Arsenal 1 (van Persie 60) – 0 QPR
Man of the Match – Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
Phew!! Just my second match report, and it speaks of 3 points on the board and a 4th place end to the year. Yes, there’s still half the season left, plenty of games to fight it out for, but for now I am just satisfied with 3 points.
Much of the pre-match talk was about two men. Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie. The former, because, he has just signed a short two months contract at the club where he became a legend, and the latter, because he was just two goals shy of equalling the all-time record for highest league goals in a year, held by Alan Shearer.
The last game of the year saw Andriy Arshavin being chosen ahead of Gervinho and Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey returning to the starting line-up. After dropping 2 points against Wolves, Arsenal needed a win to keep pressure on Chelsea, Tottenham as well as Liverpool, who had leapfrogged the Gunners into 5th with a 3-1 win over Newcastle on Friday.
Arsenal had a lazy start though, and Shaun Wright-Phillips could have scored the opening goal, only for Szczesny to make himself big and block the shot. But soon, Arsenal got rolling and van Persie seemed the man most likely to hand them the advantage.
A long Vermaelen ball was lobbed over the post by the Dutchman after he had turned past two men to shoot right at Cerny from a tight angle. His header went wide off a Ramsey cross. Andriy Arshavin, who had been criticized heavily for his recent performances put up a good display as he managed to squirm out of tricky situations, more often than not throughout the game.
Aaron Ramsey seemed to have scored with a brilliant volley, only for Joey Barton to head it off the goal line. The first half got more frustrating as two penalty appeals were turned down, after both Luke Young and Joey Barton seemed to have handled the ball.
Thomas Vermaelen was at the receiving end of a recognition error, as he was booked for a foul committed by Laurent Koscielny.Theo Walcott was quite disappointing, and missed a glorious chance in the second half after being put through by Ramsey, with time and space on his side. He shot wide with only the goalie to beat.
However, it didn’t matter as minutes later, Arsenal took the lead. Shaun Wright-Phillips sloppily gave the ball away to Andriy Arshavin. The diminutive Russian sent a perfectly waited pass to Robin van Persie, who gleefully netted his 35th goal of the year, and broke Thierry Henry’s club record of 34, with the Frenchman applauding from the stands.
QPR immediately responded with pressure of their own, as the Moroccan midfielder Adel Taraabt forcing a save off Szczesny. Arsenal’s rearguard were firm as they seemed comfortable enough against their inconsistent London neighbours.
van Persie was brilliant overall, as he created few more opportunities through the game. Gervinho should have doubled the lead, but the Ivorian missed narrowly. Tomas Rosicky too was brilliantly denied, thanks to some brave blocking.
But, all well’s that ends well. Arsenal collected the 3 points, they so needed today. A concern, however, was the injury to Thomas Vermaelen, who according to reports will be out for 2 weeks, owing to a strain.
Arsenal end an eventful year in 4th spot, after being touted as candidates for relegation at the start of the season. Manchester United lost the early kickoff to bottom-of-the-heap Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea also lost at home to Aston Villa. Tottenham slipped up in Wales, against Swansea; which means the Gunners are hot on their heals. With Thierry Henry set to make his return to North London, things can only seem upward.
Szczesny (8.5)- Made a few vital saves throughout the game, without which the story would have been different.
Mertesacker (8) – Another flawless performance from the lanky German.
Koscielny (8) – Impressive again. Held his own against the witty Bothroyd.
Vermaelen (7) – Being played out of position. He is a giant at centre-back. Not so much at left-back.
Djourou (7) – Got a silly yellow card. Another player being played out of position.
Arteta (7.5) – Was a major figure in the centre of midfield today.
Ramsey (7.5) – Good performance from the Welshman, Can do away with his backheels though.
Song (7.5) – Didn’t get a yellow. That’s improvement.
Walcott (7) – If you want to play as a centre-forward, you can’t miss that kind of an opportunity to impress the boss, Theo.
Arshavin (7.5) – Seems to be coming back to his best.
van Persie (9) – Matchwinner. Need I say more?
Coquelin (7.5) – Deputized well at left-back, despite being a right-footed central defensive midfielder.
Rosicky (7) – Has the potential to be an impact sub. Almost scored a second.
Gervinho (7) – Clearly needs to finish better. Even Harry Redknapp’s missus would have scored off that van Persie pass.
Overall Team Rating – 7.57