Queens Park Rangers: 5 Areas Mark Hughes Must Exploit to Beat Arsenal
The good news is that Norwich have proven that it is possible for a struggling side to beat the North London team. The bad news is that the Gunners will be licking their wounds and ready to come back even stronger against QPR. And it's at the Emirates.
Mark Hughes will have watched the Norwich game with interest, noting down the weaker areas of Arsenal's play. He will need to bring his A-game to North London on Saturday, and the players must follow suit.
Here are five areas that the Welshman must exploit if Rangers are to have any chance of beating Arsenal in their own back yard.
Give the Ball to Giroud
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Perhaps a little harsh, but Olivier Giroud is not on song at the moment. And Lukas Podolski, is.
With 22 shots and only one goal so far in the Premier League, Giroud's impact has been less than impressive.
If there was a choice between which striker Hughes would prefer to be bearing down on Julio Cesar, it will undoubtedly be the Frenchman that wins out.
The defenders need to ensure Podolski is not left wide open, and if that means standing off Giroud slightly, then so be it. Hughes will just be hoping that Saturday isn't the day that Olivier gets his firepower back.
Play Down the Wings
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Arsenal's defense has substantially improved this season, but there is still a frailty.
Full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Andre Santos will be the easiest (if "easy" is the adjective to use) defenders to exploit on Saturday. The former, although making a marked improvement since the start of the season, is still fresh into regular first-team football and could well be the weak link.
As noted in the FourFourTwo Stats App, Jenkinson only made one interception and one successful tackle when Arsenal faced Sunderland on the first day of the season. From his beginnings as Bambi on ice, Jenkinson has now risen to the brink of an international call up (via Goal).
A future England international the weak link? Well, yes. Jenkinson is still learning his craft, and will make a mistake. And whomever is on the left wing will need to be alert enough to capitalize on that when it happens.
Stifle the Spanish
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta will be the biggest threats to QPR on Saturday.
Santi has scored two, assisted two and had over 30 shots so far this season, and is a very dangerous offensive threat. Arteta has played a more holding role, but his sublime passing technique has been causing problems for every team the Gunners have faced so far.
If these two aren't allowed to play how they like to, then perhaps Rangers can keep the game under control. Hughes will need to put five in midfield to counteract Arsene's Spanish sensations.
Capitalize on Set Plays
Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Arsenal, by their own admission, are weakest when they are defending set pieces.
The zonal marking tactic they have employed does not seem to be as effective as Wenger would like, and they are conceding the majority of their goals from free kicks and other set pieces.
If Adel Taarabt can draw fouls with his trickery, QPR will have a chance to break down the Arsenal defense, and this will be one of their strongest opportunities to score.
Rangers themselves, however, need to work on their zonal marking from set pieces too, after that shocking display for Everton's equalizer on Sunday.
Keep Mannone Busy
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Vito Mannone is prone to blunders, as seems to be a requirement for all Arsenal goalkeepers in recent years.
With both Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski injured, Mannone has been called up to take his place between the posts. And has showed recently why he is only Arsenal's third choice goalkeeper.
His mistake vs. Norwich cost his side defeat at the weekend, with a fluffed saved allowing Grant Holt to tuck away the rebound. The best way for Rangers to capitalize on this weakness is to keep Mannone busy.
Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett should shoot at any given moment, and Bobby Zamora needs to pressure the Italian during set pieces.
The more shots taken, the greater the chance of a Mannone error and this will increase the likelihood of QPR scoring.