|Queens Park Rangers 2 v 1 Ipswich Town|
Saturday, 9th September 2017 Kick-off 15:00
Everything is Falling Nicely into Shape this Season - Notes for QPR
Friday, 8th Sep 2017 12:00 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Loftus Road by delving into their forums.
“What is our aim?”, “Give me a competitive team in the division and a bit of entertainment and I will be happy”, “We won’t finish in the top 10 and we will lose games but if we put in the effort and play in the manner we have been so far this season I will be more than satisfied. The points are a bonus.”
“This is the most excited about a squad I have been for a while and they are all pulling in the same direction together. It is the best we have had without spending ridiculous millions. We have players in the side that actually want to be here and play for us”, “It feels like we are getting our club back.”
Hoops arrive into Saturday’s game buoyed by an August which brought them a seven-point haul and which included home wins over Hull and Reading. Fans were happy with their ‘battling display’ away to Cardiff even though they lost their most recent league game at the league’s early pace-setters.
“A very good start has been made”, “We’re already better than last year, more pace, more midfield control and more chances to score”, “It will be a long old season whatever happens, but it’s a decent start and it shows that Ollie does know what he is doing. He just needs to keep it that way now.”
Ian Holloway (Ollie)
“It looks like Ollie has finally settled on a way that suits all our players. Let’s just hope he resists the urge to start tinkering when he gets it right”, “If you look at his signings, they have for the most part been better than those in the squad he inherited and that is with him working with lower budgets.”
“I love what Ollie has done with team and I love watching every game.” The 54-year-old managed Rangers between 2001 and 2006 and took charge again last November after the club sacked Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. He has been praised for building an attractive footballing side with little funding.
“Keep it up Ollie”, “He picked up a poisoned chalice last season. It must have taken him months to work out what the hell he had at his disposal but he has got a coherent unit out, ready and prepared perfectly. Keep that up and there is no way that will we lose 10 home games like we did last year.”
“Ollie has to be the worst tactician in the country, but one big positive is that he is trying to play the same team each week and has agreed and stuck with a particular playing style”, “He has created a tremendous team spirit. This is the be all and end all and we will never get anywhere without it.”
A Flexible Formation
“Watching our style of play is both a pleasure and enjoyable, long may it continue. If Ollie keeps it simple and gets in a couple of additions to boost the squad, we could have a reasonable season”, “We are using width and taking people on, running at them with dribbles whenever possible.”
“What has surprised me most has been our preference to play the ball on the floor and not simply hoof it all over the park”, “Players are backing each other all the time and going for aerial balls with the intention of knocking it down rather than trying to head it as far away as they possibly can.”
Holloway has played fast and loose with formations this season, but most reports of their defeat at Cardiff had the starting XI (above) set out in a 4-4-2 shape. It has not been unusual for Hoops to say during games that the side has switched shape to playing with three in midfield or at the back.
“We sometimes play what looks like a lopsided three at the back, weighted towards the left-hand side. Jake Bidwell regularly stays in position at left-back with Pawel Wszolek attacking on the right. That said, Nedum Onuoha is not that keen in venturing over to the right from centre-back.”
In the early stages of their last home league game against the Tigers, West Londoners described how right-back James Perch would break out of the starting formation (above) and switch into a wing-back role, with Jamie Mackie pushing on ahead of him to partner Conor Washington in attack.
“It’s a bit difficult working out our formations at the moment, Against Hull it was a 3-5-2 which became a 4-4-2 diamond. Ollie then switched to 4-3-3, then a 2-4-4 and then a defence which was here, there and everywhere”, “Holloway threw on every attacking player he could lay his hands on.”
“Short of defenders? No, short of quality”, “If we sorted the defence out we would be competitive week-in week-out”, “None of our combinations at the back fill me with any confidence. They are all individuals and not a unit”, “We need a leader at the back, someone who reads the game and talks.”
“A run of injuries has put an already fragile defence on the verge of being calamitous.” Hoops are missing Grant Hall (tendinitis), Joel Lynch (hamstring) and James Perch (knee). They have had to cover with the inexperienced Darnell Furlong and the badly out-of-form Steven Caulker.
Grant Hall - Out
“How awesome is it to have a decent midfield? Massimo Luongo, Josh Scowen and Luke Freeman are really gelling together”, “That midfield is looking strong, something we have lacked since the 2011 promotion season. The balance between grafting and playing with flair in midfield is spot on.”
“All of a sudden we have a midfield”, “The arrival of Scowen has allowed Luongo to push forward more. It looks good for the team if we can keep the midfield playing the way it is. It’s not often we can say we boss the midfield, but it is so important and a critical part of our success this season.”
“Despite our good play in midfield we have no attacking threat.” Scowen’s industrious defensive work, Luongo’s energy and Freeman’s vision have balanced Rangers’ midfield but there is a pressing need for a striker. “We have no problem creating chances. Putting them away is letting us down.”
“How weak does our goalscoring threat look?”, “Who would have thought that scoring goals would be a problem this season?”, “There is still no finish in this squad”, “We lack a final ball and a finisher when we do get in on goal”, “We need someone who works the defence, has pace and can finish.”
Cardiff 2 – 1 QPR
“I hate losing but am proud of this team, they never quit today. We hustled, pushed and competed”, “We have been narrowly beaten by a team that could make the play-offs. We battled to the end so there are a lot of positives there”, “I expected nothing but was glad to see us show a bit of fight.”
Matt Smith headed the Hoops in front on 15 minutes but former Rangers’ man Junior Hoilett took advantage of hesitant defending to equalise seven minutes later. Sol Bamba headed what proved to be the winner in first-half stoppage-time, out-jumping Steven Caulker who was “eaten for breakfast”.
“Just back from Cardiff. As defeats go that was a decent effort”, “Cardiff were a typical Neil Warnock team, in your face and busy. They were very ropey at the back but fantastic up top”, “Not sure that we would have deserved a draw. They were far better and had one totally good goal disallowed.”
QPR 1 – 4 Brentford (Carabao Cup)
“The best side won tonight, a different class to us”, “Just when you think we have turned a corner, we throw in a result like this against our local rivals”, “I can’t be bothered with cup games anymore. I thought tonight we would put a decent team out, being a local derby and all but nah. Ah well.”
The visitors raced into a three-goal lead in just over half an hour via an Ariel Borysiuk own goal, a John Egan header and a Neal Maupay strike. Darnell Furlong headed a goal back for Rangers just before the break but striker Joshua Clark sealed a routine Bees’ win with a low shot on 83 minutes.
“Hearing ‘You’ve got your Rangers back’ from Brentford fans at 2-0 down was the low point for me. Cheeky so-and-sos”, “It was embarrassing hearing their fans having fun at our expense”, “History should tell you that you are in for a long night when you buy a ticket to one of our cup games.”
“The team showed effort but lacked fluidity.” The heavily rotated starting XI (above) struggled with the Bees’ pace and movement. “Brentford zipped the ball around, it should have been eight”, “We lost that in the middle. Starting two rookies with less than 20 games between them was an error.”
QPR 2 – 1 Hull
“What a fight, what a win”, “Well done, my team, the players gave it their all”, “A game that was so mundane, nondescript and devoid of excitement for 70 minutes only for heart-palpitating intensity drama, chaos to unfold for the last 20”, “We actually played our way to a win after going behind.”
“Hold on for a draw? To hell with that, we have been the better team.” Jarrod Bowen put the visitors ahead against the run of play on 35 minutes but Rangers turned the game around with a late cavalry charge which saw Matt Smith level on 74 minutes and Idrissa Sylla net the winner in stoppage time.
“Whatever your reasons for going to football, injury time goals must be up there. The moment they go in, the moment they hit the net, the moment you realise there is no flag, then there is no contest. The moment is for you and whoever is unfortunate enough to be in the way when it happens.”
“Injury time goals, mate”, “I was giving up on getting anything from the game but the substitutions made the difference”, “Ollie grew increasingly reckless as Hull’s lack of ambition became so obvious. By the end [above] we were playing 2-4-4 or something, God alone knows what formation it was.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Fantastic save by Alex Smithies. It’s Cardiff against Smithies now.” The 27-year-old former Terrier “is the most vital player we have and a natural-born leader in defence. Arguably he kept us up last season”, “He has been outstanding and the number of saves he has made has proved to be vital.”
“Smithies is our best player by a long, long way and deserves better than to have to play behind that defence week after week”, “He must be getting weary at having to play behind that backline”, “He is such a strong player to have at the club. We should count ourselves extremely lucky to have him.”
“Jake Bidwell is a good example of why we need patience. Plenty would have bombed him out after an underwhelming first season, but he looks happier this term and has look solid. With him on the left side we have a more attacking option on the right. He’s good at defending and gives us balance.”
Bidwell v Emmanuel
“Bidwell doesn’t offer a whole lot in attack, although he’s a decent defender.” The 24-year-old ex-Brentford left-back “is reliable and solid defensively. He doesn’t track back as quickly when playing wing-back because he isn’t quick but he doesn’t put a foot wrong”, “Six out of 10 like he usually is.”
“Those who went to the Cardiff game said that Darnell Furlong was one of our best players today.” The 21-year-old right-sided youth product spent part of last season on loan at Swindon. “I am sure that Neil Warnock ended up moving Hoilett to the opposite wing simply to get away from Furlong.”
“Furlong with get a run of games on the right side of defence with James Perch out”, “His positioning was poor early on against Brentford but got better as the game went on”, “He’s great going forward but forgets that he’s primarily a defender. He kept getting caught out of position with simple balls.”
“Steven Caulker is an absolute slow-motion riot, the art of falling apart.” The 25-year-old ex-Spurs and Cardiff man “looks a broken man”, “The crowd should not be picking on Caulker, he’s clearly not ready and shouldn’t have been picked”, “He should not be playing, the game’s too quick for him.”
“Cardiff’s Kenneth Zohore had Caulker in his pocket all day. He totally bullied him and gave him the run-around”, “He was beaten in the air at the far post again”, “Muscled off the ball and left in a heap for their second”, “He looks uncomfortable and not match sharp, an accident waiting to happen.”
“Alex Baptiste struggled with the pace of Brentford. After being turned again by Romaine Sawyers he pulled him back and reckless picked up a yellow card.” The 31-year-old one-time Bolton man also had an injury-blighted spell at Boro. “He likes to pass back to Smithies when options are available.”
“’Steady’ is a fair description for Baptiste. He’s a steady Eddie who will do the basics right, you can’t knock it at all”, “He doesn’t let the ball bounce or take risks”, “He’s uncomfortable with it at his feet and will clear it anywhere. He has to learn that if he passes it to Onuoha, it will come straight back.”
“Is Ned good enough? He’s too inconsistent for me.” The 30-year-old ex-Manchester City centre-half “makes far too many casual mistakes. His captaincy is keeping him in the side, which is wrong”, “I have seen him confuse blue and white hoops with every other colour of the rainbow this season.”
Anthony Knockaert (Brighton) v Onuoha
“The Ned loving baffles me”, “He has one big mistake in him per game”, “The worse Caulker got at Cardiff, the worse Ned got”, “You can’t keep ignoring his howlers which come at one per game”, “Anyone who knows anything about football knows that he’s a 100m sprinter in football boots.”
“Ryan Manning is not the aggressive little sod he was last season. His first intention is to want to go backwards this season.” The 21-year-old former Galway United youngster, who came close to joining Town’s academy before moving to West London, “has bundles of energy but his creative side seems to have been curbed. He’s not as effective as he was.”
“Manning was an effective left-sided midfielder at Galway. Since Ollie has given him a run, he seems to be used more as a central holding player, breaking up play. I’m not sure this is his most suitable role in the long-term”, “He drifted to the left and created a big hole in the middle against Brentford.”
“Ilias Chair looks a decent little player.” The 19-year-old January addition from Belgian side Lierse SK “has a lovely right foot but doesn’t ever use his left. He turns back into trouble than playing a simple pass with his opposite foot. He lacks athleticism, but technique and ability-wise he’s a nice player.”
“I love Luke Freeman. He’s a huge prospect but I can see weaknesses which needs addressing, such as set-pieces and finishing. If he can do that we’re in for a treat.” The 25-year-old came from Bristol City in January. “His creativity is dazzling. He scurries around with his head up, looking for openings.”
“Freeman clearly has ability but shooting and corners are not his strength”, “He is doing ridiculously well at the front of midfield linking into the box but he needs to work on his finishing and set-piece deliveries”, “He has quick feet but it’s frustrating. Once he gets into cracking areas it breaks down.”
“I always thought that Massimo Luongo was better playing on the front foot. I’m surprised it took three managers two seasons to see it.” The 24-year-old one-time Town loan signing “has come on in leaps and bounds. He was always going to blossom once a team-mate took defensive responsibility.”
“Luongo seems to have developed fantastic body strength. He’s so difficult to get off the ball and has great acceleration”, “He drives the side forward and has excellent control and dribbling ability but he still makes the most midfield tackles, clearances and interceptions”, “He’s a new player this year.”
“Josh is crucial to the way we are playing. He does a terrific job with and without the ball in front of the backline, holding things together during the chaotic periods of the game.” The 24-year-old July signing from Barnsley is “a workhorse who does the ugly stuff and who reads the game so well”.
“Scowen is like a rabid dog chasing down passes but needs to work on his passing or stick to keeping it simple”, “He is very tidy and rarely gives the ball away”, “He’s the most important of the three, he allows Freeman and Luongo to play in the opposition’s half”, “As he put it himself, he’s ‘a little rat’.”
Wide Midfielders and Wingers
“Exeter fans speak highly of David Wheeler as a player and a person.” The 26-year-old new arrival from Exeter “is used to playing on the right of a front three. He’s powerful, very good in the air with a good shot on him”, “He’s something of a risk having never played above League Two before.”
“Kazenga LuaLua played against Hull despite his father dying the day before, which is really saying something, but even with that tragedy he is no right wing-back.” The 26-year-old ex-Newcastle man is on a second loan spell from Brighton. “It bordered on unfair for Holloway to play him out there.”
“LuaLua had a stinker against Hull. The crowd got on his beck so he became permanently nervous”, “He can clearly play but just needs to find his feet”, “He lost the ball at every opportunity even when it seems impossible to lose”, “His best use for now is as an impact sub and as an impact sub alone.”
Skuse v Lua Lua (Brighton)
“Yeni N’Gbakoto is one of the only players in the squad with something about him that can change a game.” The 25-year-old ex-Metz man and DR Congo international “is technically skilful in a way that can change a game for us”, “The guy has natural ball-playing qualities, be they shots or crosses.”
“I am not sure where Yeni is supposed to play, and am not sure he knows either”, “He has been here a year and has not done much of note”, “If he was not here would we notice? He has not done that much since his arrival. He doesn’t take a man on and beat him, I’m not too sure what he offers.”
“At last a pacy, strong winger who picks team-mates out and looks up before he crosses, not a hit-and-hope merchant.” The 25-year-old ex-Verona man “has looked a class player from the moment he first stepped on the pitch”, “He can pick a pass, he makes the right runs and has an eye for goal.”
Wszolek v Gaetano Berardi (Leeds)
“Pawel is a proper direct winger, not afraid to beat a man and break through defensive lines”, “He loses his man and swings brilliant crosses in”, “A quality player who is composed and finds the right pass”, “A true battler and Ollie has got him performing”, “Our best player and he should be playing.”
“Paul Smyth is quite small and some might say he’s too small. He’s robust in the tackle and doesn’t mind putting himself about.” The 19-year-old new arrival from Linfield “is small but not easily bullied and stands up for himself”, “He’s a great strategic signing, and a long-term bet for a modest outlay.”
“Jamie Mackie will be a squad player and will give his all when called upon but he is not really much use at this level even when fit.” The 31-year-old ex-Forest man “has plenty of experience and puts himself about but he is not a credible striker”, “He huffs and puffs but won’t blow any doors down.”
Jamie Mackie v Luke Chambers and Kevin Bru
“As long as Mackie is a squad player that’s fine but I look at him as a waste of space on the roster. The guy is not good enough”, “I get the sentiment about his enthusiasm and his love of the club, but we need a decent footballer”, “We could be in for a long old season with him as a first XI player.”
“Conor Washington has the ability of Teflon holding on to the ball.” The 25-year-old ex-Peterborough man “is proper pants, but he runs around a lot. If he plays every game this season he will never score double figures”, “I have never rated him. Some mistake his huffing and puffing for killer instinct.”
“For all Washington’s running he produces nothing and lacks Sylla’s sharpness”, “He can’t hold the ball, find a team-mate or threaten the defenders at all”, “His hold-up play is very poor, giving the ball away all the time”, “I want a ruthless opportunist, I simply don’t get that with Conor Washington.”
“Smith is such a handy player to have. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea but he scores 10 to 12 goals a year through his aerial ability.” The 28-year-old ex-Leeds and Fulham target-man’s “aerial presence causes teams untold problems. If you put good balls in the box, Matt Smith is well worth his place.”
Smith v Stephen Warnock (Wigan)
“The giant Hull side panicked at the sight of Smith and lost every challenge for the rest of the game”, “A cliché warning, but he lacks mobility and there is a tendency of our players listening to the voice in their head saying ‘hit the big man’. Good crosses maximise his threat more than balls from deep.”
“A goalscorer who gets into all the right positions.” The 26-year-old ex-Anderlecht player “should start every game. He is by far our best finisher”, “I don’t give a flying one if Sylla chases every lost cause. The guy is a proven scorer”, “He just seems to find space to shoot when nobody else can.”
Idrissa Sylla scores against Town
“If you added up the distance from goal of all his finishes, you would barely reach the outside of the penalty area, but that shows why Sylla is the deadliest striker we have. He’s the one who gets into those positions and has the killer instinct. He reliably finishes chances with his head or with his feet.”
Hoops’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich are not all that. We need to be looking at a win against them”, “They have got off to a flier but still expect them to be involved in the relegation battle”, “I would be surprised to see Ipswich still where they are now after 10 games.” “They will plummet down the table soon enough.”
“Those 12 points will certainly help Ipswich come the end of the season.” Hoops’ prediction leagues have 84 per cent going for a home win with a mere four per cent forecasting a Town triumph. A 2-1 home win is the most popular predicted score with many believing home advantage will be crucial.
“We look confident at home, there’s no reason why we can't beat Ipswich”, “They have set the early pace but their squad it is nothing to write home about. An above average, organised Championship side who admittedly are managed by one of the most experienced guys at this level.”
There is a familiar disbelief at our start to the season. “I’m not having Ipswich. They faced no one of note and were fortunate with opening games while we earned our points and are battle hardened. They had a decent start but you can't make a turd smell of roses”, “Mick did just that at Wolves.”
“Ipswich have a very limited squad with a manager who is lucky still to be in the job. A great start for them which is bad news for the other relegation candidates”, “I will have a bet that neither Ipswich nor Rangers are in a relegation battle despite the result of this relegation six-pointer this weekend.”
“The Ipswich end is sold out”, “So I hear, fair play if 3,000 are coming to us”, “We have just got to get in their faces from the off because if we let their front four play we'll be in trouble”, “We have all supported Rangers long enough not to get carried away.”
Our sister site LoftForWords has produced some superb preview pieces which really are worth reading ahead of the game.
Clive has additionally delved back into the archives, looking back at an October 1993 3-0 Town defeat to a Hoops side which was blossoming under Gerry Francis’s guidance.
Photo: Action Images
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