QPR 1 Arsenal 2: This was, in many ways, the classic Arsenal performance.
In the first-half they were barely at the races, non-existent as an attacking force and fortunate to be level. They even picked up the now obligatory hamstring injury, on this occasion to new centre-back Gabriel.
Then they just moved through the gears, putting QPR to the sword with consummate ease before easing off with the game not quite won and inviting a late siege.
The visiting fans sang ‘We are the Arsenal, we do what we want’, and in truth this is what they do almost every time.
Arsenal know how to beat the teams they should beat; they have not lost against anyone below ninth this season. The problem is they struggle against the teams around and above them.
It is a quality which would in many teams be labelled a pre-requisite for a title challenge.
For Arsenal it is enough to see them see off all comers when it comes to a top four spot, and with the challenge for that particular honour likely to be tighter than ever results like this will be vital.
It must also be said there were moments when they genuinely excelled. Some of the football from Alexis Sanchez and — in particular — Mesut Ozil – was a delight. One second-half Cruyff turn from Ozil sent most of the stadium the wrong way, although Robert Green was alert enough to tip his effort onto the post.
But this is a curate’s egg of a team that delivered another curate’s egg of a performance.
Still, it was very much job done and Arsenal can now reflect on a run of 10 wins in 11 Premier League and FA Cup games. The problem is that the solitary blip in that run was the North London derby, and last week’s 3-1 home defeat to Monaco in the Champions League still hangs over them like a cloud. Fourth place will not make up for passing up that opportunity.
As for QPR, they will again wonder what might have been if they had taken first-half opportunities.
Charlie Austin brought them back into the game with a marvellously well taken drive but they have still not won at home since December 20. Considering how tough their remaining games are, Chris Ramsey has a huge job on his hands to stave off relegation.
That they were unable to live with Arsenal during a 20-minute spell during the second-half is understandable, but hard-luck stories will not wash.
They certainly had their moments, though. Austin and Bobby Zamora caused Gabriel and Per Mertesacker no end of problems, Austin twice forcing David Ospina into rather awkward saves from distance.
Arsenal offered little, but they sprang into life in the second period.
They should have had a penalty when Ozil was hauled back by Karl Henry when he was on the verge of converting Tomas Rosicky’s low cross. Referee Kevin Friend gave nothing.
No matter, as Arsenal took the lead shortly afterwards. The goal, when it came, was scrappy. The move began on the edge of Arsenal’s own penalty area as Santi Cazorla stole the ball from Niko Kranjcar before shipping it on to Francis Coquelin.
He in turn slipped it to Ozil, who played in Sanchez. The Chilean took his time before picking out Kieran Gibbs, whose low cross was turned past Rob Green by Giroud.
Emboldened by the goal Arsenal surged forward, Green excellently denying Sanchez’s drive before the former Barcelona man dallied over a one-on-one and somehow allowed the goalkeeper to save as he attempted to pass to Ozil rather than going for goal himself.
It seemed indicative of a man low on confidence after going seven games without a goal but he disproved that theory with some ease, cutting inside Darnell Furlong and finding the bottom corner of Green’s goal.
The goalkeeper was beaten far too easily, but Sanchez’s relief was clear to see.
All so simple, but then Arsenal relaxed and Austin lashed home from outside the area.
It was QPR’s last chance, despite considerable pressure.
It was all just very, very Arsenal.
QPR: Green, Furlong, Caulker, Onuhoa 7 (Hill, 45), Suk-young, Phillips, Sandro 6 (Kranjcar, 57), Henry, Hoilett 6 (Isla, 73), Austin, Zamora.
ARSENAL: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel 6 (Koscielny, 37), Gibbs, Coquelin, Cazorla, Rosicky 7 (Ramsey, 87), Ozil 8 (Welbeck, 90), Alexis, Giroud.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
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