Not for the first time of late we started slowly at Loftus Road but as the half progressed we came more and more into it, shading the possession and attempts stats, if not the all important goals scored one. The second-half appeared a different story as we made our class pay, but there was yet to be a sting in the tail.
The Gunners made two changes, with Per Mertesacker replacing Laurent Koscielny, and Tomas Rosicky getting the start his recent performances have warranted ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The home side made their intentions clear early on, taking the match to the visitors by any means possible. Henry, Sandro, and Zamora provided the muscle. You have to expect that when playing a side fighting for their Premiership life and hope that the referee clamps down on it. Kevin Friend didn’t. It was up to us to dig in and adapt, and by midway through the half we had.
It was Austin’s effort, saved by David Ospina, that triggered a response. At the other end Green made the first of a number of saves to deny Olivier Giroud, although to be fair this was straightforward. Gabriel and Giroud went close again as we eased into second gear, but the Brazilian was injured in the Hoops next attack and was replaced by Koscielny. Let’s hope it isn’t a bad one because again he looked a quality player.
A hectic end to the half saw Austin drive one inches wide but at the other end Green was at his best to deny Santi Cazorla. The little Spaniard and the increasingly influential Mesut Ozil also had efforts blocked.
Whatever was said in the visitors dressing room at half-time most definitely had the desired effect. We simply overwhelmed Rangers with Hector Bellerin and Rosicky energetically attacking down the right, the wonderful pairing of Cazorla and Ozil centrally, and Keiran Gibbs and Alexis on the left flank.
Within ninety seconds of the restart Ozil had just failed to turn in a Rosicky cross and Alexis brought another save out of Green. The Chilean was then set up by Ozil but put his effort just wide. Rangers attempt to stem the tide was a strange one, sending on Kranjcar for his fellow ex-Spur Sandro. It solved little for them. Indeed it was the substitute who lost the ball in the attacking third when Arsenal broke with pace and purpose for the opener, Gibbs being denied at the near post but Giroud bagging his fifth goal in five games from the second phase.
Twice more Alexis was denied by Green as the floodgates threatened to open, but eventually the little dynamo got his reward with a breathtaking finish at the near post from an oblique angle. With fifteen minutes remaining Ozil looked set to add to our tally, but a combination of Green and the goalpost denied him the goal his performance deserved.
It was one-way traffic, but Arsenal being Arsenal we managed to make it a nail-biter. Phillips cross found Austin and the in-form striker buried the chance with eight minutes remaining. All of a sudden the match was on a knife-edge. Rangers poured forward, as they had at the start of the match, but found a resolute back four and the masked Francis Coquelin equal to anything they could conjure up.
It was more nervous than it should have been, but we had in the end ground out a very important three points with the results elsewhere not going our way.
Oh, and the ‘holic pound was secured for the second consecutive fixture. Happy days!
Titi Tee Competition
Don’t forget our friends at Art of Football have offered one lucky reader the chance to win a teeshirt featuring Thierry Henry’s classic strike against United in October 2000. In addition we also have a 10% discount code on any design from them, just enter WENGER when prompted on the order screen.
Just look back at last night’s preview post to see how to enter the competition for a fabulous prize.