Arsenal grind it out again

Posted by Andrew Mangan

Arsenal moved into third place in the Premier League with a 1-0 win over QPR at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Theo Walcott's goal after 20 seconds -- Arsenal's fastest ever in the Premier League -- looked like it was going to set the tone against a team already relegated and short on confidence, but instead what the Gunners fans got was that early jubilation followed by 89 minutes of frustration, tedium and ever-increasing nerves.

A 1-0 scoreline, while good enough to take three points, provides no kind of comfort during the game. One moment, be it something magical from an opponent or something stupid from a defender, is all it takes to drop two of those points, and that was the tightrope Arsenal walked again.

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Although Walcott hit the post in the first half, the Gunners lacked efficiency and, more importantly, imagination in the final third. There was lots of passing, as always, but in the absence of a real striker, they lacked a focal point as well as somebody to create the openings. There were moments of nice interplay, but it has to be so precise for it to work that when it doesn't, it makes them look very ordinary.

And, maybe, that's the truth of it. While results have been good, they've been borne out of hard work and endeavour rather than anything particularly inspiring. If Santi Cazorla doesn't do it, Arsenal lack the player, or players, who can do something a bit special to turn a game like this.

You can't criticise the players' effort, even if it would be nice to see them shoot more often rather than find the precision pass, but the scintillating football that Arsene Wenger's best teams were renowned for is long gone.

There's no doubt nervousness is playing a part. Each game brings huge pressure, and Spurs' win earlier in the day added to that. Even beforehand Wenger's team knew there was no margin for error, and perhaps that's inhibiting them somewhat, but in the end, it comes down to the fact that Arsenal's squad is one that really needs the addition of some serious quality.

But that's something that has to wait until the summer. In the meantime, they have to keep doing what they're doing and grinding out results. Another clean sheet adds to an impressive recent record, but had Park Ji-Sung not skied a good chance in the first half and Wojciech Szczesny not impressed in the second, things might have been very different.

The Pole made an outstanding late save to deny Loic Remy an equaliser, the same player from whom he clawed away a dangerous corner not long beforehand. Although Walcott took the man of the match award on TV, it was the goalkeeper who deserved it.

In the end, the record books will show Arsenal won the game and took the points, but it does feel a bit like they're living dangerously. Unless they improve their performances, it'll catch up with them before the end of the season.

They have 10 days until their next game, due to Wigan's involvement in the FA Cup final next weekend. Weary legs can be rested, batteries recharged, so there's no excuse for them not to come out flying when they do play again. Until then, they have to hope Spurs and Chelsea drop points, because even if they do keep winning, it might not be enough.

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