Wilshere gives Arsenal sense of optimism


Arsenal 1 QPR 0:THESE ARE strange times at Arsenal, a club apparently embroiled in as close to an ideological debate as Premier League football is likely to get. Last week a familiarly fraught club AGM again raised that apparently irresolvable question: is this currently a successful club or not? The debate in its simplified form comes down to pots or profit: 15 years in the Champions League versus seven years without actually being champions of anything at all.

With this in mind it seemed fitting that a 1-0 home defeat of Queens Park Rangers, courtesy of Mikel Arteta’s scrambled 84th-minute goal, should leave Arsene Wenger’s team briefly in fourth place in the league.

This was a vital three points at the end a trying week for the home team, just as it was a horribly frustrating afternoon for Mark Hughes, whose Rangers team held their own until Stephane Mbia’s senseless sending-off after 79 minutes and who remains convinced Arteta was offside at least once in the move that brought the game’s only goal. If there was further encouragement to be drawn both on and off the field for Arsenal it came, naturally enough, in the form of Jack Wilshere who was a joy to watch at times. His best moments in the first half were the way he manipulated the ball and made simple passing look simple.

“It was amazing to be back – words cannot describe it. I was running around smiling,” Wilshere said. “The last time I played it was with [Cesc] Fabregas, [Samir] Nasri and now there is Arteta and [Santi] Cazorla, so it’s like playing in a new team.”

On the evidence of the second half Wilshere’s return may also be good news for some of those around him. With Cazorla again very tightly marked, Wilshere’s thrust in the second half, when he played in a more advanced position, provided another kind of threat, forcing some desperate interventions as Rangers defended deep. The Spaniard’s creative burden will be further lessened by the imminent return of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

For Rangers there was little more than the consolation of a committed and well-drilled performance, undermined by Mbia’s red card, to add to the nine red cards received last season. “We do not have a discipline problem. We are not an aggressive team,” Hughes said, and in fact Rangers controlled the midfield at times and had as many chances as Arsenal in the second half.

This is an expensively acquired bottom-placed team with some outstanding players: Esteban Granero, Armand Traore, Julio Cesar and Adel Taarabt all might have improved the opposition XI on the day. Hughes has had plenty of support during a spell of almost six months without a league win. The next three matches – against Reading and Southampton at home and Stoke away – look pivotal.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.