Arsenal v QPR – live blog!

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QPR preview + Henry, strikers and Diaby’s damage

The good thing about the festive period is that any disappointments can be quickly offset. Today we face QPR having dropped a couple of points against Wolves and it’s crucial we take all three today.

In terms of the team news I was expecting some changes today, the most obvious of which was a rest for Robin van Persie. Yet Arsene Wenger says he’s going to start which might mean resting him for what appears to be the much more difficult trip to Fulham on Monday. Yesterday he spoke about the captain starting both games:

It will be difficult. He will play tomorrow, then we will assess the situation with him on Sunday and Monday morning and make a decision.  I don’t rule it out but he’s one of the players who has played a lot and you see again, against Wolves on Tuesday, he’s the guy who gives absolutely everything in every game at the moment.

He knows, ‘I have to score’, so he’s always on the fringe of pushing himself. Let’s hope he can get through the next two games.

Again we could talk about the burden on him and the need to ease it a bit but it just strikes me that today’s game is the ideal opportunity to give him something of a break. I know our other options aren’t exactly firing on all cylinders, nor am I suggesting that QPR are a walkover, but if we can’t rely on our back up to players to do a job in a game like this then it really does say a lot about them and the manager’s faith in them.

I do hope there’s no sentimentality in the decision to play van Persie today. The record is irrelevant, having him fit and well for the rest of the season and for more tricky tests than QPR at home is far more important. I suspect, however, that Robin wants to play – not for the record attempt either, but to help the team win the game. And when your best player tells you he’s fine and is ready to start then you have to trust he’s doing it for the right reasons.

Ideally we’ll see a situation whereby we can take him off with the game safe but it’s not just up to Robin to do that. After the Wolves game Mikel Arteta called for the team to be more ruthless at home and I don’t think he was just referring to taking the rake of chances we created in the second half. I think he meant the first half too where we seemed happy enough to keep the ball without really turning the screw. Arsene said we got a bit ‘comfortable’ and we can’t let that happen today.

As for other changes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ramsey back in the starting line-up while Theo Walcott’s recovery from illness means he’ll start on the right hand side. Other than that it’s difficult to see much different beyond our ‘established’ starting XI at the moment. As for the opposition, well, they’ve had their moments this season and I fully expect Armand Traore to have the game of his life but the expectation today is three points and it’d be hard to mitigate anything less.

In other news the boss confirmed the return of Thierry Henry and says he knew from the first day in training that he still had it. And even Patrick Vieira, now head of corporate enforcement in the Middle Eastlands, says:

Going back is going to be good for Arsenal. People have to realise that he can still bring something else to the club. Some players can benefit like Theo Walcott and Gervinho.

Again I don’t see any real downside to this, I’m not interested in talk about him tarnishing his legacy. If the way he left hasn’t damaged it, a return to the club at this stage isn’t going to either so that’s not a concern. The only slight issue is that Arsene seems to be suggesting that Henry’s arrival will be the only one from an attacking point of view. He talks about needing a striker in the short-term when it’s pretty clear to all and sundry the need goes further than that.

It’s one of Arsene’s peculiarities though. How long did we talk about our urgent need for a centre-half yet he did little about it (eventually re-signing Sol Campbell in a deal similar to Henry)? For how long did people talk about Arsenal’s need for a goalkeeper of better quality than Almunia or Fabianski? Obviously he knew of the potential of Szczesny, did he try and wait it out with the other two and hope for the best until the big Pole came of age? I’d love to think that was the plan but I’m sure serendipity and Arsene’s obstinance played a part too.

And I know this sounds like excuse making, and it’s not because I do think he should go out there and try and bolster the squad properly, but spending large does not = goals. One need only look at Liverpool and Chelsea and the cash they’ve spent on supposedly established, quality players to see that. However, I find it hard to imagine we can’t do cannier business than that with the money we’ve got at our disposal right now.

Anyway, I’m not going to get too hung up on transfer window madness. It will take its own course throughout January and it will be, like it or not, inescapable for all kinds of seasons. We’ll deal with it as and when it happens.

Rounding up some other stuff quicky – Arsene has denied any suggestion that he tried to sign Joey Barton. Twitter’s finest copier and paster said that he was about to sign for Arsenal before we played Newcastle earlier in the season, but his throttling of Gervinho – which got our man a three game ban – put paid to that. Arsene says, “I don’t know why he says that”. I do, it’s because he’s a cunt.

Meanwhile, the boss says he can’t say when Abou Diaby will be back because every time he puts a date on it there’s another little setback. I know I touched on this yesterday and on a human level what’s happened to Diaby and his career is very sad. I can understand fan frustration with him and his lack of availability but we ought not to forget that all of his problems stem from that horrible moment at Sunderland – ultimately one of our players has had his career ruined and there really should be more sympathy for him than there is.

It’s not his fault he’s injured all the time and if there must be anger – and it seems there must be in this day and age, for nothing can just be what it is without fingers being pointed and blame being apportioned – then direct it towards the manager who is simply refusing to give up on a player with real talent. All the same, we must be getting very close to the point where he has to say enough is enough from a footballing point of view. His duty of care to the club has to override that to an individual at some stage. Either way, whatever you think of Diaby as a player, it’s a crying shame an Arsenal player has essentially been kicked out of the game for as long as he has.

Right, that’s about that. If you can’t see the game later you can follow it on the live blog. Check back later on for the liveblog post or bookmark the default liveblog page. And as usual we’ve teamed up with Paddy Power to give you up to a £50 free bet – simply click here to register with Paddy Power.

Till then.