Are you not entertained? Knee Jerks
Monday, 7th Oct 2019 18:21 by Antti Heinola
Antti’s six talking points on Saturday’s 4-2 win at home to Blackburn make for upbeat reading as Rangers head into another international break in high spirits.
Well? Are you not?
I only ask because in a game of six goals and some bloody lovely football, it all seemed surprisingly flat from our fans. OK, flat is an exaggeration. But before the season started if someone told us we'd score four in a game (it was only two months ago the 'Twitt-R-arti' were lighting flaming torches in readiness for a march on the KPFS, armed with an effigy of Lee Hoos, an old Shoot! poster of Les Ferdinand with an angry red cross scrawled on his face in lipstick, and RED RUM written across his chest instead of Holland Fly KLM and a baby blimp of Tony Fernandes because we hadn't signed any strikers, #DONTANNOUNCECHRISMARTIN #ANNOUNCEWELBECKHESONAFREE) I think we'd have all collectively lost our shit - pandemonium in the stands, man with Mexican hat falling into the Paddocks to be caught by Jude, that girl from the Palace 6-0 game who stripped and ran up and down the top of the exec boxes doing it all over again sort of thing. On Saturday, at least near me, there was a lot of harrumphing, a lot of heads in hands, and then some three-quarter-hearted cheering as we rammed in four pretty sweet goals.
I'm not sure why this is, just as I'm not sure where the fans who turned up in number for the Luton game have gone, unless they simply thought things would never get that good again. And maybe that is the issue a bit. We saw half an hour of near-perfect football, so the feeling among some is: 'well why can't we play perfect football and score a goal every ten minutes EVERY MATCH. WHY NOT?!'
I am, of course, being over-dramatic for (limited, yes all right) comic effect. But I do have a serious point. I think the reason why no one was getting very carried away in the way we did against Luton and in the way we might have done in years past is because none of us really know what is a safe score with this team. And it's not about playing out from the back. For all the complaints, we're actually decent at doing that. It's just that we do look really, really vulnerable in defence. Even on Saturday, Kelly did not have a save to make other than the two that went in, and yet there was still that nagging fear that somehow we could give it away. The bravado of 'you might as well go home' after 30 mins v Luton was completely absent after 80 mins and 4-1 v Blackburn. No one felt safe. The Luton game has perhaps created a weird paradox, where we're desperate to see that swaggering perfection again, but at the same time so scarred by their mini-comeback that we're not sure any score his safe.
Still, it's much fun.
Breaking the cycle
Since Ollie took over in 2016, we've endured these runs: six losses in a row, five without a win, six losses in a row, seven without a win, five losses and one lucky draw in six, five losses in a row, seven without a win.
That tells you how important it was to win on Saturday and snap the cycle quickly. True, this is a different team now, but after such a good start, it would have been awful to start slipping down the league and, worse, losing confidence into what had got us so many point so early in the first place. While we might have spent half an hour of this game being a little more cagey than before, it was good to see that we weren't suddenly abandoning everything. This team knows it did not play badly in the last two games, as much as they deserved to lose both, but that's not a reason to chuck everything away and start again. Strength of character, fortified by Wells' opener, helped us overcome doubts to turn in a smashing performance.
Another excellent performance from our left back/wing back. One of the great things about this side is how everyone is comfortable on the ball. Even Dom Ball, rested on Sat, and not the most technical player in the squad, has no compunction about demanding a pass. Manning, though, has all the technical skill required for passing, controlling and, to deadly effect, crossing. There can't be many games where a left back can pretty much claim three assists, but currently almost every time struggles with his energy, determination and quality of delivery. One in the eye for the 'round pegs, round holes' brigade. His tackling stats are also hugely impressive.
There's a but coming - you can sense it, I know. I'm just wondering. Unlike some people I wasn't hugely enamoured with the performances of our CDMs on Saturday (see below). There was a suggestion last week of pushing Manning into one of those slots and moving Wallace to left back. I'm broadly against that for various reasons: Manning is performing so well, you don't really want to move him. Wallace surely cannot match Manning's delivery, which has been crucial from wide areas. And I'm not quite sure if Manning is right for a CDM role. But, six goals we have conceded this season have come from attacks down our left side, plus a seventh deep cross from the right against Luton where Manning did not track his man all the way (many of the rest were set pieces). Two of the six from the left were dreadful pens given away by Barbet, for which he is of course responsible, but still, they were dangerous attacks down our left with Manning not really in the picture. This is tactical as much as anything, so please don't see it as an attack on Manning - clearly he has license to be a valuable attacker, often forming that lethal triangle with Chair and Eze higher up the pitch. But teams are targeting him, both with high balls to exploit his lack of height and with balls in behind him. Blackburn several times on Saturday drifted balls over to him to get their right winger away, particularly in the first half, and Luton were particularly keen on bombing deep balls in from the right to isolate Manning's size.
So, I don't know if there's a solvable issue here or not. Would Wallace be better in terms of defence, with Manning becoming more of a quarter back alongside Cameron or Ball? Or would that cut off one of our major attacking threats to our detriment? If Manning is being targeted by high balls or balls exploiting his position higher up the pitch, do we just accept that as an unavoidable consequence and trust he'll do more damage than they can? I don't honestly know.
Good games for Cameron and Scowen on Saturday, but I'm unable to join in some of the love shoved their way. I felt the excellent Rothwell and the decent Dack too often had too much time and space to hurt us. Rothwell, at least, was coming from deeper before playing some really very sharp key balls, several times cutting us in half, which made him difficult to pick up. But there was no such excuse for Dack. Especially when we had two defensive midfielders in his space, and even more especially when he was still finding large pockets at 4-1. At that stage, surely, Scowen could've just man-marked him, ensured he didn't hurt us as he frequently threatened to do, as the game was won. The fact he didn't may have been down to Warbs a bit, who I felt could've sent on Ball for the tiring Cameron with instructions to stand on Dack and take him out of the game (legally obvs, I'm not an animal). For me, this was where our main problems stemmed from on Saturday, because apart from The Beard's classic tackle, I found little to fault the back four.
An odd game for Bright. He's been taking some mild criticism that his approach play is great, but his end product not so much (for wingers, twas ever thus, was it not, friends?). But on Saturday it was the opposite. He wasn't his usual ebullient self with ball at feet and legs on fire, but he set up won and stylishly scored another. I was thinking of him last week and he reminded me a bit of Andy Impey at his age. Younger fans may not remember, but Imps got some fearful stick at one stage from the LR faithful. But then, it slowly began to change, most memorably when he got two away at Ipswich, and he went on to be player of the season and one of our most consistent and reliable performers. I wonder if Bright may follow suit. He has all the tools, he's still only 21 and he has a great attitude. Was really pleased he scored such a good goal on Saturday - hopefully that'll give him confidence to score more going forward.
If ever there was a sign of the new QPR, this was it. Four goalscorers - the only thing missing, and from this season too, is one from Moroccan Messi. When it does come, surely, it's going to be a pearler. The fourth of course came from Hugill another (still another!) getting some stick from some quarters, despite that being his sixth of the season (none of our team got more than seven league goals last season). What a Warby sub that was. 3-1? Better get another striker on, come on lads. Attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. Great header - couldn't have been placed better. Nahki's seventh means he is averaging a goal every 91 minutes at the moment. I insisted in another thread a Prem club wouldn't take him. Having read that, I'm not so sure. Eze's finish was a thing of beauty. We're currently on course to score 50% more goals than we did last season. Woohoo!
Pictures – Action Images
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