More derby woes – Knee jerks
Sunday, 14th Feb 2016 13:58 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola had hoped performances like Saturday’s were a thing of the past, but as he assesses the six talking points from the Fulham debacle it’s clear QPR have some way to go yet.
The Second Ball
It wasn't just the second ball. It was every fifty-fifty. Every lame, half-arsed challenge. Every shrug of the shoulders instead of standing up and fighting when losing the ball, followed by a pathetic, forlorn look at the ref (yes you, Matt Phillips). Every misplaced pass - including one from Hoilett when he failed to find Perch who was standing less than a metre from him. Every responsibility-abdicating, head-down launch of the ball forward just to get it away without even bothering to see if a QPR shirt was even within ten yards of where the ball was going. All of it. Unforgivably crap.
But the second ball sums it up. Last week, we dominated the game and the midfield at least in part because Ipswich decided to ignore the midfield area. But it was also because of how we competed. How we won the second ball. How we were stronger, more determined in our tackling and better and more confident in possession. How a team can go from that to this inside one week is so baffling I don't even know where to start. But the first half in particular was pathetic - as bad as Fulham away and as bad as the many meek performances Harry Redknapp gave us away from Loftus Road. Useless, rubbish, without a shred of positivity to cling to. The farce of the third goal in particular was, as some fans sang, utterly embarrassing. But the sheer number of times a loose ball dropped and Fulham were first to it was the real sickener.
People are already lambasting JFH for his tactics and they do have a point, although he was clearly trying throughout the first half, even before the goals, to reorganise. But it didn't work. The high-pressing seemed a good idea. Fulham had been obviously scouted and they like to start at the back, keeper to defenders, and work up. So Polter, Mackie, Hoilett and Phillips were tasked with shutting this down. Which they did. But the result was much worse.
First of all, it meant a lot of timewasting, meaning we never got into any kind of rhythm. Second of all, and much worse, was that when they did get the ball over the halfway line, we were hopelessly over-stretched, leaving huge gaps in our half for Fulham to, it has to be said, exploit with some brilliantly efficient and incisive passing. They took a while to score, but that goal could have come at any time as they probed and unpicked our static, slow defence time and again. And once they did, it was the same as at Craven Cottage - a complete and utter collapse.
JFH could and perhaps should have allowed Fulham to have the ball at the back, allowed us to keep our more compact shape and tried to win it further back than on the edge of their box. We denied them space in that area, but granted it where it was most dangerous. Maybe a switch to 4-5-1, with Mackie going wide left would have slowed them a bit. But JFH, after last week, had a right to expect more from his team.
Ream, Cairney, McCormack, Dembele
With these four players it seems ludicrous that Fulham are as low as they are. Today all four arguably had better games in one match than any of our entire squad have had in the entire season. Ream was supreme at the back, gratefully devouring every stupid high ball QPR chipped up for him and totally dominating Polter and then Washington. Cairney was superb in the middle - winning the ball but delightfully confident with it too. McCormack, well, as usual, we had absolutely no idea what to do with him. Spent the entire game doing whatever he wanted and was challenged about twice, I think. But was superb - particularly his passing and at least two absolutely wonderful balls into the box - as well as a fabulously taken goal that you knew would go in the moment he latched onto it. So far ahead of anyone in our team. And Dembele made easy work of Hall and Onuoha without barely seeming to break a sweat. Excellent performances - however bad we were, you have to applaud them for some sublime football. What have they been doing in games not against QPR this season?
ToszerOf course, Toszer (along with the full backs) will take the majority of stick. In truth, he was no worse than anyone else out there, although by the end his head had gone completely and he was just looking to get rid of the ball as soon as it came anywhere near him. But still, after the promise of last week, this was back to his worst. Barely made a tackle, his passing was consistently poor, he has no pace, he didn't win a header despite being about 6'3. But you can't say this was all down to Ale's injury. He may have made a slight difference, especially as he is at least something of a leader, but this was a collective failure from coaches down to players. Had high hopes for him, but after finally giving us a decent half hour last week I'm not sure it's ever going to work out because we don't have the right kind of combative player to sit next to him. But then I'm not positive we have the right one to sit next to Luongo or Faurlin either.
London Derbies and Fulham
This record we have gets more laughable with every derby. We've now played Fulham six times in five years. In FOUR of those games we have been 3-0 down... AT HALF TIME. Dave Mc's been on Twitter talking about how this game means more to Fulham, but how can it? I don't understand it. I get that Chelsea games mean more to us than them. But I don't think Fulham see this as anything much more than playing Charlton or Brentford do they? But even if they do, let's look at those stats again - they are embarrassing us almost every time we play them. Surely, at some stage, this game should start to mean SOMETHING to our players too?
JFH said before the game, I read on here, that we would be right after them. And to some extent, for 10-15 mins we were, in that we refused to let them pass from the back. But then what happened? Total bafflement, total collapse without an ounce of pride before half time. A previously reliable defence suddenly standing around watching the ball roll in slow motion until Cairney swept it in. After losing 4-0 to a team many other teams in this league have beaten, why were we not desperate - not just to beat them - but to crush them? I don't get it.
And then we have our record in derbies in general. Bizarrely, our record v Chelsea over the same period as our dismal record v Fulham is probably as good as any other team in the Prem, even with the 6-1 humiliation. But look at our recent London derbies:
What an absolute embarrassment.
Nasser El Khayati
Well done! By performing with a modicum of competence and pretty much doing your job to an acceptable level and by actually looking dangerous and for getting a HUGE 6/10, you win man of the match.
Pictures – Action Images
Photo: Action Images
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