Arsenal won’t have far to travel for their next match when they head across town to take on London neighbours Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. This could be a decent time to meet Harry Redknapp and his squad since they’ve already been relegated into the Championship League next season along with Reading. But on the flip side, QPR players could be more relaxed and it’s possible they play a more free-flowing style of football because of it.
While QPR has nothing but pride to play for, the Gunners of course are fighting like mad to secure third or fourth place in the Premier League to earn a spot in next season’s European Champions League tournament. They’re currently in fourth place with 64 points while Chelsea is just above them in third with 65 points and a game in hand. Chelsea meets Manchester United this weekend and also has a date with Tottenham coming up.
And speaking of Spurs, they’re in fifth place in the league table at the moment with 62 points and they also have a game in hand on the Gunners. These three points are crucial to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger’s men can’t afford any slipups during the match. French international striker Olivier Giroud is still suspended and will miss the contest while midfielder Abou Diaby is still out with an injury. It also looks like keeper Lukasz Fabianski will be missing as well due to a rib injury.
The teams’ last three meetings have all been one-goal games with Arsenal winning 1-0 at home on New Year’s Eve in 2011. QPR won 1-0 at Loftus Road on March 31 of last year and Arsenal won their earlier meeting this season 1-0 at the Emirates on October 27. QPR comes into the game with three losses and a pair of draws in their past five league games while the Gunners have a trio of victories to go along with two draws.
Overall, QPR has won just twice in their past 14 games and they haven’t scored a goal in their last three. It’s not too hard to see why they’ve been relegated, especially with just 29 goals to their credit on the season. Still, the Gunners can’t afford to take them lightly. A football game can change around dramatically in the matter of seconds due to an injury, penalty, or sending off, so they’re going to have to be focused as well as disciplined during the match.
It looks like Redknapp will have the services of both defender Chris Samba and midfielder Andros Townsend for the game. Townsend may have some added motivation to play well since he’s on loan at Loftus Road from Spurs. He’s been out of action recently due to a hamstring injury, but it’s possible he could be fit in time for the match. However, Redknapp will definitely have to go into the game without former England international winger Shaun Wright-Phillips and forward DJ Campbell. Wright Phillips is likely out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury while Campbell has a fractured bone in his foot.
Arsenal’s leading scorer Theo Walcott said he wants to replace Giroud as the team’s central striker while the Frenchman’s suspended, but Wenger could elect to go with Lukas Podolski in that role. The manager said he’ll likely stick with the German, but “A definite decision has not been made, but if there is an opportunity then there is a good chance I will do it. He has the qualities because he is a good finisher. He has a good technique, and because we have a game based on very quick combinations I believe he can be a part of that. Overall I am convinced in the coming games he will show it.”
Whoever plays there will need to pick up the pace a little though because neither Walcott nor Podolski have really been in top form lately, even though Walcott managed to score against Man United last week. On paper, this game shouldn’t be too difficult. But football matches are played on the pitch, so a 100 per cent effort will be required by everyone if the Gunners are to go home with all three points.