Arsenal 1-0 QPR: van Persie scores but falls short of record
Published 17:10 31/12/11 By Anthony Clavane
There is a bronze statue of Thierry Henry outside the Emirates but yesterday, with the great man watching, Robin van Persie could have become a Premier League legend.
Henry saw the Dutch striker come so close to breaking Alan Shearer’s record for most goals – 36 – in a calendar year.
Van Persie’s winner gave the Gunners a much-needed three points against struggling QPR, and his 35th league goal of 2011 which saw them climb them into fourth place and a Champions League spot.
But, with a bit more luck and precision, he could have so easily claimed the hat-trick he needed to overtake Shearer.
Van Persie surely can’t wait for Henry – whose 226 goals in his original eight-year spell with the Gunners made him the club’s record scorer – to join his old side on a two-month loan deal.
For now, he is having to carry the responsibility for Arsenal’s goals on his shoulders.
Arsene Wenger paid tribute to his Captain Fantastic, saying: “Robin van Persie again scored the goal that brought us the points. He has had a great 2011 and I don’t see why he shouldn’t have a great 2012.
“He will not tell you, however, but certainly he will be disappointed that he did not break the record of the most Premier League goals in a calendar year. He certainly had chances today.”
QPR boss Neil Warnock was not so impressed.
“Van Persie gets away with murder the way he uses his elbows,” he said.
“He fouls the centre-half – there must have been six or seven the referee didn’t penalise him for. But you get that at the Emirates, don’t you?”
Wenger’s men finally broke through Rangers’ stubborn resistance on the hour when Andrey Arshavin, lacklustre for most of the game, put Van Persie through to slot past Radek Cerny.
But he had already wasted several great chances. Early on he twice turned former Gunners full-back Armand Traore inside out before firing straight at Cerny.
He should have done a lot better than head the ball well wide when, 20 minutes later, Aaron Ramsey picked him out with a great cross.
A sublime touch by the Arsenal skipper took him past Luke Young – but flicked the ball over the bar as Cerny ran out to put him off his stride.
The best chance of all came when Thomas Vermaelen curled in a long ball that deceived Young, leaving Van Persie with only the keeper to beat but he volleyed over.
Van Persie’s goal surge has helped Wenger’s side recover from a miserable start to the campaign and back in the race for a top-four finish.
But the narrow margin of the victory against a team that have picked up only 10 points from a possible 30 on the road highlighted that Arsenal lack ruthlessness up front.
Arshavin and Theo Walcott are certainly failing to make an impact up front, as evidenced by Walcott’s missed sitter just after the restart.
Put through for a one-on-one with Cerny, the England star dragged the ball tamely wide.
Rangers, inspired, by Joey Barton, could well have grabbed a point.
Barton might wear a hooped shirt these days but his “crimes” in the stripes of Newcastle have clearly not been forgotten by Arsenal fans. He resumed hostilities when he was booked for a bad tackle on Mikel Arteta.
Before the game, Wenger had brought up “the incident last season with Abou Diaby” referring to Diaby’s red card last February after a clash with Barton at Newcastle – while Gervinho was sent off earlier this season after another bust-up with the serial Tweeter.
But Barton was QPR’s best player, coming to their rescue just before half-time when he headed Ramsey’s volley off the line.
He then helped set up chances for Adel Taarabt and Matthew Connolly before racing back to cut out a Gervinho cross with Van Persie waiting to pounce.
The Big Issue
Neil Warnock plans to buy this month, but can he attract big enough names to Loftus Road?
Queens Park Rangers may have the financial backing of owner Tony Fernandes - but they are in real danger of being relegated at the end of the season.
The January transfer window can't come too soon for Neil Warnock, although the fighting spirit they showed yesterday might see them through.
However, the 1-0 defeat has left them just above the relegation zone.
Despite some noteworthy results this campaign, like the win against Chelsea and a rare three points at Britannia Stadium, Warnock must be feeling uneasy at the prospect of falling back down to Championship football.
Warnock has been in this situation most of his career but he knows the club are not a big enough attraction to lure the big names to Rangers.
However, the manager's ability to inspire the team will give Hoops fans hope.
Arsenal lack ruthlessness up front and although Robin van Persie struck again they will be hoping Thierry Henry's arrival galvanises them.
Man of the match: Joey Barton (8): He inspired his team with a great display of guts and ability.