Queens Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes had hoped Jack Wilshere would be saved for Arsenal’s trip to Manchester United next weekend, but the England international made his return from 14 months sidelined with ankle and knee injuries on Saturday. Wilshere made it through unscathed and was Arsenal’s chief architect in a midfield otherwise bereft of creativity against the Hoops. The 21-year-old completed 94 per cent of his 47 attempted passes – 21 of which were in the attacking third – and created a chance for André Santos in the first half. The England midfielder received a nasty stamp on his right foot from a late Esteban Granero challenge which left Wilshere clutching his ankle before rising to his feet again to the audible relief of The Emirates. A burst from midfield drew a foul from Granero and Samba Diakite on the edge of the area which provided Santi Cazorla with a chance to test Júlio César, before Arsène Wenger withdrew Wilshere in the 66th minute, with one eye on next weekend’s test at Old Trafford.
Hughes’ men had conceded 16 goals in the Premier League this season ahead of their trip across London, including a 5-0 defeat by Swansea City on the opening day. The Welshman has regularly pointed to QPR’s injury problems, particularly among their defenders, as a reason for the disappointing results this term. For the first time this season, Hughes picked the same back four in successive games – Armand Traore, Ryan Nelsen, Stéphane Mbia and José Bosingwa – and they looked comfortable against a Gunners side which appeared devoid of ideas. Nelsen, who was skippering the side in the absence of Park Ji-Sung, was particularly impressive, with the New Zealand international showing an exceptional reading of the game to make three timely interceptions and four clearances to keep the encounter goalless until Arteta’s 84th-minute winner. Indeed, as has often been the case throughout Hughes’ 10-month reign at Loftus Road, a moment of madness cost QPR. Dispossessed by a firm tackle from Thomas Vermaelen, Mbia swung out a right foot in retaliation which was spotted by the linesman and the Cameroon defender was issued with his marching orders. It prompted an Arsenal onslaught and Arteta netted the winner after a goalmouth scramble. It was QPR’s ninth red card in 2012, equalling the record for the most dismissals in a calendar year.
Former Fulham striker Bobby Zamora has been a mainstay of QPR’s first-team this season, with the two-time England international managing to find the net three times. However, the 31-year-old is without a goal in his last three Premier League outings and he offered very little against Arsenal. Former Liverpool striker Djibril Cissé has been used as an impact substitute despite his impressive return of six goals in eight games last season. When asked about Cissé’s future at the club, Hughes said: “We know exactly what Djibril gives us. He’s an outstanding finisher. As a team, we’re strong and compact and we have enough quality about us to be able to release Djibril at the right time to show what he can do”. With Zamora toiling, Hughes threw on Cissé with 19 minutes remaining, and the visitors looked more dangerous, with the Frenchman’s pace causing Arsenal’s defence problems. When the Hoops were struggling last term, Cissé scored crucial goals to breathe life into their bid to avoid relegation and it is time Hughes placed his faith in the flamboyant striker to get QPR out of their current predicament.
If Arsène Wenger hoped for an emphatic and rousing response after Arsenal’s 2-0 defeat by Schalke in midweek, the Gunners boss will have been left disappointed by a muted display from his struggling side. Santos had the best opportunity of a quiet first half when the Brazilian defender cut in off the left wing and into César’s area but failed to test his compatriot. There was a Champions League hangover enveloped around The Emirates, and for a few brief moments, the home side appeared headed for a third successive defeat when Granero’s floated pass was collected by Junior Hoilett who chipped Vito Mannone, before the goal was ruled out for offside. When Arsenal’s usually dependable playmaker Santi Cazorla fired over the crossbar with just the QPR keeper to beat, the signs pointed to a disappointing stalemate, but Mbia’s sending off injected renewed belief into Wenger’s men. César pulled off one world-class save to prevent a Nedum Onouha own goal but the former Internazionale man was helpless to deny Arteta after initially parrying Olivier Giroud’s header. Despite going on to claim maximum points, Granero and Jamie Mackie spurned late chances to snatch an unlikely draw late on.
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