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Unwanted inheritance - Preview
Tuesday, 12th Jan 2016 11:36 by Clive Whittingham
Without a win since the start of December, or at all under their new manager, Queens Park Rangers face a long Tuesday trek to Blackburn tonight.
Blackburn Rovers (17th) v Queens Park Rangers (16th)
Championship >>> Tuesday January 12, 2016 >>> Kick off 19.45 >>> Weather – Freezing, very windy, damp >>> Ewood Park, Blackburn
Poor little Jimmy, wouldn’t let go… Now seven matches without a win as QPR manager for Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and in truth that elusive first victory looks further away than ever.
The juries come back quick at QPR these days, and give even less consideration to the evidence than those in Manitowoc County. To a sizeable online minority, Hasselbaink has already run his race at Loftus Road. “The Hasselbaink experiment has clearly failed,” said one punter after the weekend defeat at Nottingham Forest – lest we forget just over one month since the Dutchman arrived at Loftus Road.
He is struggling, fairly obviously, but this is no Alan Mullery situation, where he’s come into a finely honed winning machine and tight ship and blown the whole thing apart. Almost every problem currently facing the new QPR manager is a problem he inherited, and one that would still exist no matter who was in charge. Personally I find it amazing that after all these years, all these managers, and little improvement, people are still willing to turn on a manager who’s been here a month, or a Director of Football who’s been here a year, as if they’ve got much to do with it, as if the garden was all rosy before they arrived.
An entirely failed transfer policy has left QPR with a horribly bloated, obscenely expensive, squad of players that is somehow still short in several key areas. The team is entirely reliant on Charlie Austin for goals, it is dreadfully weak in both full-back positions, it has a plethora of players who are all suited to the ‘number 10’ role off a striker but no box to box midfielders, it has an increasingly shambolic goalkeeping situation, and chronic injury problems in several of its most important players – most notably Ale Faurlin, who improves the team 300% when he plays but is having to be gently coaxed through a season after three quickfire ACL injuries.
Hasselbaink walked into all of that, he caused none of it. You can, with some justification, wonder why Yun Suk-Young can’t get a look in when we’re struggling at left back, likewise Ben Gladwin in midfield and Michael Harriman at right back. But this is no more a problem that can be solved by a couple of minor team tweaks than it is one being caused by whoever the manager is at the moment. Trying to pin any blame on Hasselbaink whatsoever for what’s currently happening is like trying to pin an armed robbery on the council worker called in on his day off to wash the blood off the pavement. I thought we’d at least get to the end of the season without the new manager being questioned, but you didn’t have to sit in the away end at Nottingham Forest on Saturday for too long before realising how hopelessly optimistic that was.
The only issue he is causing, is this idea that Rangers should be executing a high press. It’s the style that has brought him success elsewhere, but it’s one unsuited to the players he has inherited. QPR’s appalling history of signing players who would never pass a medical at a properly run club in a million years has lumbered us with players who aren’t physically capable of doing the job Hasselbaink wants them to be able to perform. The FA Cup Third Round at Nottingham Forest, and the subsequent free fourth round weekend at the end of the month, are being used as sort of mini pre-seasons for the first team players, with the new coaching set up attempting to flog them into some kind of shape. The short term consequences are there for all to see – last minute goals conceded at Ipswich, at home to Hull and a late one at Bristol City. QPR look tired and leggy.
The hope is that medium or long term this will give way to a fitter, stronger, more durable team. To criticise Hasselbaink for this is mindless – surely the very least these exceedingly rich footballers could be is fit – but he may well have to adapt. The likes of Sandro, who is physically shot, and Leroy Fer, who failed a medical at Sunderland in the summer, are neither physically able to do it, nor mentally willing. And getting rid of them isn’t easy either, because you have to find a club desperate enough not to do a proper medical, stupid enough to overpay them to the extent QPR do, and desperate enough to want a player this overrated.
Neil Warnock and Chris Ramsey both quickly realised the limitations of this squad. One surrendered any hope of ever keeping a clean sheet in exchange for at least being able to score, the other gave up on the idea of goals altogether and parked six midfielders in front of the defence to try and keep clean sheets.
As a short term stop-gap – which is all Warnock himself ever said he wanted to be – his wasn’t a bad idea, but it was no kind of long term option and it was dire to watch. Sadly, the two wins he achieved – one of them, at Reading, after the home team had cracked the bar and then thrown the ball into the back of their own net for us – are being used as a stick to beat the new man with. We’ll soon be at the stage with Warnock that Newcastle were a few years back, when they had to make Alan Shearer the manager just to see if he was the answer (he wasn’t) before anybody else would get a fair crack of the whip.
Hasselbaink desperately needs a win to calm all this down, though whether he’ll get it at Ewood Park, on a night where the weather forecast is more Old Testament than Met Office, is highly doubtful. By Saturday Rangers could conceivably be heading to lowly Rotherham just two places and six points above them. It’s starting to feel like this is going to get much worse before it gets better.
Team News: QPR’s farcical goalkeeping situation will be front and centre of mind when the team comes in an hour before kick off. Rob Green needs only five more appearances for a new contract the club can’t afford to give him, but may have to play if Alex Smithies’ elbow injury hasn’t healed and young Joe Lumley is deemed a bit green for league action. There’s a suggestion that Charlie Austin may be fit to play some part.
Elliott Bennett, who played against Rangers at Bristol City just a couple of weeks back, could make his Blackburn debut tonight after signing on loan from Norwich. Marcus Olsson has the trots and is doubtful. Nathan Delfouneso (afraid of the dark), Danny Guthrie (tattoo appointment) and Fode Koita (searching for consonants) are all unavailable.
Elsewhere: This utterly ludicrous Football League notion, apparently voted on by the clubs, that what supporters want is the big local derbies on Saturdays, and the distant northern away games during the week costs several sets of fans another two days off work and an overnight stay this evening.
Boro and Brighton are suffering the most, sent to Brentford and Rotherham respectively, but there are also long treks for the Champions of Europe to Ipswich and Charlton to Huddersfield.
You wouldn’t exactly want to go from Reading to Derby for a bag of chips either, nor Burnley to Milton Keynes, but that’s positively sane compared to some of the others on the list tonight.
Rounding up the rest quickly Bristol City host Preston with promising Bolton youngster Zach Clough discussing terms at Ashton Gate. Trees host Birmingham, Owls face Barings Bank, Tarquin and Rupert are slumming it in Wolverhampton. One game tomorrow sees Tigers Tigers Rah Rah Rah host Cardiff with Russell Slade apparently on the verge of the sack.
Referee: Veteran Football League official Eddie Ilderton, from Tyne and Wear, is the man in charge of this one, and that doesn’t sound like good news for QPR. The last three appointments he’s had with Rangers have all been away, all finished in defeat, and seen ten goals shipped in the process. This the man who was in charge for the 4-1 loss at Scunthorpe and most recent 5-0 hammering at Nottingham Forest. More details, if you can bear them, available here.
Blackburn: After starting reasonably well under Paul Lambert – three wins and two draws – Rovers have fallen into a bit of a hole with three straight 1-0 defeats on the road, including a set-back at lowly Bolton. Having lost to Wolves and Shrewsbury here in the first week of the season, they have been tough to beat at Ewood Park this season with only Burnley winning here in the last ten games, although half of those have been drawn. They’re struggling for goals, only one in the last five, and Jordan Rhodes is on a seven match drought – exactly the sort of run QPR usually swoop in and end.
QPR: Having won only 11 of 50 matches played in 2015, QPR have lost both their 2016 games so far. They’ve won none of the seven matches since Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink took over and are in a relegation-form sequence of two wins from 13, three wins from 16 and four wins from 21. Away from home, having started the season with wins at Wolves, Yeovil and Huddersfield in the first four trips, Rangers have won one, drawn two and lost seven of the last ten on the road. QPR have dropped 17 points from leading positions this season, the most in the division, and have conceded in stoppage time on four separate occasions.
Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champions isawqpratwhitecity tells us…
“Unfortunately, no-one did enough on Saturday to worry our fat, overpaid drones that they might be in danger of losing their starting places, although the prospect of another ridiculously over-priced contract must surely see Green benched or dropped. It's been more than a month since there was more than one goal in a Blackburn game, and they've lost one-nil in their last three on the road. Time for them to be dishing some of that medicine back out. Sorry, I can't see the spark yet that will give Jimmy his first win."
Jim’s Prediction: Blackburn 1-0 QPR. No Scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Blackburn 1-0 QPR. No Scorer.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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