Arsenal escapes against QPR
Mikel Arteta of Arsenal pokes the ball across the line
LONDON, England ● Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta came to the fore to end a difficult week for Arsenal on a positive note with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Queens Park Rangers at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Arteta’s 84th-minute goal was enough to secure a much-needed victory for Arsene Wenger’s side.
Hughes not happy with ref decisions
Mark Hughes berated the referee after Arsenal’s winner, which the QPR boss claimed was offside.
He also accused Thomas Vermaelen of getting Mbia sent off:
“The sending-off, that changed the make-up of the game,” Hughes told Sky Sports. “Stephane was on the floor and he has swung the leg, there is very minimal contact and Vermaelen is going to make the most of that situation. He dives and rolls around, and makes sure the referee makes a decision.
But it was the return of Wilshere to the starting line-up after a 17-month absence with ankle and knee problems that provided the greatest cause for optimism for the home side.
By contrast, there was only frustration for QPR manager Mark Hughes, whose side remain bottom after conceding the decisive goal two minutes after Stephane Mbia had got himself needlessly sent off for kicking out at Thomas Vermaelen.
After the troubles of the previous seven days, Wilshere’s inclusion in the Arsenal starting line-up could hardly have been better timed.
Back-to-back defeats against Norwich City and Schalke were bad enough, but the disappointing results were compounded by insipid performances from Arsenal on both occasions.
Then, on the morning after the Champions League loss to Schalke, the club’s hierarchy came in for heavy criticism at a testy Annual General Meeting, when supporters made clear their frustration at the club’s failure to invest more heavily in the playing squad.
The optimism of early season had faded, and Wilshere’s return provided a welcome distraction from the gloom.
The midfielder last appeared in a competitive match in May 2011 and Wenger had insisted on the eve of this game that, at best, the midfielder could expect a place on the bench.
The manager also maintained the England international was still two months away from full match fitness, but his first contribution — a teasing low cross in the fifth minute — confirmed a partially fit Wilshere still has plenty to offer.
Arsenal have certainly missed the 20-year-old’s drive from midfield, typified by his contribution in the 19th minute, when he played a one-two with Aaron Ramsey before testing visiting goalkeeper Julio Cesar with a powerful shot.
Wilshere eventually left the field after 66 minutes, having been his side’s stand-out player.
Yet as impressive as Wilshere’s return was, his presence was not enough to galvanise Wenger’s side, who again looked unconvincing.
Andre Santos was again vulnerable at left-back and had Jose Bosingwa, the QPR right-back, shown more composure when twice in good positions to cross, the visitors may have exposed this weak spot more tellingly.
Arsenal picked up the tempo at the start of the second half and Julio Cesar was again called into action to keep out Per Mertesacker’s header from an Arteta free-kick.
The home side, though, were guilty of squandering two further free-kick opportunities from good positions around the Rangers area and as their urgency to find a way through increased, they started to leave gaps at the back.
Shaun Wright-Phillips delivered an excellent cross that was destined for the head of Bobby Zamora before Vermaelen cleared, then, seconds later, Bacary Sagna’s last-ditch tackle denied David Hoilett a clear run on goal.
Rangers’ efforts began to unravel, however, when Mbia lashed out at Vermaelen and Arsenal quickly exposed their undermanned opponents.
Julio Cesar produced an excellent save to deny Olivier Giroud but Arteta poked the ball home after initially heading the rebound against the crossbar.
There was still time for Rangers substitute Jamie Mackie to shoot at Vito Mannone after a mazy run, while Esteban Granero went close with a free-kick, but this was Arsenal’s — and, more specifically, Wilshere’s — day.
“It became easier when Mbia was sent off,” Wenger said. “Apart from that, I feel the team sometimes has to go through that and come out with the points, and that’s what we did today.
“Overall it (Wilshere’s performance) was, if you consider he was out for 17 months, quite positive. Of course, he still lacks the rhythm of that level but he will get that with competition. It’s an ankle problem (for Gervinho) and how damaged the ankle is we will have to wait 24 hours to know more but it doesn’t look good.”