|This Week - Buzsaky the victim of a very English problem|
Wed 05th Nov 2008 10:06
With QPR goals coming along as frequently as Saturday night trains on the Hammersmith and City line are Rangers missing a trick by marooning Akos Buzsaky wide on the right?
Buzsaky, Riquelme and an English disease
I knew it would not be long into the second half at Ipswich before the chant started. It seems Flavio Briatore is not the only man with no football experience whatsoever in the stands at QPR at the moment that thinks he can do a better job picking the team than whichever poor sap we’ve got managing it this week. Boasting many decades of experience on Championship Manager it seems quite a few of our supporters think they know where the problem lies.
Sure enough, about a quarter of an hour into the second half, it began at the back of the stand. “442, 442, 442” people sang, presumably led by Martin O’Neill and Mark Hughes taking time out ahead of their teams’ games on Sunday and Monday. Thankfully this chant quickly caused a bit of a row between the various tactical minds among our travelling support and it died a death a lot quicker than it did against Blackpool at home in September.
We’ve all got an opinion but for me this is such a typical English attitude to solving problems in football. Haven’t scored for eight hours on the road? Losing again? Get rid of the foreigners and get into a 442 formation, that’ll solve it. The fact that playing with a flat four across the middle only really suits Martin Rowlands and inhibits the other 482 midfielders currently on our books doesn’t matter. Neither, it seems, does the lack of a striker good enough to justify playing one up front at all, never mind two. No, 442 it should be and any defeats suffered while not playing that can immediately be blamed on the choice of formation.
In my opinion our current difficulties in winning matches and scoring goals can be put down to a lack of quality players in three positions - right back, left back and up front. We do not, and have not had since Gino was harshly cut from the squad, a full back capable of overlapping and producing a decent cross. This is restricting our ability to keep the ball and provide good service to our strikers. However the lack of anybody with any ability at all in attack is a more serious problem - we could have Clichy and Corluka going up and down the line from full back if we wanted, they would still have nobody to cross a ball to.
Despite his wonder goal against Birmingham I’m not convinced by Di Carmine and it is unfair to ask a kid with seven senior appearances in his entire career to come into a foreign league and produce 20 goals in a mediocre team. With Blackstock I struggle to decide if he’s a bad player in form when he’s scoring or a good player out of form when he’s not. At the moment I can’t say I’m terribly impressed. Where on earth, or possibly in space, Patrick Agyemang is God only knows but he’ll never score like he did last season again as long as he’s got a hole in his arse and is, at best, half decent back up. Problem is at the moment he has nothing to back up.
Obviously the simple solution would be to get another striker, or two, and I’ll come onto that in a moment however a really simple way of picking up an extra 15 goals for our team this season for nothing would be to start using Akos Buzsaky in his correct position. Nottingham Forest at home, when he kept cutting inside, apart Buzsaky has been fairly terrible of late - stuck out on the right wing where he cannot play to his strengths, influence the play or get on the ball enough to hurt teams.
In Akos Buzsaky we have the best player in this league bar none. There is nobody I would swap him for in the Championship - not Sylvain Ebanks Blake, not Kevin Phillips, not Stephen Hunt, nobody. When played as an attacking central midfielder given license to roam behind one or two strikers he is lethal in this division. Pick him there every game from now on and he will score 15 times. At least. Stick him out on the right wing for the rest of the season and you’ll get from him what we got at Ipswich and Swansea - absolutely nothing, a passenger.
Buzsaky reminds me a lot of Juan Roman Riquelme, the Argentinian midfielder now with Boca Juniors but formerly with Barcelona and Villarreal. Riquelme, like Buzsaky, is only really any use to the team when played in a very specific position - in his case as a deep lying midfield player given time to pick out long range passes. Riquelme is never going to out pace a player or race to the byline, he’s never going to beat three men with flicks and tricks, but placed in that deep lying midfield position and given the ball he will pick apart even the highest quality opposition.
Sadly for him he wasn’t well liked by Van Gaal, his manager at Barcelona, who said he was a political signing and used him wide on the right as Buzsaky is at QPR. He was useless, as Buzsaky is there for QPR. He also ended up falling out with Villarreal president and is now back in his homeland with a dodgy reputation as a trouble maker. However for a glorious little 18 month period Riquelme was brilliant, and Villarreal were a match for anybody in Europe. To accommodate him they not only had to give him his deep lying midfield role but employ two other players to sit in front of him and protect him. Essentially the whole team had to be built and structured around him - but they knew he was worth it.
That would never happen in this country, never in a million years. Managers without the guts or imagination to use them correctly and consequently force them to play out of position in a rigid system label players like Riquelme, and Buzsaky, as luxuries. Because Flavio wants Parejo in the team we won’t even pick Buzsaky in his favoured position when that position does exist in our team. Yet there are no calls from supporters for Buzsaky to be moved to the middle and played off a striker so we do at least have a goal threat in our team - no, no, “442, 442, 442” they chant.
If we’re not going to sign a striker we desperately need then let’s at least put half of our ideal partnership together against Cardiff by playing Buzsaky off a man up top. Otherwise I’ll have to break my heart yet again this week and give him a four or five for another ineffective and disinterested performance stuck wide on the right or, worse still, the bench. He’s the best player we have, use him, use him properly, reap the rewards.
Five strikers who would make a difference
Whether Buzsaky gets a chance in his best position or not the fact remains that we are criminally short of strikers. This is nothing new, I spent the summer writing about the lack of fire power until my fingers were bloodied and sore. Most people said the same thing although some pointed to our goals from midfield and the form people like Patrick Agyemang and Dexter Blackstock showed in spells last season. I’d hope - as the division’s third lowest scorers, with only two goals on the road all season, and without a goal in eight and a half hours of away league football - that we are all agreed now. Striker needed, apply within.
In case you need further persuasion, how about this:
Birmingham Phillips, Jerome, O'connor, McFadden, Bent
Wolves Iwelumo, Keogh, Ebanks Blake, Vokes
Reading Doyle, Hunt, Long, Lita
Sheff Utd Cotterill, Henderson, Beattie, Webber, Sharp, Stokes
Burnley Akinbiyi, Paterson, Thompson, Blake, Berisha
Ipswich Stead, Counago, Lisbie, Walters, Clarke, Rhodes
Derby Ellington, Hulse, Villa, Sterjovski
QPR - Blackstock, Agyemang, Di Carmine, Balanta
It’s really not hard to see why every team in the league has scored more than us away from home, and why we’ve only scored six in our last 11 games. Sam Di Carmine’s goal against Birmingham was our first in open play against eleven men in the league since Bristol City away in August. Enough. I’ve made my point.
So what can we do about it? Well if my attempts to fashion a time machine using a kitchen knife, an old jar of curry sauce and the washing up bowl in my sink fail and we can’t go back to the summer and get a striker in when everybody said we were crying out for one then I’m afraid we’re looking for short term options - on loan now, possibly signing in January. Personally I’d rather see Angelo Balanta given some proper game time to aid his development rather than get some Premiership reserve player fit however as I say it’s unfair to lean on and rely on a kid developing his own game to score important goals in a mediocre side.
Getting clubs to loan strikers out at this time of year is a difficult task but Anthony Stokes and Leroy Lita have both gone out on temporary deals in the past few weeks so deals are there to be done. Never one to shirk a challenge and always one to put my head on the block here are five names in the spirit of wild speculation that might be worth having a look at.
Heidar Helguson - Bolton Next to useless goal scoring wise in the Premier League and consequently out of favour at Bolton despite their poor start to the season. However don’t let his inability to score in the top flight put you off, there’s a big difference between Rio Ferdinand and Clarke Carlisle and Helguson has shown before that he is a 20 goal striker at this level when he was here with Watford. Not only did he reach that target in his last season in the Championship but he did it in a poor Watford side that finished 18th. His physical strength means that he could easily play as a lone man which is another bonus.
Danny Webber - Sheff Utd Has actually started the last five games for Sheffield United but is used as a wide man as much as he is a striker and does seem to have gone stale in this part of the world. Lightening pace and a decent past record at this division with Watford and, to start with at least, Sheff Utd. Goal scoring record questionable but his pace makes him a threat and he’s better than anything we’ve got. May welcome a fresh challenge if he drops out of the Bramall Lane reckoning again.
Leroy Lita - Reading An arsehole. Clearly. Falls out with people, films his bedroom activities and sends them to his mates, gets loaned out by a club hardly flush for strikers itself – I’m not sure the baggage this lad would bring with him would fit in the dressing room. However he has four goals in eight games on loan at Norwich, and got three in eight at Charlton last year and he didn’t play well at either, if we could get him settled and playing to his full potential he’d be terrific. Previously Lita played well and was impressive for Reading in this league and the Premiership prompting Under 21 honours with England. Again, he would provide a threat that we currently don’t have. Is on loan at Norwich until December 7 but available after that.
David Nugent – Portsmouth I’m very wary of this lad because he’s quite clearly happy to play for Portsmouth reserves for the rest of his contract and little else. Has already turned down a loan move to Ipswich in the past however if we could get him and he was interested his record speaks for itself – 33 league goals in 83 league starts with Preston in the Championship, better than one in three.
Michael Chopra – Sunderland I initially discounted him from this list because Sunderland are suddenly in a trough of form and have already loaned out Anthony Stokes so I couldn’t see them letting him go, however today’s tabloids link him with a loan move to this division again despite him saying recently that watching Bristol City v QPR made him realise how much he wanted to avoid ever playing at this level again. Another one who can’t score regularly in the Premiership but has a decent record at this level with Barnsley and an excellent one with Cardiff City. Would provide a goal poaching threat that QPR haven’t had since Andy Thomson was here.
There are plenty of other options as well. There is always the possibility at QPR that problems will be papered over with another foreign signing from Flav’s address book although if one is to be made I would hope it would be more in the Tommasi mould than the Di Carmine one. We don’t need another kid coming to learn his trade, we need somebody that knows the game, knows his strengths and can slot straight into our attack and provide a threat.
There may be the possibility of a loan with a view to a permanent move in January for an in form player from the lower divisions. Rickie Lambert at Bristol Rovers has been mentioned on the message board although I’m not convinced he can make the step up and he would be a risk. Better still, get Leeds to name their price for Beckford - moody and stroppy but brilliant on his day and easily capable of playing in the Championship if sufficiently motivated and the chance to move back to his roots and play at a higher level should be incentive enough, particularly with the wages we pay.
I also wondered about Dave Kitson, who doesn’t seem to have settled at Stoke, and of course another Sunderland striker who we have chased before Daryl Murphy although again with Sunderland already loaning out Anthony Stokes they may not be keen to see him leave – especially with their form at the moment. The problem, as always, is to get clubs that have strikers to release them, even on loan.
Now your first reaction to some, or all, of them was probably “not him for God’s sake” and some of you are no doubt about to bash out a furious comment or message board post telling me I’m an idiot. I am, but before you do can you honestly say we have better players than that currently available to us? Honestly?
One team I omitted from my list to start with, quite deliberately, was Cardiff City who have better quality strikers than us but are very short on numbers in that department. Bothroyd and McCormack are a lively pair that complement each other well and have already made a great impact at this level this season. Between them they have scored 14 in the league this season, QPR have scored 14 in total.
Thankfully, with us playing Cardiff this Saturday, both pulled hamstrings against Wolves at the weekend and that leaves the Bluebirds with similarly limited options to ourselves - basically they have Eddie Johnson on loan from Fulham and that’s about it. As a consequence Cardiff are scowering the loan market themselves this week, a market we have allegedly been looking at for a month or more with no success. Ricardo Vaz Te at Bolton is their top target it seems, wouldn’t be a bad option for QPR either, and they too have been linked with Chopra. It will be interesting to see who, if anybody, Cardiff come up with in five days before Saturday’s match and if we manage to bring our five week hunt to an end with anybody better. Three points on Saturday to the team that brings back the best singing.
Well they may be brilliant, but Arsenal are no match for the long throw of Rory Delap either it turns out. It really is astonishing that Stoke City could actually stay in the Premier League based almost entirely on one bloke being able to throw the ball into the penalty box from anywhere in the opposition’s half. Don’t give me all that “it’s not all they do, they’re actually a good side” business that I’ve heard recently - they’re a one trick pony that would rival Derby County in the ‘lowest ever Premiership points total’ stake without Delap and if he was to pick up an injury they will be in big trouble. With him though, they will provide a threat to any team in the world because sooner or later every team gets a throw in.
I have marvelled at the various diagrams and expert opinions people have been offering for dealing with Delap’s throw ins for weeks now and still even the best that the Premiership has to offer can’t cope. The simple fact is if you have a bloke that can hurl a ball, with pace and accuracy, into a crowded six yard box ten or eleven times a game then goals will result. You can assemble the world’s tallest back four and work on long throws in training for forty days and nights and it will still happen.
Of all the ideas and suggestions for dealing with Delap and Stoke put forward I thought ITV pundit Robbie Earle had it about right. He’s not normally a pundit I pay a great deal of attention to but having played in a team with a long thrower at Wimbledon, and against a few as well, he’s pretty well placed to comment and got it spot on I think. After talking about the benefits of having Vinnie Jones and his long throw in the team Earle recalled an occasion when Wimbledon met Tranmere Rovers, a team that reached cup finals from a lower division primarily through having Dave Challinor and his awesome throw in their team.
Earle said that Joe Kinnear spent many hours on the training ground and in the dressing room working with his boys on how to defend against the throw ins, where to stand, what to do etc. Then, when the big day came, Vinnie Jones went out and within ten minutes he’d tripped Challinor up and stamped on his arm. Job Done.
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