Tuesday, 29 October 2013

#25 Flattering to Deceive

As we approach the end of October with about a quarter of the season gone, the R's sit in the leading pack still harbouring hopes and expectations of a swift return to the Premier League. How twelve months can make a difference, as we approached our twelfth game of the season being the only undefeated team in England as opposed to being the only team without a win over the same period a year ago.

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.

Sadly one of those to leave was the limited but effective and committed Jamie Mackie, surely he could have done a job for us this year in some capacity. Also sent out on loan was the increasingly problematic genius that is Adel Taarabt. The R's favourite that was indisputably instrumental in our dominant championship success in 2011 never really lived up to expectations in the Premier League and stories have emerged about his poor attitude and disruptive effect on the team. Harry had enough, so off he went, to our inconspicuous little neighbours in SW6, to warm the bench over there. I am grateful for all he did for us and for his odd flashes of brilliance in the Premier League but, his contribution no longer merited the expensive concessions the rest of the squad had to endure in order to accommodate him and his ego, the time was right for him to go. However he was not in as much demand as he believed he was, so had to settle for a mediocre role and the prospect of another relegation battle in the Premier League. Some of our young emerging stars have been loaned out to gain first team experience and I wish then all the best and support them whilst looking forward to their return, however the likes of Taarabt, Mbia, Remy and the like had no desire to stay at QPR and there have even been reports of Taarabt kissing the badge of FFC. So, in my opinion, while they are wearing the shirt of another club, they aren't QPR and can rot in hell. We don't need that sort back at QPR. As for Christopher Samba, well enough has been said about that debacle. Then we have Julio Cesar, (and his greed) with all his wealth, surely he could have taken a pay cut in order to play first team football somewhere before fulfilling his wish of playing in a home world cup. Instead he has opted to collect an obscenely huge salary for doing nothing at QPR, watch him retire after the world cup.

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.)

It would seem that QPR's aforementioned new and improved bond and team spirit has been a major factor in the R's great start to the season and has bread the belief and confidence to grind out the results required, whilst plugging the leaky defence that plagued us in the PL for the last two seasons. Ultimately this culminated in a record breaking eight games without conceding goal and remaining undefeated in our opening eleven games. This form saw the R's at the top of the table for most of  that run and we currently sit in the top three with a game in hand.

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!

It is good to see Harry looking up for it again and he seems to be committed to the cause even though he has a tendency to go on a tangent and spout some pure bullshit eg "we will be making some mind blowing signings" need I say more? He was very astute in securing the temporary services of Steve McClaren, who made a huge contribution in his short time with us and will be missed now he has moved on to Derby. Harry has also been a little distracted whilst plugging his book of late and I believe it has been an unnecessary distraction to him and he took his eye off the ball for the Burnley game, picking the wrong starting eleven that day, but you've got to love him.

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.

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