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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
4 May 2013
• Loftus Road Stadium, London
Referee: J. Moss
• Attendance: 18178
Queens Park Rangers
T. Walcott 1'
Thanks for staying with me, @AdamMazrani, for Goal.com UK's play-by-play coverage of proceedings from Loftus Road. See you all next time.
This was not a convincing performance from Arsene Wenger's men but they never really looked in danger of losing it and the three points are ultimately, all that matters when a Champions League place is at stake.
The final whistle is blown and Arsenal, thanks to that extremely early Theo Walcott strike, go third in the table. The Gunners are two points clear of fourth and fifth-placed Chelsea and Tottenham respectively. It's going to be a massive week for those three London teams, with Chelsea at Manchester United tomorrow before both the Blues and Spurs play their game in hand on Arsenal against each other in midweek.
90' + 3'
Fabio Da Silva
90' + 2'
Armand Traore's gone down with cramp for QPR and that should be that. We've got less than 60 seconds to play for and this has been a professional, if rather uninspiring display from the Gunners. They won't care a jot about that though, they're about to go third in the table.
90' + 1'
90' + 1'
And Arsene Wenger's cleverly making use of that time by bringing on club captain Thomas Vermaelen for Tomas Rosicky, who was highly influential in that opening spell that Arsenal dominated.
We're ticking into stoppage time here and Arsenal have control of possession. There's going to be three minutes of time added on.
Jack Wilshere is going to make a late appearance here in place of Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard has not at his bewitching best today but has still shown moments of eminent quality. Just a matter of minutes left to go here and Arsenal look set to go into third.
QPR have certainly improved in this second half and in truth for all their effort, an equaliser would perhaps be deserved. However, the reality is that they are just not good enough in crucial areas.
Finally Arsene Wenger makes a substitution and Podolski's disappointing afternoon is brought to an end. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain comes on in place of the experienced German. Theo Walcott will move into the central striking role for the last few minutes.
Less than 10 minutes to play now and Arsenal look comfortable though with the lead only being by a single goal, the fear is still there that QPR may just stun everyone with a late equaliser. They nearly just do it when Loic Remy's first-time shot is brilliantly tipped away by Szczesny.
Townsend is involved again for QPR as he takes on Monreal once more. However, his final ball has been a little lacking in quality so far today and that proves to be case once more with a cross that is completely overhit.
Yellow Card Jermaine Jenas
Adel Taarabt is coming on for QPR and he has good memories of this fixture, having scored the winner between the two sides here at Loftus Road last season. Bobby Zamora's just had claims for a penalty turned away after being felled by Koscielny, but that would have been harsh on the Frenchman.
Almost a nightmare moment from Rob Green as he pats a swerving Walcott strike down onto the floor. He's lucky there was no Arsenal player incoming to snap that up really.
This from our man live at Loftus Road, Jay Jaffa: After the slight surge from QPR early in the second half, Arsenal have stepped it up a notch and are strangling the life out of this game. Santi Cazorla is beginning to dictate matters more than he was and the Gunners have virtually been camped in QPR's half in the last ten minutes. "We'll never play here again" sing the away fans as they grow in confidence that this is a game they surely cannot lose.
Arsenal are purring at the moment and Clint Hill needs to be on his toes to clear away a fierce Podolski cross from underneath his own cross bar. He had to make that too because Walcott was lurking just behind him ready to tap home.
Lukas Podolski hasn't enjoyed the best of afternoons in his preferred position as the lone central striker and his strike from distance has just been blocked by Derry.
Walcott has been Arsenal's most dangerous player all afternoon and he almost scores again when he cleverly spins Ben Haim and produces a near post strike that Green does well to beat away.
After that spell of QPR pressure, Arsenal seem back in control now but there's still very little urgency about their play. Will we see Wilshere from the bench soon? Or perhaps Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain? Even Gervinho may trouble a tiring QPR defence with his pace.
They almost do just that when Mikel Arteta finds himself in a bit of space just inside the penalty box but can only direct his effort straight at Green. A player of his quality should have done better there really.
Yellow Card Shaun Derry
The Gunners recently stole a 1-0 victory away at Fulham with an unconvincing performance and this is a rather similar display to that one at the moment. They remain in front for the moment though their manager will surely be expecting them to kill the game off with another goal in the last half-hour.
Arsenal are certainly making heavy weather of this. They're allowing QPR completely back into the game though the Rs are playing far better it has to be said. They're showing more appetite this half, more drive and determination. Townsend is looking a real threat too and with Monreal now on a yellow card, Arsene Wenger could look to bring on Kieran Gibbs in his place.
Yellow Card Monreal
Mark Halsey produces the first yellow card of the match and it's an obvious one as Townsend roars past Nacho Monreal, who can't handle the pace of the wideman as he cynically pulls him back on the edge of the box.
Arsenal need to wrestle back control of the ball in midfield. How can they do that? Getting Santi Cazorla involved more centrally rather than on the left of midfield would perhaps be a start, with maybe Jack Wilshere coming off the bench too for the tiring Rosicky?
Another half-chance for the Rs as Remy cuts inside Sagna and produces an effort that Szczesny gathers in well from a difficult angle. The Gunners are just a little uncomfortable at the moment.
Double chance for QPR! First Towsend, by far the hosts' best player so far has a swerving strike that is beaten away by Szczesny before then Jenas' close-range effort is blocked by the well-positioned Ramsey.
Arsenal bossing possession once again but when presented with a clear opportunity to shoot, Rosicky elects to try and find Walcott with an intricate pass and the ball is snuffed clear.
Rosicky almost sets Walcott away with only the keeper to beat but after clearly having the beating of Hill for pace, the England man's first touch is poor and the ball runs away from him.
QPR have certainly started this half better than the last one and Townsend's cross is palmed away by Szczesny just when it looks like it might drop onto the head of Remy for a tap-in.
Derry is involved immediately and almost fashions an equaliser for his side when he finds himself with a free-header inside the box from a free-kick. However, it's cleared and Arsenal are suddenly on the counter-attack with Cazorla and Podolski. However, the German is rather leaden-footed with his approach play and the move comes to nothing.
We're back underway. Remember you can join in the debate on Twitter via @AdamMazrani or @GoalUK.
The players are back out at Loftus Road and there's been a half-time substitution for QPR. Stephane Mbia has been replaced by Shaun Derry.
We're not far away from the start of the second 45 minutes. Will Arsenal make just as fast a start to the second period as they did the first or can QPR somehow, against the odds, come up with a rejuvenated performance.
So can QPR somehow get back into it? Or will Arsenal step it up a gear and pull away by a few more goals? Let us know on Twitter via @AdamMazrani or @GoalUK.
This from our man at Loftus Road, Jay Jaffa: Half-time at Loftus Road and it's 1-0 to the Arsenal. Ripples of applause from the home fans; QPR haven't collapsed as I feared they might and have actually looked a teeny bit threatening on the break. Andros Townsend has been the brightest spark for Harry Redknapp's side but he will know they will need more if they're to upset Arsene Wenger here today. The visitors do usually come on strong in the second half so I'm not holding my breath for a rare Rs victory.
That's the half-time whistle and Arsenal can be relatively satisfied with the way things are going at the moment. The Premier League's quickest strike of the season through Theo Walcott has put them ahead and as it stands, above both Tottenham and Chelsea into third place.
A minute of stoppage time to play here of what has been a forgettable half of football after that early Walcott strike. Arsenal have been pretty uninspiring but in truth they have been more than comfortable.
QPR given a clear sight of goal but Andros Townsend's free-kick goes well wide.
Arsenal are getting joy with little passes slipped in behind the QPR full-backs and this time it's Cazorla who produces one for Monreal to run onto but the Spaniard's cross is cleared for a corner that is claimed confidently by Green.
QPR press Arsenal high up the pitch and Jenas almost finds Remy with a through-ball that the Frenchman can't quite collect. Seconds later, Tal Ben Haim of all people produces a ripper of a strike but it's straight down the throat of Szczesny.
Walcott looks by far and away Arsenal's most dangerous player and he uses that electric pace of his to steal in behind Traore, who is no slouch himself, but the Englishman's cross is poor and doesn't connect with a team-mate.
QPR are just coming into it a little bit more and they do have players who can cause Arsenal problems. The Gunners might rue the way they have allowed this half to slip away from them a little.
Park has scored five goals against Arsenal in his career as a Manchester United player and he has just had a chance to open his account in QPR colours but after being found in the box by the sprightly Townsend, his shot almost clears the top of the stand.
Off the post! Rosicky finds himself in far too much room on the edge of the box and he takes full advantage, driving through it and finding Walcott with a clever reverse pass, whose shot on the turn is tipped onto the foot of the post by Green. That was a sharp stop from the England goalkeeper.
Some of the time the Arsenal players have when on the ball is quite remarkable. Lukas Podolski is given as much as time as he pleases to fizz a ball across the face of goal that Walcott fails to make a connection with.
Ramsey's in the middle of an impressive spell of form in the Arsenal midfield and the Welshman links up well with Podolski to almost fashion a chance for himself. However, he eventually gets muscled out by Tal Ben Haim.
Arsene Wenger is on his feet and doesn't look too enamoured with his side's performance so far. You can understand his frustrations too. Arsenal are so clearly superior yet after scoring their early goal, they have played rather lethargically. The last thing they need is a QPR equaliser.
This from our man at Loftus Road, Jay Jaffa: The Arsenal fans have not stopped singing since Theo Walcott's opening goal. His 20 second strike was his fastest of the season by 31 seconds and indeed the quickest of the Premier League campaign, beating Robin van Persie's record of 33 seconds. Unsurprisingly it has quietened and already placid home support and the baying has begun. It's hard to see a way back for QPR already - Arsenal at a canter.
Remember, if you want to get in touch you can do on Twitter via @AdamMazrani or @GoalUK or on our Facebook page.
Walcott almost cleverly fashions a chance to double his tally for the afternoon, collecting a Rosicky pass and attempting to flick it around Hill with one-touch to set himself for the volley. However, the veteran defender is wise to Walcott's intentions and manages to position himself well to block the effort.
More intricate Arsenal passing completely bamboozles QPR and Cazorla almost takes advantage of a player slipping to fire in a shot that is well blocked by Hill. The Gunners have the Rs camped in at the moment.
QPR manage to get hold of the ball but their play seems to lack real purpose, perhaps unsurprisingly considering their relegation has already been confirmed. Remy tries to find an onrushing Townsend with a pass in-behind Monreal but the Frenchman can only send the ball out of play.
There is little goal-mouth action to speak of though Santi Cazorla is getting a lot of time on the ball at an extremely sunny Loftus Road. The Spaniard's movement and intricate passing is proving difficult for QPR to deal with at the moment and he almost manages to slip in Lukas Podolski only for it to be cleared away for a corner.
This match is lacking any sort of tempo at the moment after that electric Arsenal start. The Gunners look comfortable in the extreme while QPR appear to be lacking any real belief that they can get back into it.
QPR have the worst home record in the Premier League and the way they've started, it's no surprise. We're being told now that Walcott's strike is Arsenal's fastest ever Premier League goal. Could Robert Green have done better though? The shot was relatively straight at him.
For a second it looks as if Aaron Ramsey is going to charge onto a Cazorla pass and in on goal but the Welshman doesn't quite have the legs and the chance is snuffed away. QPR look shaky every time Arsenal come forward at the moment.
That was laughably simple for Arsenal. QPR look shell-shocked while Arsenal have confidence coursing through them at the moment. Walcott in particular is looking extremely sharp. Clint Hill and Tal Ben Haim at the back could be in for a long and difficult afternoon.
Goal Theo Walcott
Assist Mikel Arteta
Arsenal kick us off at Loftus Road.
Looking at QPR's central-defence, surely the pace of Walcott will be a real asset for the Gunners this evening? There really is no excuses for them. QPR are already down, Arsene Wenger's team simply have to win, even more so after Tottenham's late success against Southampton.
The players are out and we're minutes away from getting started here at Loftus Road. Remember you can join the debate on Twitter via @AdamMazrani or @GoalUK.
Anyway, let's consider what's ahead of us; Clint Hill and Tal Ben Haim at centre-back for the hosts, that's what. Could be a long afternoon for those two, especially if Theo Walcott gets anywhere near them.
Arsenal absolutely must win here. Spurs have just beaten Southampton 1-0 to go above the Gunners into fourth place. Wenger's side can re-leapfrog their rivals with a point or victory, but will have then played a game more than Andre Villas-Boas' side. Phew!
Here are the starting line-ups: QPR: Green; Onuoha, Hill, Ben Haim, Traore; Townsend, Jenas, Mbia, Park; Remy, Zamora. Subs: Murphy, Derry, Taarabt, Mackie, Granero, Fabio, Bothroyd. Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Arteta, Ramsey; Walcott, Rosicky, Cazorla; Podolski. Subs: Mannone, Vermaelen, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Jenkinson, Gervinho.
Arsenal will certainly hope not, as Gareth Bale has just scored a late goal to put Tottenham 1-0 up with minutes to go!
Reading, doomed to the Championship alongside Harry Redknapp's side, have already upset the odds and beaten a London rival today. Can the Rs do likewise?
Good afternoon and welcome to Loftus Road, where already-relegated Queens Park Rangers host Champions League-chasing Arsenal.
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