The view from the Pu – August
Wednesday, 4th Sep 2019 20:00 by Steve Hardy
We’re delighted to say that not only is Steve Hardy returning to LFW with his monthly review column this season, but also that his first one has loads of positives to reflect on from August after the dearth of material last season.
It only feels like yesterday since Matt Smith (the posh one) was slamming the ball into the roof of the Sheffield Wednesday net and yet the football season is back upon us dominating all news mediums like a swarm of hungry flies buzzing around a huge pile of turd.
However, with just a Cricket World Cup to keep us company this summer I must say it is good to have football to focus on again at the weekends. Not exactly a quiet month with the small matter of eight games being played, let’s have a look at the good and the bad.
Is this going to be the breakout season for Ebere Eze I ask myself? The early signs look positive and I must say that I really like what I have seen so far. I don’t want to rake over old wounds but I never really brought in to the criticism of Eze last season, even once he had been flogged to death over the Autumn and Christmas period he was always showing for the ball and willing to have a go but it just didn’t seem to work, not just for him but for the whole team.
For the scientists out there his August stats this time around look good – six appearances, two goals and one assist – but what has impressed me the most is his strength and maturity. In the Swansea game especially he seemed to really be getting stuck into a lot of tackles and was very strong in doing so, it’s almost as if he went away a kid and has come back a man. Maybe he went to the funfair over the summer and had a wish on the Zoltar machine?
All jokes aside it is brilliant to see him playing like this and long may it continue. I saw it mentioned on the message board that when you look at the squad and how new a lot of the players are Eze actually has some of the most appearances in the team now, maybe this new seniority has something to do with how good he has been or maybe it is just Warburton getting the best out of him. Whatever it is long may it continue, and if he can add a few more goals to his game – which I’m sure he will - I very much doubt he’ll be a QPR player next season, ideally making us the usual undisclosed amount of profit. Still we’ll always have that goal at Stoke I suppose.
One of the reasons that Eze looks a like more fluent in the team this season is down to the quality of football that we are producing, especially in the final third. I’ve mentioned the goal at Stoke but there were also times in the second half against Wigan where it just seemed like we couldn’t give the ball away if we tried. I’ve checked the stats and bar the Stoke game we’ve had the majority of the possession in every game, even against Swansea we had more of the ball. Obviously this is a very pleasing stat but we still end the month with three league defeats and no clean sheets kept which goes to show that possession isn’t everything, although I will say that the quality of the football is a lot better than last season and if we aspire to be a top half team then ultimately the quality of the football is what is going to get more punters into seats season on season. So kudos to Warbuton on the style that he has imposed, it’s very easy on the eye but the defence looks about as strong as wet toilet paper at the minute – more on that later.
The 4-2-3-1 seems to be Warburton’s formation of choice and one of the pivotal positions in this set up is the ‘1’ up top. Bar the two years that Charlie Austin was scoring for fun we’ve been screaming out for a striker with a good back to goal game and it looks like we seem to have found a star in the shape of Jordan Hugill. I’ll hold my hands up here and say that originally I wasn’t that impressed with his signing, I always had the impression that he was some kind of northern lump in the Jon Parkin mould, but on first impressions I like what I see.
What I like the most is his attitude, watching the Swansea game he never seemed to give up and I feel that type of thing will rub off on the younger players playing behind him. He looks fit, sharp and in shape and the difference between him and the Tomer Hemed that we had on loan last season is night and day. I have everything crossed that he doesn’t turn out to be your typical loan signing who gives up as the season peters out, but judging on his performances so far I don’t think that will be the case. Five goals in his first month and he looks hungry for more, very good to see, except for the howler against Wigan which looked harder to miss.
At the end of last season John Eustace spoke about there being a losing mentality around the club and he was right, hence the huge turnover in players this summer. The problem with this is obviously the time it takes to integrate new players and install a new system of tactics and way of playing, and because of this I still feel like the whole mentality issue is on a bit of a knife edge. Clive spoke about a sliding doors moment at half time in the Wigan game but the thing that worried me the most in the first half seemed to be the lack of belief. There were times in that half where some players looked scared of the ball coming near them and it felt like a little bit of a hangover from last season.
Having said this I do feel we look a lot stronger team when we have Geoff Cameron sitting in front of the back four and he seems to be a calming influence but there is still a long way to go to completely shake off that losers mind-set that we’ve been stuck with for the last few years and relying on a 34-year-old so heavily isn’t ideal. So I guess I’m sounding a bit of caution, yes we have looked good on the ball going forward and we have had some good results but I do feel like we’re still only one poor performance from things starting to unravel. Or is that just the cynic in me, since I wrote this we have just come back from 1-0 down to beat Sheff Wednesday so maybe it is myself who needs to change mindset?
Now let’s talk about that defence then. Weak as wet toilet paper, as strong as church hall squash, as scary as a trip to Burton Albion. It’s all been said about how poor we have looked at the back and in all honesty if we’re going to have to score a minimum of two goals every game then I do believe we will struggle (although it doesn’t seem to be an issue currently), no matter how entertaining it may be. I’m not going to write off Barbet after only one month, and clearly there is a good player there otherwise Brentford wouldn’t have offered him a contract extension, but my word does he need to concentrate more. In the games that I’ve seen him play there are times when he looks like he’s had more beers than me before the game. Yes he’s got a good touch and has a great left peg but if you can’t tackle and you can’t head the ball then you shouldn’t be playing centre back in my eyes. A very simplistic view in the modern game maybe, but the two penalties he has already given away added to the defending for Portsmouth’s second goal do worry me. Like I say if he can up his concentration levels and become an ‘uglier’ player then I think there’s a decent player there but I’m not overly impressed so far, if someone could give him Clint Hill’s number I would appreciate it.
I don’t know what other solutions there are really, we looked good with the three at the back in the second half against Wigan and gained maximum points at Hillsborough, but I feel that may leave us outnumbered in the midfield in other games, and pairing Leistner with Hall will just end up exposing the BFG’s lack of pace especially with the full backs pushing so high up. Hopefully something that can be looked into in the two week break, a clean sheet is long overdue.
So we’re out of the league cup early doors again. There’s not much to really say about this, it’s very well documented how poor our cup form is but I will say the following. I first started attending QPR games in February 1997 and in that time we have made the fifth round of the FA Cup twice and the fourth round of the League Cup once. In 22 years that’s appalling, especially when you consider only three of those years were spent outside the top two divisions. It was interesting looking back at some of our cup defeats over this time period, can anyone remember the exit away to Port Vale in 2006 for example? Obviously we all remember QPR’s angriest fan at home to Port Vale in 2010. Or the Lua Lua (the good one) inspired demolition of us in 2000? There were some really random embarrassments in there, and it was interesting to look at the attendances as well, even as far back as 1998 it was still only 5,052 so it appears the interest has never really been there. Still would be great to see what a quarter-final actually looks like.
I thought I would have a change of tact this year and instead of trying to be funny with some QPR related news I would look at what is going on elsewhere in the world of football, which leads me to Bury. At lot has been written about how much of a disgrace it is that the EFL have allowed this to happen and I agree that it is a disgrace, my main question though is what was the difference between the situation at Bolton and the situation at Bury, it seemed to me that the league were a lot more flexible with Bolton whereas they had just made their mind up that Bury were going to be booted out. A real travesty and one for the Twitter moaners who feel the need to lay into Fernandes each week, it could always be a lot worse.
August grade - B+ Ten points from a tough looking start with a striker scoring five goals was beyond all of our wildest dreams in June. Points off for the cup exit though.
Links >>> Follow Steve’s match-by-match reviews on Instagram >>> August 18 >>> September 18 >>> October 18 >>> November 18 >>> December 18 >>> January 19 >>> February 19 >>> March 19 >>> April 19 >>> 18/19 Season Review
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