Premier League | Emirates Stadium | Fri 26 Dec | 5:30pm
A potential disaster-in-waiting... for both teams
- Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 4-1 Newcastle (Prem)
- Galatasaray 1-4 Arsenal (CL)
- Stoke 3-2 Arsenal (Prem)
- Arsenal 1-0 So'ton (Prem)
- QPR 3-2 West Brom (Prem)
- Everton 3-1 QPR (Prem)
- QPR 2-0 Burnley (Prem)
- Swansea 2-0 QPR (Prem)
- QPR 3-2 Leicester (Prem)
On paper, or stats, this is a game set to go one way only. Arsenal, with all their attacking swagger and Champions League ambition, taking on a porous QPR side with a dire away record. Only a fool would back the west Londoners here.
Except football matches aren't decided on stats, as Arsenal showed last weekend: at Liverpool, despite being inferior across the park for much of the game, they so nearly took all three points.
The manner in which they contrived to concede an equaliser was baffling to anyone with a smattering of tactical acumen. With a one-man advantage following Fabio Borini's headless-chicken red card, they failed to match Liverpool man-for-man at a corner, while neglecting to put any players on the posts. Arsene Wenger watched as Martin Skrtel snatched a point from a free header.
It's these errors, delivered in the comical manner of a school team, that have so infuriated Arsenal's fans of late. Luckily, QPR are a team that have barely raised a fight on their travels this season; on paper (always on paper), they should roll over here, as they have done in pretty much every away fixture this season.
Except at home to West Brom on Saturday, a penny-dropping sound could be heard around Loftus Road. Yes, they were so bad in the first 20 minutes they could have been 6-0 down. And yes, they were reliant on Charlie Austin to score all three goals. But the emerging mood is that if the positivity applied to their home games can be transferred on the road, they might offer more.
There are flaws to this idea, of course. Loftus Road, for example, is tight enough to control teams who break quickly, whereas playing aggressively against Arsenal on their expansive pitch might be suicidal. But with rumours of Wenger resting players for Arsenal's next fixture against West Ham, twinned with some reckless tactical organisation among the rear Gunners, Harry Redknapp's team might just put up a fight.
Walking wounded Arsenal will be without the influential Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshire, Mikel Arteta and Mesut Ozil, but Tomas Rosicky and Yaya Sanogo are available. Meanwhile, QPR are nowhere near Harry's famous "bare bones": the treatment room has been a lonely place for long-term sicknote Alejandro Faurlin.
Player to watch: Charlie Austin (QPR)
Man of the moment Austin is in such sharp form that even the likes of Wenger have been quick to praise him. "It's good to see that an English striker who had played in lower divisions has managed to come up," he said. "It could bring on the idea that there could be other players down there who are good enough to come up to the Premier League but don't get a chance."
Wenger is right to be complimentary: Austin is exactly the type of player Arsenal fans fear. He's hardly the quickest, yet his imagination and wit enable him to arrive in the box with impeccable timing; he finds space in crowded penalty areas. Against West Brom he fired in 10 shots, but he can also be efficient: against Burnley he scored with his only attempt. Given Arsenal's defending issues, he's likely to sniff out a chance or two, and scoring at the Emirates would lend more weight to his England ambitions.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- QPR 0-1 Arsenal (PL, May 13)
- Arsenal 1-0 QPR (PL, Oct 12)
- QPR 2-1 Arsenal (PL, Mar 12)
- Arsenal 1-0 QPR (PL, Dec 11)
- QPR 0-6 Arsenal (FAC, Jan 01)
Redknapp is adamant that despite their topsy-turvy form, Arsenal will grab a Champions League spot this season. “They do it every year and I don’t see why they won’t do it again this year," he said. “They have excellent players and they have had some injuries to key players. They are a very good side who play some good football. They have pace, movement and passing. They are a good team to watch.”
Meanwhile, Wenger has admitted that he has exhausted young defender Calum Chambers, who has played at both full-back and centre-half this season.
“For a 19-year-old player, he has played too many games,” Wenger said. “They all hit the wall after 15, 17 games. You have to give them a breather, refresh and get them back again. At the moment, to have that responsibility in every single game is a lot on a player of that age.”
Facts and figures
- Arsenal have only ever lost 1 Premier League match on Boxing Day (W11 D5 L1).
- Harry Redknapp has only lost 5 of the last 18 Premier League games as an opposition coach against Arsenal (W3 D10 L5).
- The Gunners have won their last 7 home Boxing Day matches - the first of those 7 being a 3-0 victory over QPR in 1995.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
No Christmas miracle for QPR, but with Austin in the side, they might rattle a few cages. 3-1 to Arsenal.
Back 3-1 at 11-1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication