QPR 0-1 Arsenal: The Szczęsny Redemption

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This blogging lark is a piece of the proverbial once you’ve been doing it for a while. See, if we’d dropped points against Rangers I’d have fallen back on my regular assertion that we’re a team which abrogates responsibility, afraid of taking shots or trying truly risky passes, and that’s why we struggle against teams we should swat aside.

But we didn’t drop any points this time. Thanks to an early Walcott scuffer and a late Szczesny wondersave, we emerged, blinking into Sunday, with another win. So instead I’ll dust off last season’s climactic narrative, and say that if we are going to win the race for fourth, then it will only be by collapsing over the line, coughing up blood and prayers as we do so. Yay football!

Watching the ‘highlights’ back, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this was another largely awful game. Having seen Theo score in record-breaking time, you might have expected Arsenal to go on and knock two or three past an already relegated QPR side stuffed full of overpaid and undercommitted. You might also be an idiot who has never seen this era Arsenal play before.

As long as the game remained at 1-0, there was always a chance Arsenal were going to Arsenal it up. I’ve been saying for what seems like forever now that Arsenal has a unique way of emboldening much less talented teams. Of giving them a sniff. So that what ought to be a comparatively stress-free stroll in the spring sunshine becomes another terrifying bowel loosener.

Let the record also state, though, that earlier in the day Spurs struggled with what theoretically should’ve been a simple enough win. The mantra goes that at this stage of the season performances don’t matter, only points do. I guess that’s true, but it ain’t easy to watch. 

During the game Dave from the podcast made the point that although this run-in is horrendously stressful, having something concrete to play for, and against local rivals, has reinvigorated his enthusiasm. In the pub after the final whistle we both agreed that the likely absence of any sort of outgoing transfer saga ought to make for a comparatively positive summer, in the sense of finally starting to add rather than replace.

Which isn’t to say no-one will leave – I’d still bank on Vermaelen and Sagna heading for the hills – but there’s no-one in the squad whose loss would cause the same kind of communal wailing as the last couple of season’s high profile exits have.

That’s the good news. The bad news, I guess, is that whatever we do it’s going to be *incredibly* hard not to just to close the gap on United, but to compete with the kind of cash they’re threatening to throw about. And that’s without factoring in what the oil-powered outfits do.

Still, so long as we make progress in terms of genuinely improving the squad and putting some distance between us and Spurs, that’ll do for me. All I’ve ever insisted on is being better than we were last time around. Really go for the domestic cups and see what happens. Like it or not that’s where we live now.

There’s a fourth place trophy to snag first though, and on the basis of the last two games I’m not sure anyone can be convinced playing Podolski through the centre is the way to do it. Either Walcott or Gervinho will probably be given a chance there now against a Wigan side which looks ominously free-scoring (but also enticingly leaky). Hopefully playing a cup final three days beforehand, win or lose, will suck the life out of their legs.

Final word on yesterday goes to the keeper. He’s handled being dropped manfully, and that save yesterday was as good as anything we’ve seen from an Arsenal goalie this season. My gripe with Szczęsny has been that he hasn’t been done enough to earn points for the team, but yesterday’s save deserved as much credit for the win as Walcott’s goal. More of the same please. Except for the stress. Less of that.

There you go then. Blogging: like stealing pennies from a dead man’s eyes.

– TDC

PS Let me know if you’d take Remy for £6m in the comments.

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