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domenica 28 ottobre 2012

Arsenal strike late to beat QPR and Wilshere returns after 17 months out

A late Mikel Arteta goal ended some determined resistance from Queens Park Rangers as Arsenal beat the Premier League's bottom club 1-0 at the Emirates Stadium. For all the drama that unfolded at the Emirates it was painfully obvious Arsenal are a team struggling for confidence and inspiration. Jack Wilshere’s return from injury can only turn out positive for the Gunners as they set to enter a crucial stage of their campaign. The loss to Norwich and their win against QPR has heated matters up at the Emirates as Arsène Wenger looks for a steady rhythm in performance.

A difficult week on and off the field for Arsène Wenger ended with some grudging cold comfort as Arsenal left it late to score a scrappy winner against a well-drilled and energetic Queen Park Rangers, Mikel Arteta prodding home from what looked, with the benefit of a replay, an offside position. In the process Wenger's team avoided a third scoring blank of the week, but still delivered a performance of notable entropy until a surge in the last 10m minutes, sparked by the sending off of Stéphane Mbia.

Arsenal are a club in search of an identity and never look like a team in charge of their own destiny. Following two defeats and an angry annual general meeting, manager Arsene Wenger was grateful enough of the win. But the failings manifested against Norwich and Schalke were evident: little intensity, a dearth of creativity and a lack of clear-cut chances. With a midfield trio of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Wilshere, this team form a much more serious proposition - if Wilshere can return to the form of 2010-11 - so this downturn in form is unlikely to be permanent.

Wenger gave Wilshere his first league start for 17 months and the England star’s touch and control were a breath of fresh air. Bacary Sagna was also back five months after his broken leg to give the Gunners a sense of purpose down the channels. Wilshere settled in straight away. After three minutes Lukas Podolski sent Arsenal’s No 10 on the overlap and he delivered a lethal cut-back but neither Olivier Giroud nor Santi Cazorla could get there.

Wilshere said he felt like he was returning to a new team, but it's one without the potency of the 2011 incarnation, and one where the burden of providing the flair is falling on the 20-year-old. "Last time I played it was with Fabregas and Nasri and now there's Arteta and (Santi) Cazorla so it's like a new team and a new me," Wilshere said. "It's been very tough for me, for any player who's been injured it's tough. ... You question yourself every day, 'Are you going to get back to that level?'"

There was a scare at the start of the second half when the midfielder went down after being fouled by Esteban Granero. But after going down with his left leg in pain, Wilshere was able to return to action and continue until Theo Walcott replaced him in the 67th. But the much-needed goal didn't look like coming. Per Mertesacker's header from Arteta's free kick had been pushed away by Cesar, and Cazorla squandered a fine opening in the 78th when he blasted the ball over when he was in space in the penalty area.

Arsenal’s next fixture positions them against Manchester United in an away game at Old Trafford, where both teams know the points will be hard earned. Arguably one of the most exciting English talents, Wilshere might be given a chance to impress in a fixture where expectations will be high. Judging by the Gunners position in the table and their recent win against QPR, this is a must win game. Knowing our usual play against Manchester United, tensions will be high, and stakes will be raised.

Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Andre Santos, Arteta, Wilshere (Walcott 67), Cazorla, Ramsey, Podolski (Gervinho 71), Giroud, Gervinho (Arshavin 81). Subs not used: Martinez, Koscielny, Coquelin, Jenkinson. Booked: Giroud.

Goals: Arteta 84.

QPR: Julio Cesar, Bosingwa, Mbia, Nelsen, Traore (Onuoha 73), Wright-Phillips (Mackie 79), Diakite, Granero, Hoilett,Taarabt, Zamora (Cisse 72). Subs not used: Green, Ferdinand, Ephraim, Faurlin. Sent off: Mbia (80). Booked: Granero,Taarabt.

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