So what has changed? When I last blogged in pre season, we still had a lot of dross to rid ourselves of. Somehow, we have managed to move most of undesirables from the club, be it permanent or loan moves. Harry has been widely credited with this, but judging from his numerous "I haven't got a clue what's happening with him" comments, I'd say it was down to Beard and his staff. Whoever it was down to, thank god we have got rid of the likes of Bosingwa, Mbia, Park and the like. In fact, QPR have either sold, released or loaned out no fewer that twenty players and in doing so reduced the R's exuberant wage bill.
On a positive note, Harry did manage to sign Charlie Austin and the reliably solid Richard Dunne on a free with Simpson and O'Neil also joining for no fee. Matt Phillips and the unexpected signing of Karl Henry beefed up a squad that is still woefully short in attack and at the centre of defence although Harry has recently bought in Chevanton on a short term deal (whilst serial crocks AJ And Zamora are side-lined yet again) along with the man mountain and USA international centre half Oguchi Onyewu. Deadline day loan deals of Assou-Ekotto, Nico Kranjcar and Tom Carroll completed first phase of Harry's plans to right all that was wrong about QPR last season.
Probably the biggest shock of all was Joey Barton's return to the team after being banished to Marseilles for the last twelve months. (contrary to what he tweeted) Even more surprising was Harry's decision to pair him in midfield with his long standing enemy Karl Henry. It's a hard one to understand when you consider Harry was trying to build a close knit team, its unlikely they are best of pals now, or even talking to each other but there are no rumours of it damaging the new found bond and spirit in the team. (It may even turn out to be a stroke of genius.)
Although I am delighted we are challenging at the top I think we are fortunate to be where we are and that our lofty position in the league flatters to deceive, something still doesn't seem quite right yet. We have managed to amass our haul of points on the back of a some poor performances and ugly wins and it would be unwise to say we are comfortably sitting near the summit of the league. We have ridden our luck and with our game largely based on not conceding, we have on the whole been devoid of any penetrative out and out attacking or dominance and you could argue that we are challenging for promotion having not really got out of first gear yet.
It is understandable that Harry had to stop the team leaking goals but it has lead to a lot of passing the ball sideways in our own half without really getting anywhere, (Henry the crab) with no one wanting to take the ball forward for fear of losing it, even though inevitably that is what we do. Although our ball retention has improved massively on last season, we are still the cause of our own undoing by giving the ball away cheaply, particularly O'Neil, Hoilett, Henry and Barton, but most of the team can be included amongst those guilty of losing possession too often. This can be further compounded when playing Barton and Henry together in the middle and you shouldn't expect to see anything exciting happen when this is the case, even more so when you add O'Neil to the mix. That's not to say they haven't done well this season it's just that this combination is not conducive to what we want to see at Loftus Road in terms of attacking flair. The introduction of a not fully fit Nico Kranjcar to the mix has gone a little way to abate the lack of flair and I think once fully fit, Nico will play a significant part in providing the missing ingredient we our looking for this season. Barton has been influential this season and is comfortable at this level but still blights his game with avoidable misplaced passes and poor dead ball delivery, but on balance has earned his place in the team. I am not his greatest fan but he is an R and while he is giving it his all for QPR I am able to tolerate him. (Just)
If we are to move up a gear and really start to dominate games in the way we did in 2010/11 there are a few players that are going to have to start delivering, the biggest culprit being Junior Hoilett. We have been waiting over a year for him to start producing the form that lead us to sign him but disappointingly, he is rapidly beginning to morph in to the new Sean Wright-Phillips. A bad first touch and poor ball control, coupled with an inability to deliver the ball without giving it away has on the whole been the story that has far outweighed any good that he has produced. I also wonder why one so young is so prone to injury and question his fitness and effort in training, at the very least he needs to work on his strength and conditioning regime. How long do we have to wait before he starts to produce? With fewer opportunities for the equally disappointing SWP I would like to see Phillips given the opportunity to produce the kind of form he did at Blackpool and add some much needed attacking prowess that has been missing since Andros Townsend returned to Spurs. Should this be the case, it should afford Austin the chance to play his normal game up front as he has had to carry the burden of being our only striker for many weeks now and for that reason I don't think it is fair to make a judgement on Charlie Boy yet, but he is getting goals and scores penalties!
|HAPPY TEAM MATES|
In summary the results to date have been fantastic even though some of the performances have not merited them. You have to be a lot of things in this league if you are to be successful, and winning when your not playing well is one of them. However if we are to maintain our challenge we are going to have to up our game. We are going to have to commit ourselves to being more offensive and move our possession game higher up the pitch and score more goals. Being overcautious and playing deep only invites opposition pressure and we don't cope with that very well. AJ will be back soon and along with Chevanton we will have a few more options on the attacking front and will have the ability to play two up top again. Until I see that happen I am not going to raise my hopes too high and I have to admit the prospect of playing Premiership football this time next year does not fill me with excitement, not yet anyway. This team needs to evolve to reach its potential. Will it happen? If so, how quickly? It should, but we will have to wait and see. In the mean time, it's good to be enjoying supporting the R's again. Weekends have been great!
Come on You R's
The Bush Ranger.