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Reading 0 v 1 Queens Park Rangers
SkyBet Championship
Tuesday, 2nd October 2018 Kick-off 20:00
Little mints – Preview
Tuesday, 2nd Oct 2018 13:45 by Neil Dejyothin and Clive Whittingham

With QPR in the midst of another losing run, we asked the one with the coaching badges where it’s gone wrong tactically ahead of tonight’s game at Reading. Here’s what Neil Dejyothin told us…

Reading (2-3-5, LLWLWD, 20th) v QPR (3-1-6, DWWLLL, 19th)

Lancashire and District Senior League >>> Tuesday October 2, 2018 >>> Kick Off 20.00 >>> Weather – Overcast, dry >>> Madejski Stadium, M4

Slightly different approach to the preview this week as we turn the top half over to our official photographer (unsalaried) and resident coaching badge holder Neil Dejyothin. With so much talk about the system being used and players being shoe-horned in out of position, here's his assessment of the current situation...

My slight worry with all of this is I just don't *feel* that McClaren really understands and knows the Championship or lower leagues that well. He's operated at a higher level for a lot of the time, so while he is an experienced coach, he doesn't seem suited to this level of football and I think it shows.

He wasn't keen on signing players from the lower leagues, because he didn't know much about them, and hence has moved towards experience. Having said that, it's still a fair assessment that we needed to have a bit more experience in the squad having lost so many senior players in the summer, so it's not like he's an idiot. That was sensible enough.

But, he also didn't seem to realise how expensive players at this level are and were. The club seemed to have one idea and he probably had another idea. I'm not sure the expectation levels matched and the reality of it all seemed to be a bit of a wake up call.

In addition, with everything that's happened so far this season, it makes me feel like McClaren hasn't done his homework well enough. I don't feel like he knows the strengths and weaknesses or history of the players here all that well, and I'd say the same for the teams we've faced this season, where he's set up the side poorly and played into the hands of the opposition.

The Norwich and Swansea matches were striking examples of this. Both have deep lying midfield players who can dictate matches and control proceedings from the base of the midfield, but we didn't seem to prepare for this and more worryingly did nothing to try and remedy the situation once it was apparent it was a problem during the games. I mean, it's fine if you want to allow those players to have time on the ball, but don't let them do it with the two strikers out of the game behind them. If they're not going to apply pressure, at least get one or both to drop in and screen.

On top of that, the team selections and rotational policy McClaren's employed says a lot. There are some players he clearly fancies and some he doesn't. It feels like to me has made some quick assessments based on limited action in a short space of time and stuck with them.

And we're back to playing players out of position to try and shoehorn them in and all of this leaves us vulnerable to being exploited by opposing teams and increases the risk of things not going as well as we want.

From a purely tactical perspective, it concerns me to see us paying little attention to the opposition’s midfield, particularly the diamond positions (base and top of the midfield) where we're allowing the opposition to control proceedings, and then leaving space for an attacking midfield to freely operate between the lines and in dangerous areas right in front of the defence.

Currently we're vulnerable from wide areas because we're playing two players in Freeman and Eze who are more attack minded, which does leave the full backs exposed and don't have the luxury of an extra body in midfield to try and help out and cover. In addition, those two aren't really thickening up the midfield when they come inside, nor are they really doing the job of a natural wide player. At the same time, the two in midfield are being overrun and exposed, and we've generally not got the profile of players with the attributes to play as a two instead of a three.

That's become more obvious as McClaren's stuck with it, and at Swansea we saw Geoff Cameron screening the two centre backs. That might seem like a sensible idea, but it meant that we played too deep and the midfield were giving up even more space because someone was trying to offer more protection than normal. It didn't stop Fulton running through unchecked from deep with all the time and space to tee up and score the third.

You would expect at least one of the two strikers to come deep and help out, but it doesn't look like they're being instructed to do so to me. McClaren also cited that our passing was poor and we gave it away a lot, but if the distance between our defensive base and units increases from the strikers (and there was a huge gap and a lot of vertical space down the middle today) then it's going to make every pass more difficult to achieve.

If McClaren did his homework, he'd have known why so many before him in recent seasons have opted for a three man midfield, as it played to the strengths we had. It also helps with having more passing options in close proximity, at least in transitions and quick turnovers of play.

I've mentioned previously on here that McClaren tends to set up a pretty basic formation, with 1:1 duals across the pitch and expecting players to win their individual battles. But, the net effect of this is when that doesn't happen, you leave yourself wide open and exposed right across the pitch, and at times, outnumbered and vulnerable and this has happened countless times already this season with inevitable outcomes. It's not the type of level of football for this approach, not unless you have players with the technical ability and personality to do it.

I think a lot of the matches we've lost this season are because of this. I've counted many times this season where crosses have come into the box with players arriving on the other side completely unmarked and with plenty of time and space to do what they like. Same for central midfield and runners from deep.

I also think it's a shame that for one half of excellent football against an admittedly poor Millwall side on the night, he went away from it and back to a system where we're shoehorning players in. I just don't get that at all.

The choice of substitutions hasn't really worked this season either, but I think worse than that, decisions on when to introduce and make changes are happening very late, easily 10-15 minutes before they should be in some cases.

But the biggest worry isn't actually about formations or shoehorning players in, it's just the total collapse once things don't go your way. These are the worrying signs that need to be looked at and addressed. We completely gave up and waved the white flag in spectacular fashion against West Brom, made life extraordinarily difficult for ourselves after conceding against Bolton and never looked like we had the belief after going behind against Norwich and Swansea that we could get back in it.

Every time a goal goes in, it's unsettling the side and making them more anxious, and to me, that's obvious. If you need to respond, but you're set up in a way that leaves you wide open as we are doing, it's going to make you nervous about the counter attacks when there's already a soft underbelly.

Links >>> Signs of life at Reading – Interview >>> LFW speaks to Tilehurst End – Interview >>> Routledge’s late winner – History >>> Davies in charge – Referee

Geoff Cameron Facts #5 – The Cameron family was the richest in America until the Wall Street Crash of 1929 wiped out their wealth, forcing them to join a travelling circus.

Tuesday

Team News: Toni Leistner missed out on the Swansea debacle with a groin injury picked up in training the day before but is in the squad for tonight and likely to replace Alex Baptiste. Josh Scowen was also absent at the weekend as his wife was having a baby, though given what went on at Blackpool and McClaren’s apparent aversion to him it’s unlikely he’d have started anyway. Whether there’s a change to a system that’s not working, or a new midfield combination with Geoff Cameron struggling for match fitness, remains to be seen. Mide Shodipo and Darnell Furlong are the long term absentees. Two tickets to Sean Goss’ birthday party for anybody that spots him in a first team context – the BBC reckon he’s in line for a start!

Goalkeeper Vito Mannone was the hero of this fixture last season and is back in contention for a start tonight after missing four games injured. Paul Clement must choose between him and Sam Walker. Sam Baldock is afraid of the dark so is a doubt for midweek fixtures.

Elsewhere: Not getting a lot better for Preston Knob End, our outside tip for the promotion play-offs who currently sit dead last without a win since they beat us on day one. Their former Man Utd striker Josh Harrop has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury ahead of tonight’s match at Aston Villa. Stoke, meanwhile, who we said would walk the league, sit seventeenth with the second worst defensive record and no away wins as they prepare to welcome Bolton, who we thought would finish last and are currently fourteenth.

To be fair, a few of our other calls look spot on so far. Brentford are indeed in the play-off picture ahead of a home game with Birmingham who are, as we suspected, deep in the shit. Hull are a basket case and Leeds are pure Bielsa madness, they meet in a Yorkshire derby this evening. Middlesbrough are Pulising their way all the way back to the Premier League, and will fancy their chances against winless Ipswich Blue Sox tonight – still maintain it was time for Town and Mick McCarthy to split up, and that Paul Hurst was worth a go, despite their dire start. Got a strong suspicion I know where their first win is coming from… Wigan, over achieving brilliantly under Paul Cook, are at home to Swansea, who are parring the course.

Five more games tomorrow between ten clubs we called just about right by the looks of things. Big Fat Frank’s Big Fat Derby are motoring along nicely prior to their annual collapse in March, they host Borussia Norwich. I’m enjoying Tony Mowbray’s Blackburn, who score for fun and look really good doing it – their game with Sheff Red Stripes tomorrow has all kinds of potential with Chris Wilder, as suspected, getting the Blades going again. Nottingham Trees having all the footballers hasn’t helped, they’ve drawn eight so far this season (I know! With Karanka in charge! Who would have thought it?) ahead of a home game against Millwall Scolars who are finding it all a bit much now teams have worked out how to play against their kick and rush. Rotherham are ahead of Rangers in the league by three goals, Ryan Manning has scored two of those and is currently our second top goalscorer behind Ebere Eze – they’re at home to Bristol City. Free scoring West Brom, 27 goals this season compared to QPR’s seven, have gone top ahead of their trip to Sheffield Owls.

Then we do it all again on Saturday.

Referee: Andy Davies is in charge of this one, fresh from awarding Sheff Utd two penalties at The Den at the weekend – brave man. His last two QPR appointments have both been against Ipswich Town, including Boxing Day last season. Reading have lost comfortably in their last three games with this referee, if you’re looking for some straws to clutch onto. Details here.

Form

Reading: It took the Royals until the seventh game of the league season to register their first win, 3-2 at bottom placed Preston. They lost the first three, scoring only once, and had lost four and drawn two prior to the win at Deepdale. Since then they’ve won two and drawn one of four and come into this game on the back of a 3-0 home win against Hull and a creditable 2-2 draw at high flying Brentford. So far at home this season they’ve beaten Hull and Birmingham in the cup but lost the other five games in all competitions against Derby (1-2), Bolton (0-1), Watford (0-2), Sheff Wed (1-2) and Norwich (1-2).

QPR: So far this season QPR have lost four of their first five games, won four of the next five, and now lost three in a row. The latest run of defeats has come without scoring a goal in 270 minutes, or really registering a serious shot on target. Rangers have failed to score in four of their six away games this year, and in one of the remaining two they were thrashed 7-1 despite that Joel Lynch first half equaliser. Seven goals scored in total is the lowest in the league, Reading are one place below us but have scored twice as many goals. Only bottom placed Preston (21) have conceded more than our 18.

Prediction: Elliott Cooke (@cookiee42, Elliott42) won last year’s Prediction League to claim the merch from our sponsor Art of Football, but we both got caught out by the demon hope against Norwich a week ago. Get involved here or sample the merch from our sponsor’sQPR collection. They’ve kindly agreed to provide prizes to the overall winner AND whoever is top at Christmas. Reigning champ Elliott tells us…

“Yet another heavy away defeat on Saturday. There can be no possible excuses for that performance, it was a complete and utter shambles. It’s time to go back to basics. Freeman/Eze out wide simply isn’t working. I understand we have to accommodate Wells/Hemed which I think can be done at home, but it’s killing us away from home. Play to our strengths. Although we don’t have many, we’ve got to go back to Eze in behind Wells. McLaren isn’t having Scowen at all but god did we miss someone who was willing to get within five yards of their player on Saturday. It simply can’t be worse than Saturday but based on that we look in big trouble.”

Elliott’s Prediction: Reading 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Tomer Hemed

LFW’s Prediction: Reading 1-0 QPR. No scorer.

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

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plasmahoop added 15:03 - Oct 2
Seems a pretty good analysis!
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isawqpratwcity added 20:09 - Oct 2
Thanks, Neil. Food for thought.
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VancouverHoop added 23:22 - Oct 2
Don't you think that hiring assistants from lower divisions was an acknowledgment on Mclaren's part that he wasn't familiar with the players or type. of game at this level? Whether it's been successful or not is debatable of course, but it doesn't seem to be something he's ignored
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