Queen’s Park Rangers vs Arsenal, Loftus Road, Premier League
Kickoff – 15:00 GMT (19:30 IST), 31st March 2012
Good day, fellas. Good day indeed. I was hoping for another dour evening, with no telecast of the Arsenal game, but ESPN Star India has heeded to our twittion’s again, and decided to telecast the QPR vs Arsenal game, in the process sacrificing the Manchester City vs Sunderland kickoff.
The week has been fairly quiet. Yes, there was the Champions League, but the interest of following it goes away once your beloved team is knocked out. Real Madrid had a routine 3-0 win over Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia, who have done fantastically well to come so far. I think they will go the Santiago Bernabeu and have a good day out, and tell their grandchildren about the day the played Real Madrid. Barcelona and AC Milan provided quite a dull affair, a world away from those hugely entertaining group games. The pitch, surprisingly, was much better than the cabbage field, which the Arsenal players ploughed on. Chelsea have made a decent head start as they look to reach the semi finals of the Champions League, which I think they will, with a 1-0 win in Benfica. I, however, do not expect them to go any further. Bayern Munich, too had it easy against the completely out of sorts Marseille team. A Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid semi-final is on the card. The other semi-final is still far away from being decided.
Matters closer to our hearts then. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain spoke about his teammates very recently, and they are Alex Song, Mikel Arteta and Robin van Persie.
Chambo on Song
I can’t remember the last game he didn’t play – he is always there. Sometimes you don’t notice the stuff he does, the defensive side of the game, but he is always there cleaning up,Obviously he has been bringing assists to the team as well. Some of the passes he has been putting in, like for two of the unbelievable volleys Robin has scored, reminds me technically of watching Fabregas put those balls through.For a holding midfielder to do that, as well as the defensive side of the game, is brilliant. You can’t ask for anything more.He has been brilliant for us all season and he is a really good guy to have in the dressing room as well. He is always happy and putting smiles on everyone’s faces – he is a massive part of the squad.
Chambo on Arteta
I watch them every week in training,I look at the movement they have off the ball, and when they have the ball they are always positive and looking to find Robin or a winger. I can take that into my own game.You always try to learn off anyone in the team, especially top players like Alex Song and Mikel, as well as Aaron and also Jack when he is back.
Chambo on van Persie
Robin has been the main man for goals this season, he is a fantastic player and we see it week in, week out,But the fact that we can bring goals from other areas of the pitch and from different boys does help to take the pressure of him. That will in turn help him relax and play the way he wants to play, and he will end up scoring anyway. It has been good, especially with people like Thomas [Vermaelen] scoring from the back. It always helps to score from other areas of the pitch so long may it continue.
Moving on, Arsene Wenger had a lengthy interview on a host of issues, ahead of the clash with QPR. Before the interview, news as out that UEFA had banned Wenger for 3 games, and handed him a hefty fine. It seems one of the most stupidest decisions made by UEFA. Arsenal had to contend playing on a joke of a pitch, and then given a below par referee in the second leg, and the manager is handed a ban because he touched the referee after the match, while trying to speak to him. Last time round, Wenger was banned for his comments over the most horrendous decision’s in football history, when van Persie was sent off for no reason at all, at the Nou Camp. And, UEFA showed they are muppets when they launched an internal investigation immediately, after Barcelona complained about the substandard San Siro pitch, but no action was taken, when Arsenal played on an even worser pitch, last month.
AW on the captains
I don’t believe in coincidences,Certainly it is impossible to measure but they have certainly been an influential part in that with many other players who have a good spirit as well. The captain is the leader of the team and of course they have played a vital part in that.I believe that the whole team dynamic was very strong, very positive and that had a massive impact. We were going through difficult periods and we recovered because the players never gave up in the dressing room and that was a vital part. I feel overall this has been one of the best seasons in the dressing room. We will see where we finish but I am sure of one thing; we will give our best until the end of the season.They know how difficult it is to be successful and how difficult it is to be consistent,We forget players like Sagna, Walcott is maturing now and they have all played a big part. I must say that the spirit has always been good but the results have not always been as good as expected, especially at the start of the season. The spirit was never in doubt for me. What could be questioned was how good we could be and what was the quality of the team. I am happy now that we have answered this question in a positive way.
AW on the goalscorers
I don’t deny that we rely a lot on Robin van Persie but it is good to see [that we have contributions from elsewhere],It shows you that when the confidence of the team is a little bit higher, suddenly the goals can come from different people. There is more initiative and that is very positive for us because for long parts of the season it is true that we were too dependent on Robin’s goals. The fact that goals now come from everywhere is certainly just a result of a bigger confidence level in the team.
AW on overtaking Manchester City
We will try to give our best,What we can hope for is to be third. We can be fourth, we can be fifth, we can be sixth – we want to be as high as possible and that depends on our consistency now.We are in a position that nobody expected us to be in and we want to strengthen that position from now on. That depends on our performances.I see us fighting like mad on Saturday to win the game. That’s all I see, I don’t see further.We are focused on QPR, believe me. We know that is always a tricky game for everybody and that is what is important to us. After that we focus on the next one and our capability to finish the season in a strong way depends on just how much we focus on every game.Things can change very quickly. Our sport is fragile and we have learned something this season from a very difficult period. Urgency and focus are vital to keep your level up.
AW on new deals
[We will try to arrange new contracts] very early,” he said. “Yes I am [confident that these players will commit]. To say that I am always confident, yes I am. Of course we want to keep our best players.These players want to win things and they want to be in a team that has a chance. Our end of season will help that to help me convince them that they can [here]. It depends now how well we finish.Newspapers open talks now. They should inform me how much they offer and for how long because I would like to know!We are in the situation [with him] as we are in with Van Persie – it will be sorted out at the end of the season,He is playing very well. I think he has improved his technical level a lot, his links with other players and his calmness in front of goal. For me he is developing very well.
AW on favouritism
On the evidence of the numbers, at least you can say that Arsenal doesn’t get any advantage from anybody because we have zero penalties,That is what comes clearly out – on our side, not only do we not get penalties but we get penalties against us that are not penalties – this season – so that at least keeps us out of that fight.Man United have got seven penalties at home, Man City got seven penalties at home and Arsenal got zero [at home in the Premier League]. So we come out of that with no advantage from anybody, so we are very happy.He [Vieira] spoke with his heart,It was after the decision on Monday night where Fulham didn’t get the penalty and in fairness it was a penalty. It just shows one more thing – that the referees need help, video assistance, and then they will gain credibility and there will be no suspicion. If the referee has a difficult decision to make, if he has any assistance from video he would have given a penalty or not a penalty but it would have been a decision that would have had no suspicion. The referee is certainly honest but you expect him to make a decision in a fraction of a second. You can understand it is difficult. He has not time to check if it is right or wrong. That is why, for years, I have been for video assistance.
AW on his ban
If I am [suspended] then it is not justified and I will appeal straight away,I believe that when you have 25 years [experience] in Europe you can still ask the referee that you can have some discussion with him. It is very difficult to understand.At the moment I have difficulties with UEFA and I can take what is wrong on my side but in these different situations I think they go a little bit overboard if they suspend me.
AW on Manchester City
It is not easy, it is demanding,You always go through a period where you are a bit hand-braked, then when you feel you can do it and suddenly it goes [well] again. Man City have gone through a little bit that moment for the first time this season. What will be vital in the title race is the game they play at home against Man United.[They could slip] if they technically lose the championship but that’s not decided yet. They play Man United at home, the goal difference is very similar and Man United don’t look untouchable at the moment. You cannot say Man City are on the way down. It is a little bit uncertain. If they lose the championship it can happen but it’s still 50-50 at the moment.
AW on Milan
We would have gone through against Milan had we played them now because Milan are not better than us,When we played the home leg, if we had more players available I still think we could have qualified.I think that in the first leg we were very bad. On top of that we lost our defenders and conceded a third goal at the start of the second half which placed us in a very difficult position.They had the perfect game on the day, in return we had no game and in the home leg we were different. We have more confidence today.
AW on the summer
A big part of our starting [business] will be done inside,We will do the job we have to before the Euros, for sure.We need to get Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby back and then look at the number of players we have. Then we have Chamberlain, Diaby, Wilshere, Song, Rosicky, Coquelin, Arteta, Gervinho, Walcott, plenty of players. The most important part is to get our players fit and back and then hope in the Euros we have a positive experience with our players.
AW on Mark Hughes
We have a rivalry. But in fact I discover I have this kind of rivalry with many managers,Maybe it’s me, that’s exactly the conclusion I have come to!I respect every manager because I know they all suffer. That’s part of the job. He was a passionate player, he didn’t give anything away and that comes across in his management.We know QPR are a side with quality players and are in a difficult situation,I expect them to fight not to go down.However the key will be on our side, no matter what QPR’s quality or problem is. It will be important for us to go out and show how much we want another win.
That’s a piece of Wenger, there. Team news, then. Laurent Koscielny is expected to return to first team action after he suffered tendinitis, minutes before the Aston Villa game, which means brother of calamity, Johan Djourou is back heating the bench. Apart from the squad is fully fit. Abou Diaby, apparently, had a bit of pain in training, and could be expected to be on the bench, next week, against Manchester City.
QPR, on the other hand, have a host of injuries, and suspensions to deal with. Strikers DJ Campbell and Heidar Helguson are doubts and so is defender Fitz Hall. Former Arsenal left-back Armand Traore, midfielder Kieron Dyer and Argentine midfielder Alejandro Faurlin are all long term absentees. January marquee signing Djibril Cisse will start his 4 match suspension after his crazy tackle at the Stadium of Misery. QPR have picked up 6 red cards this season, which is the highest for any team this season.
What we can expect, for sure, is a really tough and physical encounter. QPR will look to contain Arsenal rather than be adventurous. They do not have too many players who are great going forward. They do have the Algerian Adel Taraabt, and former Manchester City and Chelsea winger Shaun Wright-Phillips, but both have been largely inconsistent this season. I expect QPR to be looking to win the battle in midfield, by deploying the hard-tackling trio of Joey Barton, Samba Diakite and Shaun Derry. At the back, they have a decent defence. Former Aston Villa captain Luke Young, and on loan AC Milan left back Taye Taiwo will take their places on the flanks, while they have the young, but experienced Anton Ferdinand former Manchester City defender Nedum Onouha. Up front, of course, is Arsenal’s nemesis, Bobby Zamora, who has netted winners against the Gunners, whilst playing for other London clubs, West Ham and Fulham.
Arsenal might have to work the flanks a lot more, to get away with 3 points. QPR play a very narrow game, and cannot be taken lightly. They may be in a real slump, and played poorly against Liverpool, but they took their chances, and beat the Reds, right at the death, with Jamie Mackie scoring in injury time to make it 3-2.
Let’s end on a poignant note. March 31st marks the 11th death anniversary of David Rocastle, that supremely talented Arsenal midfielder, of the late 80’s and early 90’s. News came out today, that Aston Villa midfielder Stilian Petrov has been diagnosed with acute leukaemia, which goes to show, footballers aren’t superhumans. Good news, then. Fabrice Muamba was able to sit, and even posted a picture of himself in the hospital on Twitter. Let’s hope both Petrov and Muamba are back where they belong, on the football pitch.
Enjoy the game, wherever you are.
Jai Arsenal 🙂