse movement.

Arsenal were forced to rely on set pieces for their next chance, with a Mikel Arteta delivery bringing out a good save from Cesar after the ball had flicked off first Per Mertesacker and then Bobby Zamora shortly after the restart. But when Arsenal are relying on set pieces, you know they're not very happy, and they were nearly caught out twice by quick QPR moves -- fortunately seeing Junior Hoilett first waste the opportunity to send Zamora through and then getting a chipped finish of his own ruled out for offside.

This wasn't how the script was written, but despite the introduction of Gervinho and Theo Walcott, the hosts were creating not much at all and Rangers were increasingly coming into the game. And then, in the 77th minute, the big chance came. Walcott crossed, and Stephane M'Bia could only knock it down for Cazorla to run onto. From twelve yards, he had to score. He lashed well over instead.

But another opportunity presented itself when QPR went down to ten men with ten minutes to go. Thomas Vermaelen felled M'Bia in the corner, but the infuriated defender kicked out at his Arsenal counterpart and despite not making contact saw Vermaelen dive theatrically. It was a red card no matter if he touched him or not, and the Frenchman had to go.

That forced a defensive reshuffle, and Arsenal took full advatage. Andrei Arshavin obliterated Jamie Mackie, now at right back, and although Cesar saved Giroud's initial effort then saw Arteta's scramble shot hit the bar, he was powerless to prevent Arteta's second attempt from being blasted over the line from very close range*. They'd made very, very hard work of it, but the breakthrough had finally arrived.

*From an offside position, admittedly.

Down to ten men and having finally conceded, QPR had no real right to mount a reply. Esteban Granero breaking through and shooting wide was a warning sign, but by the time Mackie had danced past three red shirts and forced a save from Vito Mannone it was looking remarkably like a late storm from the visitors. They even managed to convince their fans that they'd equalised when [] skimmed the side netting with a late free kick.

But ultimately, it wasn't enough to get back into the match, and the full time whistle came as a huge relief to the home faithful. Yes, three points are three points, but the manner in which they were made to work by a side that can be fairly well described as rubbish should deeply worry Arsene Wenger and company.

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