Arsenal vs. QPR: 10 Bold Predictions for Premier League Clash
The Gunners currently sit at fifth in the Premier League table, but are just a solitary point behind fourth-placed Chelsea and five behind Spurs, who currently occupy the third position.
Arsenal are still on top form, and drawing against Wolves didn't hurt quite so much because both Chelsea and Spurs dropped points against each other earlier in the week.
So, with four days of rest and no traveling to do, Arsenal should be out for revenge against QPR, who find themselves in the relegation muck in 16th place.
To paraphrase a certain famous American baseball announcer, you just cannot predict sports, but nevertheless, here are 10 bold predictions for Arsenal's New Year's Eve clash with their London rivals.
Let's try to enjoy a quality match while we're all sober.
Robin van Persie Will Break Alan Shearer's Scoring Record
Still arguably the Premier League's most in-form striker, it is hard to believe that it has been a few games since the Dutchman last found the back of the net from open play.
Indeed, the last non-penalty van Persie strike to leave a keeper helpless came on December 10th against Everton, and he will certainly be a man on a mission coming into the last fixture of the calendar year, hoping to get his name on the score sheet once again.
Van Persie is currently two goals shy of Alan Shearer's mark of 36 league goals in a calendar year, and it is certainly not beyond him to break the record with on glorious hat-trick.
If Arsenal had beaten Wolves, Wenger probably would have opted to rest his in-form striker and rotate the squad.
But in such a crucial period, having just dropped points and with no lengthy travel to endure, it will be hard for the manager to put his faith in Marouane Chamakh or Ju Young Park, rather than Robin van Persie.
Joey Barton Will Be Joey Barton
Every time Joey Barton and Arsenal get together, bad things seem to happen, and every time, he avoids getting sent off.
Last season, he clattered into the back of Abou Diaby, causing the French midfielder to lose his temper and triggering a horrific four-goal collapse by Arsenal. Then, in the first game of this season, he manhandled and choked Gervinho, somehow getting the Ivorian sent off and escaping with a yellow card.
I've made so secret of how I feel about Mr. Barton. He is a thug, and scum like him belong in prison, far away from a football pitch.
I don't see why his little love affair with Arsenal won't continue when his new side line up against his favorite opponents from North London, despite his recent emergence into fatherhood.
Look for Joey Barton to be, well, Joey Barton when put in the same combustible situations that have made him lose his temper many times before.
Jay Bothroyd Will Score
This might seem a tad odd, but I don't see why Bothroyd can't continue the long and illustrious tradition of ex-Arsenal players coming back to haunt their old club by scoring against them.
We saw history repeat itself earlier this season when Seb Larsson laced a glorious free kick past Wojciech Szczesny to almost earn Sunderland a draw.
Even if he doesn't score, just the fact that he had once plied his trade in North London will probably cause Bothroyd to induce an Arsenal own goal, or win a crucial penalty or free kick.
And after the match, Arsene Wenger will probably lament the fact that he let his young bird fly away too soon. Such is the life of an Arsenal fan.
Armand Traore Will Have the Game of His Life
Remember Armand Traore? The gum-chewing, good-at-nothing left back who Arsene Wenger thought was worse than an injured Kieran Gibbs? I predict that he will have his best professional game for QPR.
Continuing the aforementioned tradition of ex-players over-performing when matched up against their old club, Traore will give Arsenal fans nightmares with his pinpoint crosses and solid defending.
Actually, that sounds so ridiculous that I cannot in good faith lead anyone to believe that is remotely possible. However, things like that do seem to happen in situations like these.
At least QPR have a real left back though. I will grant Traore that. He is a real human who can play the position of left back.
Mikel Arteta Will Get to Relax
People often forget that our understated Spanish metronome, Mikel Arteta, plays almost every game he is eligible to play for Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger has already started to rotate his midfield during the Wolves match, so it seems as if QPR will finally be the Spaniard's chance to get some well-deserved rest.
With a refueled Aaron Ramsey ready to take Arteta's place, it seems logical that he would not play, as there are men available to fill his hole in midfield.
And, with the first-half display that Yossi Benayoun showed against Wolverhampton, the Israeli could step up as well.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain Will Get His Chance
With Gervinho playing a ton of minutes recently, someone will have to step in to give the Ivorian winger a rest.
And as Andrei Arshavin forgets how to play football, the obvious replacement is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Putting in scintillating displays whenever he has played, Arsene Wenger has tipped his latest prodigy to shine in the months ahead, and there is no better time to start giving Oxlade-Chamberlain a run in the team than right now.
Gervinho will be heading off to the African Cup of Nations soon, anyway, and the manager will want to see what he has in the youngster, whose only league action thus far has come in the 8-2 mauling at Old Trafford.
I doubt that he'll disappoint.
Yossi Benayoun Will Shine
After his last-gasp goal gave Arsenal the victory against Aston Villa, the Gunners' best Israeli popped up with a superb display against Wolves.
Always quick to think and react, Benayoun was certainly Arsenal's most dangerous player for much of the match, and is on a very good little run of form.
Displays like this will surely catch the attention of Arsene Wenger, who may look to rest his regulars again versus a lesser team.
And, again, he would do well to call upon Benayoun. If he does, I am confident that Yossi can settle into his role at Arsenal even more, and perhaps even nudge his way into the starting XI more often.
Andrei Arshavin Will Flop
Even if Arsene Wenger does not pick Andrei Arshavin to his starting XI against QPR (and I truly hope he does not), he is still likely to feature as a sub.
Unfortunately, the manager does not have many other options, but before that can be addressed in January, he is stuck with his Russian lilliputian.
And once again, when he is brought on, Arshavin will actually be a detriment to the team, rather than a contributor in his role as a super-sub.
Wasteful in front of goal and with his passes, recently Arshavin has not been able to control the ball in the first place, giving the ball away before he can hurt his own team in some other capacity.
Time will tell when Arshavin reaches the "Eboue point," where one final, horrendous act of stupidity causes Wenger to lose faith in his under-performing player. But I think that point is in the not-so-distant future.
Paddy Kenny Will Have His Best Game Ever
It is truly amazing how every time Arsenal are tasked with beating a middling goalkeeper, he performs as if his life depends on getting a result.
Versus Wolves, for example, Wayne Hennessey had one of the best games you will ever see from a goalkeeper, stopping multiple shots that were seemingly impossible to keep out.
Before Hennessey it was Joe Hart (who, admittedly, is a great keeper), and there have been countless others who have decided to imitate Iker Casillas on the wrong day.
Paddy Kenny is not an especially great goalkeeper, but that is of no importance. If the trend continues, QPR might as well have Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon, Pepe Reina and Julio Cesar manning their net.
Arsenal Will Win
Despite having to contend with an over-performing left back, goalkeeper, striker and the thug that is Joey Barton, I still believe that Arsenal will emerge victorious at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners are simply a better team, with tons of quality throughout the pitch, and they are clearly on the rise, while QPR have been falling in the standings for quite some time.
A fresh and fit Theo Walcott is poised to make his return to the squad after an illness, and with his strike partner Robin van Persie hungry for history, there can be no stopping the Arsenal attack.
It still would not surprise me to see Arsenal concede a dribbler just inside the post, as that has been happening just as often as a spectacular performance by the opposition's goalkeeper.
But someone has to pay for the disappointing result vs. Wolves, and unfortunately for the West Londoners, that someone is Queens Park Rangers.