|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 3 Bristol City|
Tuesday, 21st August 2018 Kick-off 19:45
Horse for a course - Preview
Tuesday, 21st Aug 2018 11:58 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have made the worst start to a league season in the history of the club, and now have two home matches to start turning things around starting tonight against Bristol City.
QPR v Bristol City
Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Tuesday August 21, 2018 >>> Kick Off 19.45 >>> Weather – Warm, dry >>> Loftus Road, London, W12
If, like me, you find the mere idea of sitting down to watch Premier League football akin to attending the wedding of your ex-girlfriend and that lad with the curly hair from the Paco Rabanne advert, then chances are you’ll have missed last night’s heated Monday Night Football (Richard Keys told us to cap it) debate prior to Liverpool’s victory at Crystal Palace.
The subject was Arsenal and the theme was ‘playing out from the back’, which we view with suspicion in this country as something foreign people enjoy, like a healthy diet or the swift passage of people and goods across borders to ensure the ongoing prosperity of your country.
Jamie ‘Cara’ Carragher, taking time out from leaning through his car window to spit in the faces of fellow motorists, believed strongly that two defeats from the first two league games and the unedifying sight of 36-year-old Petr Cech calmly passing the ball towards the bottom corner of his own net showed that new manager Unai Emery was trying to do too much too soon and should adapt and change his approach slightly. This is a view that’s been espoused every day for a fortnight now by ‘Big’ Sam Allardyce, taking a break from forcing players to switch agents and sign up with his son’s company before signing them to tour any radio station that’ll have him and say that all this daring to pass the ball in your own half stuff is hocus pocus and what Emery really needs is to smash it down the field and let Kevin Davies tread on a few faces. Allardyce a man who believes he’d have been Real Madrid manager had his last name been Allardici, and who also thinks it an unfair restriction of trade that teams aren’t allowed to take a circus cannon onto the pitch with them.
But Gary ‘Gary’ Neville, meanwhile, strongly disagreed. Taking a break from making a hideous mess of senior coaching appointments to tell other senior coaches what they should be doing, Neville said any concession from Emery on style and philosophy this early in his reign would finish him in the eyes and minds of his players and he’d be a dead man walking, or at least a dead dog being wagged by its tail, were he to do so. It’s for the players to adapt to him, not vice versa. Here’s a little video of him ranting on, because it’s nice to break all this text up with images.
Which brings us to our own precious little darlings Queens Park Rangers, who have lost the first three league games of the season for the first time in the history of the club, and were beaten 7-1 at West Brom at the weekend which is their worst defeat since May 1987. They too are trying to switch to an ultra-modern, pass out from the back style, and if you think Petr Cech looks uncomfortable with it then wait until you see Matt Ingram’s career/life draining away from him before your very eyes.
Now the key difference, as Neville points out, between Arsenal and Big Fat Sam’s Big Fat Gameplan, is that Emery is trying to build a team that will eventually win the league, and if the £30m players he’s got now aren’t capable of playing the style he wants then they will be replaced with other £30m players. Allardyce is only ever trying to get eight points from the next five matches to avoid relegation. Like it or not, QPR are very firmly in the latter category at Championship level. There is no money to spend here, and there is a transfer embargo for January, so if these players are not capable of playing McClaren’s preferred style – and certainly on early evidence Ingram, Lynch and Leistner absolutely are not – then he’s going to have to adapt.
There is a certain sneering superiority from people, coaches, managers and players who endorse this splitting of the centre halves and goalkeeper-as-a-playmaker style, as if it’s the one true faith, the only way you should be allowed to play football, and anybody else trying anything different is some sort of philistine or dinosaur who the sport will leave behind. But if you try and force it onto players who aren’t good enough, it can become arrogance and hubris. Who can forget Harry Redknapp’s glorious ‘three at the back’ summer built around King Rio, in which he sold Danny Simpson who went on to win the Premier League, then quickly realised Richard Dunne as the left centre back in a three was a recipe for disaster, then spent the rest of the season moaning that he didn’t have a proper right back having switched back to a four?
This QPR job was going to be difficult enough this season, with a declining budget, the whole of the centre of the defence leaving, the outstanding goalkeeper being sold, the transfer embargo and so on. To make life more difficult, more complex, by trying to bring in an entirely new style of play as well is making a rod for your own back. Particularly when you don’t have the goalkeeper, the defenders or the centre forwards to make it work.
Other styles are available. Being slightly more pragmatic than we were at the weekend when we conceded seven bloody goals, isn’t to surrender all your footballing principals and immediately become John Beck’s Cambridge or Keith Alexander’s Lincoln or Dave Bassett’s Wimbledon. It’s not a straight choice between play out from the back or start whacking it, there’s a vast grey area in between. Once you come away from the clubs with unlimited funds and title ambitions, either in the Premier League or the Championship, then the rest are often successful being adapting to what they’ve got, playing the hand they’ve been dealt. Neil Warnock’s fire and brimstone Cardiff team is very different from his swashbuckling QPR team – because at QPR he had Faurlin, Buszaky, Walker, Routledge, Taarabt etc and at Cardiff he’s got Bamba and Morrison.
McClaren is, clearly, already in trouble at QPR. He’ll be lucky to see the month out if these two winnable home games this week don’t go his way. He could help himself, starting tonight, by working with the players he’s got, not the players he wishes he had.
Team News: When the going gets tough, Joel Lynch gets going, and having limped out of Saturday’s debacle in typical fashion at 5-1 he must be rated as a doubt for tonight. Alex Baptiste stands by for his first league start of the season, with Sebastien Bassong (who was crap five years ago) training with the R’s after a year out of the game. Stop the season I want to get off. Angel Rangel is still rated as short of match fitness so is unlikely to make his debut at right back, but will replace Osman Kakay if he does. Any prize from the top shelf for a sighting of Sean Goss.
Bristol City midfielder Corey Smith has had knee surgery and will be out for an extended period. The Robins are also likely to be missing both first choice centre backs with Nathan Baker (gout) and Bailey Wright (foot and mouth disease) both absent.
Elsewhere: Week three of our enforced incarceration, and the guards are trying to placate growing restlessness with seasoning for the gruel. This time, for the first time ever, you can watch any midweek game you want on your tellybox, removing the need to attend the sodding things altogether. Good luck shifting the tickets for our November Tuesday trip to Rotherham. All you need is a £127 a month Sky subscription, or £10 (per match that is, not season, big lolz) to slip into Shaun Harvey’s g-string and you can stream it online. Small price to pay I’m sure you’ll agree for the veritable feast laid before us this week which includes Blackburn v Reading, Bolton v Birmingham and Stoke v Wigan Athletic.
That’s all tomorrow, so you’ll have to wait, I know, life is cruel. If you can’t stand it, there’s four for you tonight, including our own festival of mediocrity. To be fair, watching Big Fat Frank find out that there’s a bit more to management than stringing the odd sentence together and topping your goal tally up with deflected free kicks against crap Aston Villa sides, is rather entertaining, and hopefully Ipswich Blue Sox will continue that education tonight. He’s a bright lad, we’re told over and over and over and over and over again, so I’m sure he’ll pick it up.
Swansea v Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds is the featured game on Sky Sports Leeds while Rotherham v Hull is barely of interest to Rotherham or Hull – Nigel Adkins edging closer to the exit door at that shambles though we hear. Likewise Daniel Farke at Norwich ahead of their meeting with Preston tomorrow.
You get two days off for good behaviour then a big wad of Pulis right in the gob on Friday as Middlesbrough play West Brom.
Referee: Merseyside official Peter Bankes is back at Loftus Road for the first time in nearly a year tonight. He was last in charge of a 2-1 home defeat to Fulham last September, awarding the visitors a blatant penalty after one of Joel Lynch’s brain farts. Details and stats here.
QPR: Well that escalated fast. We’ve gone from our worst start to a season outside the top flight since 1970 to our worst start to a season at any level in the history of the club. Three league games, three defeats, two goals scored, ten conceded. Rangers will now be hoping that last year’s home form can be maintained and rescue them against a Bristol City team also shorn of its best players, and sporting a poor record at Loftus Road, and newly promoted Wigan. The R’s won 12 times on this ground last year and drew a further five games leaving them with just six home losses – the same record Derby qualified for the play-offs with.
Bristol City: The Bristol media have been talking up, and the City coaching staff talking down, a supposed ‘curse’ on the Robins when they visit Loftus Road. They haven’t won here since 1977, 16 meetings ago (QPR W9 D7), so not quite on the level of our Nottingham Forest hoodoo, nor Barnsley’s aversion to W12, but still something to cling to. Having started last season in superb league and cup form, City won just four of their last 25 games in the second half of 2017/18 (including a 2-1 victory over us with ten men of course). That form has bled into this season with draws against Forest (1-1) and Bolton (2-2) followed by defeats to Plymouth (0-1) and Middlesbrough (0-2) to leave them without a win in the first four games after losing Joe Bryan, Bobby Reid and Aden Flint in the transfer window. They drew 1-1 at Loftus Road last year thanks to a highly controversial penalty, part of an away record of six wins, ten draws and seven defeats.
Prediction: Elliott Cooke (@cookiee42, Elliott42) led the Prediction League from the front throughout last season, finishing with more than 100 points and lots of goodies from our sponsors The Art of Football. Still early days, still time to get involved this season - here’s the link – get predicting. Meanwhile, here’s Art of Football’s QPR collection, ideal birthday present material, to peruse. They’ve kindly agreed to provide prizes to the overall winner AND whoever is top at Christmas. To help you pick here is our reigning champ Elliott with his thoughts for this week…
“Well firstly I don’t think a lot needs to be said about Saturday other than it being an absolute shambles. I take my hat off to Clive for somehow managing to write a report for it. I’m still struggling to find anything to say about it without getting angry. I said before the first game that all fans will need to be patient with the team for the start of the season. With two home games in five days, I hate to think what the reaction will be if we don’t pick up anything. With a cracking young manager in Lee Johnson, I think Bristol City will turn up expecting to beat us comfortably and take us to the sword. The first goal is massive…”
Elliott’s Prediction: QPR 1-2 Bristol City. Scorer – Matt Smith
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 1-0 Bristol City. Scorer – Matt Smith
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