A superb run of nine victories from the last eleven games in all competitions has come at the perfect time of the season for Arsenal who have put themselves in a wonderful position to enjoy success. While the Gunners have a mountain to climb against Monaco in the Champions League and have a FA Cup Quarter Final date with destiny at fierce rivals Manchester United on the horizon, defeat in the North London derby has not prevented Arsenal from storming into third as the battle for the top four intensifies.
While teams around them continue to falter, Arsene Wenger’s side have put in a succession of fantastic performances that has seen the players find their mojo again. A slight tactical tweak has reaped instant rewards on the pitch, with the likes of Santi Carzola and Tomas Rosicky playing on top of their game as Arsenal have looked like scoring each time they go forward. The abject performance against Monaco may turn out to be a mere blip as a battling 2-0 victory over Everton put the Gunners back on course. They will need the same level of performance to come away from QPR from three points, as the Hoops are fighting for their lives at the wrong end of the table. Arsenal will be heavily fancied with http://www.bookies.com to secure another three points on their quest for an 18th consecutive season in the Champions League under Wenger, but they will have to be up for the battle as QPR are at their best on home soil.
Strong performance required
Arsenal may have David Ospina to thank for a number of excellent saves to preserve their lead, but the 2-0 win against Everton was another step in the right direction as the Premier League enters the business stage of the season. Question marks may remain over the organisation and concentration in defence, but the Gunners have rediscovered their clinical spark going forward to become an unstoppable attacking force. Wenger will know that his team will have to be at their very best at both ends of the pitch to get past QPR who will likely to take a ‘nothing to lose’ approach and try to exploit any defensive vulnerability.
It remains to be seen whether Per Mertesacker will be recalled to the team after being left out against Everton in favour of Gabriel Paulista who, despite a few nervy moments, grew into the game and showed what he is capable of. More importantly, Arsenal came away from the Emirates with no fresh injury concerns, and while Jack Wilshere is no closer to returning to first team action, Wenger can call upon Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for what could be a battle at Loftus Road.
Can QPR avoid the drop?
The 2-1 defeat at Hull sent QPR crashing back down to earth after they registered their first away victory – at the thirteenth attempt after losing their previous twelve in a row – at Sunderland. Caretaker manager Chris Ramsey has been given the responsibility to pull the club away from danger and secure their Premier League status, but their remaining fixtures may put their prospects in doubt. They can draw on a strong performance and a stirring second half at the Emirates in a 2-1 defeat that saw Arsenal hanging on over Christmas.
A home fixture against Arsenal is just a number of games against teams at the top of the table that QPR have on the horizon, and while their home record may hold the key to their survival, playing against one of the best attacking teams in England is arguably the last thing they need. Winning just one of their last nine league fixtures illustrates the crisis situation QPR find themselves in, with their chances of staying up dented even further by an untimely knee injury for Leroy Fer which will keep their star midfielder out until the end of April. His absence places even more onus on leading scorer Charlie Austin to keep QPR in the Premier League single-handedly, with fourteen goals in twenty-three appearances not only an impressive feat for a team who have only scored twenty-seven goals all season and are fighting relegation, but also highlights the danger that Arsenal’s defence must deal with.
Potential Arsenal team: 4231
Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Welbeck, Ozil, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Giroud.