QPR preview: Wenger calls for focus

Morning all,

back into the mix we go again with a short trip to Loftus Road to face QPR. In terms of the team news the only addition to the squad from last weekend’s game against Villa is Laurent Koscielny, which is good news.

Other than that everyone’s fit and as such I’d expect the same starting XI but with Koscielny replacing Djourou in the centre of defence. Arsene Wenger has reminded his squad that there’s still plenty of football left to play this season. When asked if Arsenal’s run of form might even see them overtake City in 2nd, the boss said:

We can be third, we can be fourth, we can be fifth or six, it 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.

Exactly the way it should be. Team selections are not influenced by having to keep players fresh for midweek adventures, it means he can pick his best XI, or close to it, for every remaining league game this season, but there’s still Chelsea and Man City to play, so ensuring we take the points against teams like QPR is crucial.

And they won’t be a pushover in any way, shape or form. There’s a reason they’re where they are in the table, but as they showed against Liverpool last week they’re capable of springing a surprise on a team which slacks off and thinks they’ve got the game won. In times past Arsenal have been guilty of approaching games like this with a touch of complacency and against a team managed by Mark Hughes and desperate for points to avoid relegation we can’t go out with anything other than the first class attitude we’ve shown in recent weeks.

If we do that, and if we continue to work hard for each other as a team, then this is a game we should take three points from. The goals are coming from other sources than Robin van Persie, something the manager puts down to confidence, and despite the fact he hasn’t scored in 2 games (useless bastard, get rid), we’ve scored 4 and kept two clean sheets in a row. We’ve yet to keep three consecutively this season, today would be a good day to start.

There are no easy games in this league, but we look a well focused, well organised team at the moment, and as long as we keep playing the way we have then I’m confident about today.

In other news, Arsene Wenger has been handed a 3 match ban and £40,000 fine by UEFA for daring to speak to a referee after the Milan game. I know the boss can be a prickly character at times but this seems like something of a witch hunt now. That’ll mean over the last 12 months he’ll have been banned for a total of 5 games and fined an absurd amount of money when you take into consideration the punishments handed out to clubs for racist chanting and worse. Arsene says:

It is not justified and I will appeal straight away. 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.

Fight the power! Wenger complained about referees in European competitions being untouchable now and the point is a good one. Even last year when they banned him in the first place and he sat in the stand, the reason he was banned for the 2nd game was because UEFA’s match delegate that day was inexperienced and ill-informed. The manager did exactly what was asked of him, yet they still found a way to punish him further.

While the authority of the officials has to be respected, you cannot have a situation whereby they become sacrosanct. As much as anyone else involved in the game their performances have to be scrutinised and they must be accountable. To me this looks like they’re using Wenger to drive home a point to other managers – ‘Keep your mouth shut, accept everything, do not dare to question’ – and that’s dangerous for football, in my opinion.

So if Arsene feels a little hard done by then I can understand why. Let’s hope the appeal is successful because three games is a lot to miss for very little.

And that’s almost that. If you can’t see the game later, for whatever reason, or if you’re out and about doing you Saturday stuff, you can keep up with the game on the live blog, which gives you full up the second live commentary of the game. It works on pretty much anything you can get the Internet on (except the Amstrad emailer … haha), so check back later for a post with all the info or bookmark the default live blog page.

Betting today via Paddy Power – click here to register and get up to £50 in a free bet.

After the news yesterday regarding Stilian Petrov – and obviously everybody wishes him the very best as he fights this illness – it’s an untimely reminder of how cruel life can be. This day 11 years ago we lost one of our own, David Rocastle.

Gone but never forgotten.

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