QPR preview: Wilshere to start?


Morning all, it’s cold. This is not good.

But we have bigger fish to fry today and they come in blue and white hoops and they’re managed by a man who looks like a Punch and Judy doll who has been injected with a serum made from the jism of the world’s most evil men.

From our point view there’s little concrete in the way of team news. Kieran Gibbs isn’t fit so, unless the manager brings in Koscielny and puts Vermaelen at left back (or deploys his Coq there instead), Andre Santos could continue despite his rather traumatic performance against Schalke.

Bacary Sagna is very much in contention for a start and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he came back into the side today. It’s not a reflection in any way on the performances of Carl Jenkinson – in fact he’s been one of our most consistent players – but the youngster has played every game so far this season and may be feeling the effects.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is rated 60-40 to play, with the manager saying:

Of course it is a boost. It will be vital as [on Wednesday] some players finished very tired.

And then, of course, there’s Jack Wilshere. His name is down for a start in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday, no doubt about it, but it’s whether or not the manager is willing to take a chance with him a little earlier than planned. Under normal circumstances I don’t think he’d consider it but after two dismal games it’s got to be a temptation. Arsene says:

What I am considering is that he wants to play, it is an important game, but we want the players to be ready physically and he has not played for 14 months.

Physically Jack is at 80 to 85 per cent. What you have to consider first is that he has no setback and that you don’t put players in situations, when they are tired and don’t have coordination, that they pick up an injury.

After if you look at a more selfish view you can say a guy can play an hour. But during this hour it is important that he is fit enough to play. It is true [that you only get to 100 per cent by playing] but at the right time.

On the one hand, after so long out and being so cautious it would be wrong to bring him back when he’s so close to being 100% ready. On the other there’s the need for improvement, the need for three points, and the need to inject something into a group of players that look a bit jaded and out of ideas. There’s no doubt in my mind Jack would do that, players and fans would get a boost, but is it worth the risk having waited so long?

I think he’ll probably err on the side of caution, but I don’t think today is a day when he’ll consider the game too much to throw Jack into, especially if we’re struggling like we did in the last two. He clearly wants to play, he must be absolutely itching to get there out now, and today will be the day he steps out onto that turf, one way or another.

Obviously we need to pick ourselves up and react to the Norwich and Schalke games, but if there’s any kind of silver lining it’s that both defeats weren’t in the same competition. Annoying as Wednesday was we’re still in a good position in our Champions League group with winnable games ahead of us.

It’s bread and butter stuff today though, we know there’s a 10 point gap between us and the leaders but let’s take small steps to put things right. Obviously we don’t want that gap to increase but of our eight league games so far this season we’ve only won three and that’s a record that we can improve on first and foremost.

Defensively we have to shape up – if the team is struggling to click from an attacking point of view then defensive errors and slip-ups aren’t just costly, they’re fatal. It’d be good to see more leadership at the back, especially from the captain. Per Mertesacker did his best on Wednesday, producing a series of blocks and interceptions that snuffed out danger, but Vermaelen, like he has been for most of this season I have to say, was slightly off the pace and far less intense than he used to be.

Above all else the players need to trust each other again, find the spark that brought about some of the more positive performances this season, and ensure that a team that has yet to win a game this season doesn’t put an end to that record against us. We have the talent and the ability to compete with the best teams, the performance against Man City shows that, but with confidence low and hard to regain as quickly as we’d like, it might take a real scrap today.

And if that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. Sometimes it’s not pretty, fancy, free-flowing and all that. Sometimes you need to just grind out a result and I suspect that’s what it’s going to take today. We might laugh at talk of mental strength, spirit, character and oft missing sharpness, but we’re going to need all of those things today if we want to win this game.

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And that’s yer lot. Hoping for improvement today, not sure how much we’ll need but once it’s enough that’ll do.

Come on Arsenal.