An early Theo Walcott strike was enough to secure three points for Arsenal against QPR as the Gunners ended a 22-year run without a league win at Loftus Road and kept up the pressure on top four rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.
Knowing only three points would suffice Arsene Wenger’s side couldn’t have had a better start. Last Sunday it took Theo Walcott only three minutes to break the deadlock against Manchester United, today he needed only 20 seconds.
The build-up, coming straight from kick-off, was typically Arsenal. On the edge of a crowded penalty box Aaron Ramsey cushioned a header from a lofted Rosicky pass back to Mikel Arteta who took one touch before sliding Walcott in behind a static QPR defence. With plenty of time to pick his spot the winger drove a low effort under Rob Green who could only deflect the ball high into the net. It was Walcott’s 20th goal of the season and Arsenal’s fastest ever in the Premier League era. 1-0.
On the touchline Harry Redknapp went mad. Although you know what he’s like, he was probably laughing inside…he likes to chuckle does ‘Arry.
After that not much happened. Having been relegated last week the home side showed little urgency in the centre of the park allowing us to keep possession of the ball and pretty much run proceedings. We always looked like we might score without actually knocking on the door very loudly.
That was until the 25th minute when Walcott, who looked a threat throughout the first period, nearly doubled the lead. Spinning on a sixpence having collected a delicate pass by Rosicky the England man’s low shot came close to creeping inside the near post only for Green to dive to his left and push it into the post.
The miss spurred QPR out of their stupor with Ji-Sung Park having a couple of efforts and Andros Townsend, on loan from Spurs, curling a free-kick pas the post. In truth, the half-time whistle came as something of a relief given the complacency which seemed to be creeping into Arsenal’s performance.
The second period started much as the first half ended, with the Gunners under the cosh. Szczesny had to grapple a cross off Remy’s head before patting clear a fierce swerving drive from Townsend. The latter was a constant thorn in the side of Nacho Monreal who received a yellow card for pulling the winger down close to the edge of the box just on the hour mark. In between Rosicky had twice came close to setting up Walcott but for all the Czech’s energy his final ball was lacking.
A decent ten minute spell followed for the Gunners during which Green was forced into a trio of saves. First he denied Koscielny, who had unusually combined with Sagna on the left before curling at goal, then he beat away a Cazorla long-range effort before the ex-England number one fingered another Walcott shot around the post for a corner.
Arsenal continued to turn the screw in the last 15 minutes with Clint Hill forced to clear from under his cross bar following a cross flashed across the box by Podolski and Walcott drawing yet another save from Green after a run and powerful strike.
Without a vital second goal Arsenal continued to teeter on the edge of self-destruction. Indeed, were it not for a fine save by an outstretched left hand of Szczesny QPR would have equalised with six minutes remaining through Remy’s bent effort from outside the box.
Podolski was replaced by Chamberlain, then Cazorla went off for Wilshere as we clung on for the three points in a fashion akin to the nervous victory at Craven Cottage a couple of weeks ago. The performance was not great, but we had to win and we did…just.
The pursuit of a place in the top four hinges solely on results and with two games remaining we’re still very much in with a chance of securing Champions League football.