Alexis Sanchez was the star of the show once more as Arsenal defeated Queens Park Rangers 2-1, seeing off a late scare after Oliver Giroud was sent off for violent conduct.The Chilean magician – who missed an early penalty – nevertheless scored the opener and assisted Tomas Rosicky’s second, although the home side were forced to sweat thanks to Charlie Austin’s spot-kick.
With that, the Gunners stay in sixth while QPR remain pointless away after losing all nine of their trips this season. Let’s look at what we discovered from tonight’s action.
Giroud should know betterThe Arsenal striker showed petulance beyond his experience when headbutting QPR’s Nedum Onuoha for a straight red card. He lashed out when Onuoha took exception to Giroud racing into a 50-50 challenge with Rob Green. You wouldn’t normally expect it from such a well-versed player. Giroud is 28-years-old, showed discipline to return early from an ankle injury last month, and also scored for France at the World Cup against Switzerland. Yes, football demands a steely mentality, but Giroud has been around long enough to know better.
Sanchez can stand up and be countedOnce Arsenal were reduced to ten men the dogged South American was an inspiration, holding the ball up and weaving through traffic to lay off Rosicky on the right who made it 2-0. Sanchez was always willing to dribble into small pockets of space, making room for his team-mates, while his timing and pace of passes was exceptional. His opener – a hanging, diving header from Kieran Gibbs’s cross – marked his tenth goal of the Premier League season, while he touched the ball 79 times, second only to team-mate Santi Cazorla on 99.
Wenger could have a problem upfrontThe winger's success was because he was allowed to drop deep and roam, playing through balls for Danny Welbeck up front as well as ghosting into the box. But with Giroud now suspended for the matches against West Ham, Southampton and Hull, manager Arsene Wenger is without an in-form centre-forward. Welbeck, who always bristles with creativity, is nevertheless without a goal in his last five matches, while Lukas Podolski lacks minutes. Will Wenger sacrifice Sanchez and ask him to lead the line, or will he take a punt on Podolski or even Joel Campbell?
Austin could show Sanchez how to take a penalty
Sanchez didn’t have it all his own way however – after being fouled by Armand Traore his resultant penalty was saved by Green. He passed it too close to the middle and his international team-mate Eduardo Vargas even did Green a favour by signalling to dive to the right. Conversely, Charlie Austin’s spot-kick for the visitors, after Mathieu Debuchy clipped Junior Hoilett, was driven with pace and power. It marked the Englishman’s twelfth goal of the season, not to mention his second penalty after his strike in last weekend’s 3-2 comeback against West Brom.
QPR should get back to basics away from home
Austin’s effort was only Rangers’ fourth away goal this season and their mentality on their travels is becoming a problem. Too often in the first half Harry Redknapp’s side were caught with 11 men behind the ball, their only outlet being a solo run from Vargas or Jordan Mutch in midfield. It was only once Hoilett and Leroy Fer came on - finally adding some width - that QPR started to prosper. Once they focused on getting the ball out wide quickly, setting up chance after chance for Bobby Zamora, the visitors started to play with more abandon rather than sitting back and accepting pressure.By Alistair Hendrie