Queens Park Rangers have always been one of those clubs I have found it difficult to dislike. Bowles had charisma and buckets of flair. They used to be sponsored by Guinness. I even had a soft spot for Paul Parker at one point – I was young. All that goodwill (or on the worst days, ambivalence) has been eroded recently, however. First their new owner throws his cash around in a most vulgar manner, and then he hires Mark Hughes.
You’d have to go a long way to find any Gooner with a nice thing to say about Sparky. ‘Gobshite’ would probably be one of the nicer descriptions. And although our recent form has been very good (to say the least), and he’s been talking us up in the run lead up to this game, you can be morally certain he’s looking forward to this game, because there’s nothing he likes more than trying to get under our skin.
His chances of bringing our winning streak to a halt will be hampered by the fact that Cissé is an idiot and is banned, and also by injuries to players like Helguson – who has outscored Zamora so far this season – and Campbell. Their recent form hasn’t been great, as you’d expect from a side in the relegation zone: they have one win and one draw in their last six games. But those points were picked up at home against Everton and Liverpool, and they’re making much of the latter in their build-up. I daresay Barton will start, however, as Hughes will send him out as agent provocateur (which is french for ‘irritating tosser’) in midfield, and I expect Mackie is champing at the bit to make an impact again.
It seems likely that Koscielny will start, though I would recommend that he sleeps in a cottonwool-lined sleeping bag wrapped in duct tape tonight, to ensure no twisting of the knees can occur. The rest of the team (almost) picks itself at the moment: Chesney, Sagna, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Arteta, Song, Rosicky, Walcott and RVP. The only question should be: who do you pick from Gervinho, Ramsey and the Ox? For me it has to be either Gervinho or the Ox – both offer more width than Ramsey, and although Gervinho is less of an attacking threat at the moment his overall team play and defensive work against Villa last week should earn him the start. Not that I have anything against the other two, far from it.
I’m not going for a scoreline prediction for two prinicipal reasons: 1) I’m always wrong, and 2) I’m not particularly bothered about the scoreline, as long as we win. It’s all about points at the moment, so if we scrape by with another last minute winner from – well, from anyone – I’ll be happy. Mind you, my ulcer won’t be.
Mikel Arteta has made an interesting observation in an interview with Sport magazine which I came across courtesy of Arseblog News (where would we be without it?). He’s reiterated his feeling that our best form would follow once we got over key injuries, and he clearly feels that this issue is of greater importance than the acquisition of new players.
Now, I’m not one to subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I can’t help wondering if this isn’t linked to Arsene’s recent repetition of the ‘Quality not Quantity’, ‘We will spend if we think it’s right’ and ‘Where would we be if everyone had been fit’ mantras. Are we being given a clear message, albeit in an obscure, murky, indirect, vaguely suggestive sort of way?
At the beginning of last summer we were told that there would be some players coming in and more leaving. At the moment the situation is quite different in the sense that there a some players out on loan who clearly do not have a role to play in our future, but are too expensive for other clubs to buy. At the moment we are faced with the need to persuade our best player to stay, as opposed to last year soul-destroying struggle to fight off the repeated attempts of a bunch of shabby Iberian motherfuckers to shame us into flogging our best player at a ridiculously low price. Then there were others who wanted out for oil money, whereas at the t moment the squad seems relatively settled.
Thus, I think it is highly unlikely that there will be several summer signings. Podolski, it seems clear, is on his way. Perhaps another defender might be added, but I would enormously surprised if we acquired more than two senior players who could step right into contention for a first team place. It seems to me that the noises coming from Arsene and now Arteta reflect this likelihood, and we are being gently prepared accordingly.
In the meantime, let’s hope for a jolly serving of Hoops on toast tomorrow. (Sorry, I couldn’t help using it again). And if Joey sees red again, well that would be just fine.