Arsenal Focus – Gritty QPR win and returning players improve Gunners’ mood

It was just what the doctor ordered. Though it was by no means a perfect performance, the 1-0 Premier League win at home to rock-bottom Queens Park Rangers has gone some way to drawing a line under a torrid week for Arsenal.

After seven days which included desperate defeats to Norwich City in the league and then Schalke in the Champions League, followed by a heated annual general meeting, victory was a prerequisite for Arsene Wenger’s team.

That is not to say it was easy. For 83 minutes, Arsenal toiled and struggled to break down the visitors’ stubborn backline: a familiar story. Against the Germans in midweek, the Gunners had plenty of possession but did not transform that into goals, ultimately succumbing to a late double Schalke sucker punch.

But this time there was a different outcome. Aided by Stephane Mbia’s second-half dismissal for a petulant kick out at Thomas Vermaelen, Wenger’s team found a late winner through Spanish midfielder Mikel Arteta.

Despite the victory, many Arsenal fans remain worried about their team’s inability to break down the defence of the Premier League’s bottom side. It was only after Mbia’s sending off that Julio Cesar’s net was troubled.

Nevertheless, vintage performance or not, the points put Arsenal tentatively back on track. Such a performance, where a team wins despite much of the game being ugly, is a type which Arsenal need to execute more often if they are to live up to and exceed expectations.

Also in the ‘glass half full’ camp is the fact that two of the Gunners’ key men returned from injury this weekend.

The first of those was the return of full-back Bacary Sagna. The French international slotted into Arsenal’s back four effortlessly after returning from a broking leg sustained last season. Assured and up to speed, Sagna’s inclusion vindicated the decision to relegate Carl Jenkinson to the bench despite his excellent recent form.

Secondly, midfield maestro Jack Wilshere was given his first start for 14 months after finally recovering from knee and ankle problems. Wilshere had missed last season in its entirety, along with Euro 2012 and the Olympic Games, and his absence was sorely felt in the centre of the pitch at the Emirates. However, like Sagna, Wilshere came through the match unscathed, completing 67 minutes before being replaced.

Manager Wenger was understandably excited by Wilshere’s comeback but warned against rushing him back into full-blown top flight football too quickly. He told Arsenal’s official website: “You could see technically he is there, and he gave everything, and what he is missing he will get through competition. He still misses a bit of the pace of the game, the rhythm of the game, but overall what he did was class.

Ahead of a difficult November, cautious optimism is returning to the Emirates Stadium – but very cautious is all that it is.

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