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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 2 Hull City
SkyBet Championship
Sunday, 29th December 2019 Kick-off 15:00
A striking problem – Preview
Saturday, 28th Dec 2019 23:00 by Clive Whittingham

Three fixtures that were supposed to help QPR kick on up the league have yielded just one point after a catalogue of missed chances by our two strikers ahead of Sunday’s home game with Hull.

QPR (9-5-10, DWWLDL, 14th) v Jarrod Bowen (9-6-9, LWLDWL, 13th)

Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Sunday December 29, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12

There’s nothing really to worry about at the moment.

Sure, we gave the team a free pass through a winless November because the games were difficult on the understanding that easier fixtures lay ahead in December, and we’ve now bollocksed three of those games that were meant to be used to lift us back into the top half of the table right up. But we created enough really good opportunities to beat both Charlton and Reading and it was something of a fluke that we ended up with only a draw from those two games. Keep playing like that, keep creating like that, we’ll be absolutely fine. Other games will be won with worse performances and fewer shots on goal.

Except this is the bit on the QPR cycle where it usually goes to shit. This time last year we were 11-5-9 for 38 points, two more wins and six more points than we have now. That dropped off a cliff in the second half of the season, the manager ended up getting the sack, we ended up winning only three more games through to the summer. We’ve come to know how it works – a couple more games without a win and the first “are we actually in a relegation battle Chicken Little” message board thread will appear, laden with prophecies of doom. That will be followed shortly afterwards by the first in a series of “must win games”, and no amount of defeats in those “must win games” without a relegation at the end of it will stop the torrent of games being designated that way. This one’s a must win game. No this one is. No this one. No this one. The sky is falling.

We drift through to the end of the season and sack the manager along the way spinning lines that actually we never really liked him in the first place, and all those good things we said he was doing earlier in the season were actually mostly the work of somebody else, and all those bad things that have happened since were entirely the doing of the bloke we’ve just fired. If said manager was old we decide we want somebody foreign, if he was an old school manager we talk about hiring a new age coach, if he was English we say we’re looking abroad, and we end up with entirely the opposite of what we had before and start tearing the squad up again to suit him.

That all gets us through to the summer which is allowed to dawn for approximately 20 minutes before the sort of mouth breathers who think Julio Cesar, Sandro and Loic Remy should be in our team of the decade “take to social media” and start haranguing the club on a daily basis to “sign a fucking striker”. Of all the problems we have, many of which we’ve created for ourselves, this is the one we’re struggling to fix the most.

Good strikers have always been the most expensive players to buy, but a whole litany of factors at play in the modern game have moved them beyond QPR’s reach entirely. Among those reasons is the widespread use of one-up-front formations – very few teams play with two strikers, and therefore there are fewer strikers around. The Premier League television money escalating means players that cost you perhaps £6-8m a decade ago now go for upwards of £30m. The arrival of clubs with the spending power of Newcastle and Aston Villa in the Championship made the going rate for even moderately decent second tier strikers like Dwight Gayle, Scott Hogan and Jonathan Kodija £8-12m. The disgusting EPPP regulations, which allow Category 1 academies to essentially take whoever they like from lower ranked set ups, has seen talent like Tammy Abraham, Dominic Solanke and Izzy Brown hoarded in vast holding pens of young boys, kept away from playing actual football for actual teams for no other reason than to stop rival “big clubs” having them, seeing the light of day only when loaned off into neutral territory. For those loans, enormous fees are charged, just to borrow them for a bit.

I look down the Championship and I see very few examples where the main striker in the team isn’t obviously the top earner, and in most cases cost a bomb as well. At Leeds it’s probably the goalkeeper, or Pablo Hernandez, but Patrick Bamford won’t be on tuppence a week for the transfer fee he cost. Grabban at Forest, Baston at Swansea, Dack and Gallagher at Blackburn, Fletcher and Forestieri at Sheff Wed, Afobe at Bristol City… Middlesbrough spent £30m and got Britt Assombalonga, Ashley Fletcher and Martin Braithwaite for their money.

Into that environment QPR have crashed, well ablaze, trying to toss things overboard. Rangers have the sixth lowest average attendance in the league (Luton, Wigan, Brentford, Hull, Barnsley) and among the highest overheads with an ageing stadium and two rented training facilities in one of the most expensive areas for real estate in the country. Our stadium, unlike two of the five below us on the attendance ladder, generates zero non matchday income. We are the only one of the six who hasn’t moved, is in the process of moving, or has extensively redeveloped their existing ground. We did the Wolves, Villa, Bournemouth, Leicester thing of ignoring FFP completely, but unlike them fucked up the promotion it won us and came straight back into a court case that cost the club a £20m fine. Our FFP situation is about as tight as it gets at this level. I get the sense that if they were allowed, our board wouldn’t be able to resist a quick £8m for a Charlie Austin type again. But we’re simply not allowed.

With our parachute payments we tried to solve this by taking a gamble on a lower league prospect, but Conor Washington was a dismal failure. We tried data scouting and cheaper European markets and had some moderate success with Seb Polter and Idrissa Sylla, but our penchant for not only chopping and changing managers too often but also employing people completely the opposite to their predecessors did for both. Short of discovering a hidden lower league goalscorer for a pittance – as we attempted to do with David Wheeler, and Bristol City tried to do with Mo Eisa – or growing a Championship standard centre forward through our youth team, we now have to rely on the loan market. This not only subjects the club to a whole summer of abuse from the “#announceRavel” dipshits on social media, but also means we get players late in the window with something wrong with them.

Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah was target one, two and three for QPR this summer, and we might have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for them meddling kids – massive, massive Leeds United turning heads with their insistence that he absolutely must go and sit on their bench for the season. He would have been great, but even then would have been coming into a tough 46-game season with the weight of the whole club on his shoulders at 20 years of age with 19 senior appearances in his entire life (three as a starter). If a club is loaning you a player it’s because they’re old and/or injury prone and/or not quite good enough and they want to shift their wage. Or they’re young and/or a bit of a prick and/or coming back from a bad injury and they want them to grow up and gain strong on your time. Arsenal don’t loan you Patrick Aubameyang, they loan you their kids, and they charge you for it too. The idea that loans are free is a myth – follow Peterborough chairman Darragh McAnthony or Accrington owner Andy Holt on Twitter for some eye-watering stories about what monied Premier League teams have demanded of their League One clubs in return for some 18-year-old child on loan for half a season.

To get players of the standard of Jordan Hugill and Nahki Wells is incredibly fortunate for a club in our current position. But they’re both flawed, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting loaned out, and they’re not free or cheap, by any stretch of the imagination. That works fine when they’re banging in eight each in the first three months of the season, topping the division’s goalscoring charts and looking good doing it. But when they stop performing, as they have of late, then you have a problem. This happened in the second half of last season when Wells’ promising early season form nose dived, and Tomer Hemed decided he couldn’t be arsed with it any more. When you’re relying on people who are here temporarily, who will be spending the latter months of the season with an eye on what’s coming next for them in the summer, there can be pitfalls.

This can all turn around really quickly. We’re creating chances, they’re good players, they’ve missed sitters in the last two games but keep creating and it’ll come. Last season was an exception, not a rule. But we know what we’re like, and how it goes, so if it could come tomorrow against Hull and on New Year’s Day against Cardiff just to chill everybody out a bit, that would be grand.

Links >>> Bowen the key – Interview >>> Gregory’s first game – History >>> Ward in charge – Referee >>> Official Website >>> Hull Daily Mail – Local Paper >>> The Amber View – Blog >>> Reciprocal interview - Blog >>> Tigerlink – Blog >>> Amber Nectar – Blog and Forum >>> Not606 – Forum >>> Ground Guide

Geoff Cameron Facts No.80 In The Series – When interviewed as an expert talking head for the latest series of Investigation Discovery’s On The Case With Paula Zahn, Geoff stated that he believed VAR to be “a crock of shite”.

Sunday

Team News: QPR will leave it late to test Angel Rangel. He performed admirably in an improved defensive showing up at Derby earlier in December but has been out since. Yoann Barbet hasn’t played since October and his set back from a calf injury means he wont feature here either. Liam Kelly, allegedly, is fit again but Dillon Barnes has been keeping his place on the bench in recent games and Joe Lumley’s form has improved. The way the fixtures have fallen means rotation is highly likely, with Ilias Chair probably pushing hardest of the Boxing Day subs for a start with his performance at Reading.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before but like Reading, and Charlton, and Middlesbrough, Hull reckon they’re coming to town with… a lengthy injury list. Josh Magennis (he used to be a goalkeeper you know) and Well Keane Lewis-Potter (who apparently felt sick and dizzy on Boxing Day, all been there lad) are both not travelling which leaves Tom Eaves as their only fit striker. Full back Kallum Elder left their 2-0 defeat to Forest early with a hamstring knack so will certainly miss out and be replaced by Stephen Kingsley. Influential midfield pairing Jon Toral and Kevin Stewart are sidelined after a lover’s tiff and somebody Hull would like us to believe was christened Norbert Balogh is out because he’s almost certainly not a real person. Bowen’s fit though so fuck it, might stay in the Crown.

Elsewhere: Welcome VAR refugees to a land where there’s a game every 20 minutes, and offsides are decided on the spot by incompetent, flag waving, Home Counties maths teachers who were horrendously bullied at school. Come on in, the water’s lovely.

There are 11 games on Sunday, all kicking off at 15.00, with Sky Sports Leeds making the token gesture of moving free-falling Wayne Rooney’s Derby County v Charlton to the Monday night just in case Mr Potato Head can actually play in this one. If not, expect long, lingering shots of him on the subs bench, expression vacant, like somebody’s drawn a face on a bollock with a bookies pen.

Now, I’m not going to keep up the pretence any longer, there is about as much to get excited and interested about in this fixture list as the Christmas AND New Year specials of Mrs Brown’s Boys. Sheffield Owls against Neil Harris’ Cardiff is fairly typical. Bristol City, suddenly with four defeats on the spin, against Lutown, nine defeats in 12 games and seven straight away defeats with 22 goals conceded, likewise.

Wigan Warriors have won one away match since the start of last season and conceded in injury time at the weekend for the fifth time in 12 games to draw 1-1 with Derby at the weekend. In those dozen matches Wigan have let in 11 goals in the last ten minutes of games at a cost of 15 points which would have them in 11th place if they’d held on. They’re away to Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers this weekend, fresh from a 2-0 win at Hull at the weekend which is their first success in six attempts since thrashing QPR at Loftus Road.

Let’s rattle through a few more. The Champions of Europe, desperately trying to choke again if only anybody could get close enough to take advantage, are winless in three ahead of their trip to Birmingham. Tabitha and AJ, who should be one of the teams pressing them don’t like to conform to an oppressive modern society’s expectation of how they should be, are at home to Poke City, who scored in the 92nd and 96th minute to turn a 1-2 into a 3-2 against Sheffield Owls on Boxing Day. Swanselona are at home against Grimethorpe Miner’s Welfare. League leaders West Brom play Middlesbrough.

There’s a north-off between Blackburn and Huddersfield, and Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow will almost certainly be the best team that Millwall Scholars have played all season.

Because of you (Tom Lawrence), I never strayed too far from the sidewalk.

Referee: Is friend of the site, Gavin Ward. Details.

Form

QPR: Having quite starkly beaten everybody they’d played in the bottom half of the table and lost to every top half side they’d faced, QPR have now taken just one point from three games with Reading (15th), Charlton (17th) and Barnsley (23rd). At this point last season QPR had won 11, drawn five and lost nine of their 24 games for 38 points compared to their current record of 9-5-10 for 32. They would go on to post a final total of 14-9-23 having won only three games in the entire second half of the season. Rangers need just 19 more points to equal last season’s total, and eight to reach the safety mark for 2018/19. They won’t get very far in that endeavour if they keep conceding first – only Luton have shipped the first goal in games more than QPR’s 15 this season. That said, Rangers have recovered 12 points from losing positions, which is second only to league leaders West Brom. Mark Warburton’s side have conceded 16 times from set pieces this season (17 if you count John Swift’s off a cleared corner, which I’m not sure I do) which is the worst record in the league apart from rock bottom Wigan who have shipped 17. QPR lost a club record 11 home league games last season and have only won four times at Loftus Road so far this campaign (four draws, four defeats). Failure to beat Hull City tomorrow would leave us nursing six home league wins in the whole of 2019 from 22 played with 11 defeats. That’s £88.33 per victory if you have a season ticket in the gold sections, in case you were wondering. I’d probably fork that over right now for a win tomorrow.

Hull: The Tigers have played QPR 51 times in all competitions with 17 wins each and 17 draws after QPR’s 3-2 win at Hull earlier this season. That was Rangers’ first win in nine visits to Hull since they moved grounds, but City have fared rather better when visiting our ground. Last season’s 3-2 was their third win in five visits to W12 with a draw thrown in for good measure having gone 14 games without a win on this ground prior to that. Jarrod Bowen’s lobbed finish in the first meeting this season was his sixth career goal against Rangers in five matches. Grant McCann’s team responded to our win at their place by winning the next three games on the spin but have been in wildly inconsistent form since then with three wins, two draws and four defeats. Two of those three consecutive wins came on the road in fine style at high flyers Forest (2-1) and Fulham (3-0) to go with an earlier 3-0 win at Luton, but they haven’t won away since with 2-2 draws at Boro and Charlton and defeats to Barnsley (3-1) and Leeds (2-0).

Prediction: The 2-2 draw with Charlton sees both MancR and Simply Nico topping Our Prediction League at Christmas with 41 points each. They both wn goods from this year’s sponsor The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last year’s champion WokingR says…

“Please, please, please can we get back to the free scoring performances of earlier in the season. It’s not that we’re not creating, they’re just not going in.”

Woking’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Hull City. Scorer – Ebere Eze

LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Hull City. Scorer – Jarrod Bowen

The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords

Pictures – Action Images

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Loftgirl added 02:49 - Dec 29
"expression vacant, like somebody’s drawn a face on a bollock with a bookies pen." Made me laugh out loud. I'll never be able to look at him again, (not that I want to), without thinking of this. Brilliant.
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TacticalR added 12:26 - Dec 29
Thanks for your preview.

I would be worried if there wasn't something to worry about at QPR.

That was a useful review of our striking problems. You have to be clever to pick up gems from the lower leagues, and on the whole we haven't been that clever.

I am a little more worried about Wells than Hugill. Hugill is well suited to this division, and at the moment is still hitting the target even when he blasts it against the keeper. I am more worried that Wells' miss against Charlton with only the keeper to beat might dent his confidence the way that missing that penalty against Birmingham did last season, but let's hope that's not the case. Also worth mentioning that Wells and Hugill together are more than the sum of their parts.
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