Arsenal 1 Queens Park Rangers 0

Robin Van Persie netted for the seventeenth time in the Premiership , and his solitary second half strike was sufficient for Arsenal to close out a 1-0 win over their cross capital rivals and seal 2011 with a top four finish. Prior to kick-off, the legend that is Tony Adams was presented to the Emirates crowd, and having visited his statue that graces the stadium, he took the generous applause. From his vantage point in the directors box, the scoreline will have been one that he would have recognised. The win may not go down as one of Arsenal’s finest performances, but three points in a London derby will always be welcomed by Arsene Wenger.

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With the topsy turvy nature of Premiership results, this was never going to be an easy afternoon for the Gunners, and with the disappointment of the draw with Wolves a matter of days earlier still fresh in the memory, Wenger knew that getting the win would be paramount. Manchester United’s earlier shock home loss to Blackburn and Chelsea capitulating to Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge would not be results that one would expect, but that is what we have in the Premiership and Wenger recognises that fact.

Van Persie skills

Rangers actually played the neater football in the earlier exchanges, Jay Bothroyd and Shaun Wright-Phillips signalled their early intent. Wojciech Szczesny was alert to both efforts, making two good saves. It was just past the quarter hour mark when Van Persie threatened for the home side, and having shown some neat skills in the the Rangers area, his prodded shot was too close to Radek Cerny. Arsenal continue to function with a makeshift defence, but as Johan Djourou strode out from right back, his ball fell just right for Van Persie, but his chip lacked power. Thomas Vermaelen then picked out his captain, and the Arsenal number 10 having got clear of his marker, hit a powerful right footed shot wide, when you expected a crisper and deadlier finish. But the ball flew wide.

Crude

Then came two controversial incidents that referee Martin Atkinson failed to spot. Laurent Koscileny’s shot was handled by a diving Luke Young, and despite appeals from the Arsenal players, no spot kick was awarded just past the half hour mark. Atkinson then awarded Vermaelen a yellow card for a tackle on Wright-Phillips, when it was in fact Koscielny that was the offender. Two minutes before the break, Aaron Ramsey let fly with a strike that was on target and in, until Joey Barton cleared off his line. Barton was already on a yellow card for a lunge on Mikel Arteta, and could have gotten worse for that crude challenge. Had his handball also been spotted from Arteta’s drive, Arsenal would have earned a penalty and had ten men to face for the second half.

Target

Arsenal continued pressing. Ten minutes after the re-start, Ramsey fed Theo Walcott, whose pace took him clear of all, and with only Cerny ahead of him. With time to select his best option, Walcott left fly with a low shot that was crudely hit and well wide of the target. It was a miss that Walcott will have to put out of his memory and quickly too. Rangers had been let off. Adel Taarabt reminded Arsenal of his threat, but Szczesny was to deny the Morocco forward. Rangers’ luck however was not to last. Under no pressure Wright-Phillips passed back and Andrey Arshavin quickly picked off the ball. The Russian fed Van Persie whose left footed shot got the better of Cerny. The Gunners created enough to double their lead, with substitute Gervinho unable to find the target from close range when put in by Van Persie.

Endure

The fluid style, the passing game that has become the hallmark of Wenger’s sides may still not be evident, but winning when not playing well has always been a formula that Arsenal did not have to rely on. With the start to the season that he had to endure, Wenger has managed to turn things around, even if Arteta and Per Mertersacker would not have been his obvious summer transfer targets. Thierry Henry will make the first of his two month loan signing games, and under Van Persie, the Gunners seem to have not only stabilised, but managed to create a spirit in adversity that could still surprise many come the end of the season.