QPR 1 Arsenal 2
( Giroud 64, Sanchez 69, Austin 82 )

Arsenal fought off a resolute Queens Park Rangers with a stirring second half display to win at Loftus Road. After a goalless first half, Olivier Giroud grabbed the opener midway through the second half, with Alexis Sanchez netting shortly afterwards. That was no more than their football deserved, yet despite the 2-0 deficit, Rangers continued to stride forwards and create chances. They got their reward when Charlie Austin thumped in with eight minutes to go, and that set up a nervy finish for both sides, one fighting for their Premier League lives, and the other with loftier ambitions at the other end of the table. However, the Gunners superior firepower held out to earn Arsene Wenger’s side all three points. The win keeps Arsenal in third place and they have now achieved back to back Premier League away wins for the first time this season.

Wenger said, ” I felt the first 25 minutes were very physical and they stopped us from playing. They had a direct game and for us it was important to put the ball on the ground and get good passes together and not only fight, but fight and play. In the second half we did that much better. We did fight and play and we always looked in control in the second half. They came back to 2-1 and then you never know, but it looked like we had a good game and kept them in the game at 2-0. We had a few more chances.”

Arsenal travelled well across the capital to west London, and having just managed to navigate their way through the London rush hour, were heartened with the knowledge that they hadn’t lost in their last three matches against Rangers. The hosts may be a team fighting for top tier status, but under new manager Chris Ramsey the Hoops are putting together performances of substance which weren’t always as evident under his predecessor.

Rangers set about stifling the Arsenal creativity and to a large extent this ploy worked in the opening passages of play. Austin would soon test David Ospina, and alongside strike partner Bobby Zamora, Ramsey’s side were set up to attack. Tasked with midfield duty, Sandro saw off the beginnings of any danger, helping to keep the strike threat of Giroud, Sanchez, Ozil and Santi Cazorla at bay.

Wearing a protective face mask, after suffering a broken nose against Everton, Francis Coquelin yet again demonstrated what the heart of this Arsenal team has been missing ever since a certain Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit held sway. Coquelin was hustling, harrying, tackling and spraying deep passes to good effect for his team.

Giroud tested Robert Green, in the Gunners first real attempt on Rangers’ goal. Perhaps the sight of Mesut Özil tackling Nedum Onuoha as he strayed forwards was priceless as it was rare, that’s how much Arsenal wanted it, yet they couldn’t get their game going.

Rangers came again and this time Ospina saved cross from Matt Phillips. The sight of Gabriel limping off in his second Arsenal start wasn’t good news, but his replacement Laurent Koscielny was more than an able deputy on the night. Wenger would later reveal that Gabriel sustained a hamstring injury and will be out for up to three weeks.

When Austin trapped and moved the ball from Coqulein, his shot was true, but flew just wide of Ospina’s upright.

Arsenal responded when Cazorla worked and opening with Giroud, but his shot kept was kept out by Green.

Arsenal upped their tempo at the beginning of the second half. Tomas Rosicky cut away and through on the right. His cross fell to Ozil, but his close range miss was due to the attentions of Karl Henry who had him in an armlock as he tried to slot home. That should have been a penalty to Arsenal, but Sanchez stayed focussed to carve out a follow up which Green had to deal with.

Sanchez then tested Green with a blistering shot, and another neat move involving Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs, Giroud, enabled Sanchez to get a good position but he couldn’t get his shot away. Rangers responded with Phillips who struck wide, but with their next attack, Arsenal took the lead.

He may have come in for some criticism from his poor showing against Monaco, but Giroud remains a striker with an eye for goal.

Santi Cazorla dispossessed Rangers substitute Nico Kranjcar just outside the Arsenal box. That was the launchpad for a swift counter attack. Cazorla found Ozil, who in turn set the advancing Sanchez free on the left. The ball was worked to Gibbs, but after his effort was deflected, a prone Giroud was on quick to sweep home from close range for the opener.

Arsenal went though the gears and Sanchez should’ve beaten Green earlier, but despite that let off, his first goal since January would put the Gunners firmly in control.

The Chile striker beat two men on the left of the area to weave inside the 18-yard box. Having looked like he was about to pull the ball back he bamboozled everyone by squeezing in a shot which wrong footed Green at his near post and into the net to double the Arsenal lead.

Then after some neat build up play on the right, Ozil struck a shot which was about to beat Green, but his dive put the ball onto his upright.

Austin’s turn and powerful shot halved the deficit with eight minutes to go. Roared on by their home crowd in this compact stadium, the home side poured forward, but despite the four minutes of time added on the Gunners held out for a fourth consecutive Premier League win. After the guns, whistle, Wenger went on to pay tribute to Giroud and Sanchez who the Arsenal boss way pleased to see score once again.

” It’s good because when you don’t score for seven or eight games it is on your mind, even if you don’t say so. He took his chance well, he’s tricky, had a short back lift and scored a good goal. He never gives up and that’s the strength of a good striker as well. He’s resilient and I don’t know what happened before because it looked like, for someone who was desperate to score, he could have taken the chance and he waited for somebody. After that, the fact that he could still score shows that he has the mental strength to respond.”

Giroud’s fifth goal in as many games also had Wenger smiling. “We were all down after the Monaco game and we responded well against Everton and again today. The confidence we got against Everton paid off tonight. He’s strong mentally. He can take some criticism and respond. He’s shown that. I feel it was a bit harsh for him because he missed some chances. That can happen. Where we were guilty was to concede the goal,” noted Wenger.

Arsenal are next in FA Cup action next Monday, when the holders will defend their trophy in the sixth round tie away at Manchester United.