|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 2 Swansea City|
Saturday, 26th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
All I want for Christmas – Preview
Thursday, 24th Dec 2020 16:15 by Clive Whittingham
Ahead of the Boxing Day game with Swansea City LFW writes its annual letter to Santa, with some short, medium and long term wishes. It may be extensive/unrealistic, but then if ever there was a year when we deserved a bit extra for Christmas it’s 2020.
QPR (4-8-8, LLDLDD, 19th) v Swansea (10-6-4, LWDWLW, 3rd)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday December 26, 2020 >>> Kick off 15.00 >>> Weather – Grey, windy >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
- A win. Any kind of win will do at this point. I don’t even have to enjoy it. Just find a way to squeeze a win out of somebody somewhere to calm everybody down a little bit, relieve a bit of pressure, restore a bit of confidence. Scrappy own goal to settle 90 minutes of dire, unwatchable bilge? Yes please, where do I pay?
- A central midfielder who can pass. I’m loathed to look for answers outside the playing squad because I think for too long QPR have seen another six signings and another change of manager as the cure-all for whatever ills they’re currently suffering, and for all the new faces and new managers we never seem to get any better. However, it has been patently obvious since the Luongo-Freeman-Scowen triumvirate was broken up that the centre of our midfield is a bit of a disaster zone, particularly now Luke Amos is injured. Even when Ian Holloway was here parking Grant Hall in there we’ve been putting sticking plasters over the problem. A midfielder who can protect the defence, but also receive a ball on the half turn in difficult situations and pass forwards creatively would transform this team. Warbs Warburton’s suggestion that such a player is already playing in the Premier League, or would cost us money we don’t have, is a valid excuse in the striker market, but doesn’t really ring true in midfield when you see the players Brentford, Coventry, Barnsley and others pick up in those positions and the prices they pay. Somebody like Alex Mowatt or Gustavo Hamer would make an incredible difference to us.
- Service please. I’m not labouring under any misapprehension that Lyndon Dykes is a 20-goal-a-season striker in waiting, or even good enough to hold his own at this level, but at the moment I feel like we’re chucking an old potato at him once every 20 minutes, often ten feet over his head, and complaining that he’s not able to make a roast dinner out of it. Look at these goals at Livingston - scored almost exclusively by getting between two centre backs and attacking the near post as good, early service arrived from wide areas. There’s been a couple of glaring misses for us, against Watford and Brentford, and he looks a much less confident, less happy player for us than he does for Scotland, but really apart from the goal he scored at LegoLand Kew, when have we serviced him like that? We suffer through having two quite poor, inexperienced full backs, sure, but our wide players are plenty good enough to provide and too often they choose another touch, another pass, another dribble. Get it in, get it in early, and if he still isn’t scoring, then start asking questions.
- Try something different. Give or take the positioning of Little Tom Carroll, I feel like I know what our team is going to be for this game, and the next, and the next. That means the opposition do too. I’m not going to pretend we’re swimming in options, nor play the Paul Smyth game of making out that somebody like Charlie Kelman or Faysal Bettache is the answer simply because they haven’t been playing, but what we’re doing at the moment isn’t effective, it isn’t good to watch, it isn’t yielding results, and it isn’t working. Sticking with it blindly hoping the tide turns is stubborn. Even small variations in formation, substitutions, team selection would at least show effort, willing and thought being put into getting us out of this bad run. It can feel from his chippy interviews like Warbs treats anybody with an alternative opinion as an enemy, when actually it’s just somebody who thinks a bit differently about the team. No, I don’t want to hear the story about the Rangers fan who picked 13 players when asked for his best team again thanks. Seven without a win, four wins all season, four points outside the drop zone, now might be a good time for a bit of different thinking of his own, rather than further entrenchment.
- Free kicks on halfway. Three times in recent matches we’ve been awarded a free kick on or around halfway and clearly not known what to do with it. After huge procrastination on each occasion we punted one straight out for a goal kick (Barbet v Huddersfield), passed one square and then straight to an opponent (Barbet and Cameron v Stoke), and walloped a third high and wild across the field, playing our own left back into the shit (Kane v Wycombe). It’s alarming for all sorts of reasons. Ward off questions about “what they fucking do all week” by coming up with something better than this. A big Tony Pulis-shaped vortex isn’t going to open up and start swallowing all that’s good and pure in the world if we were to simply pack the penalty area and sling it in there.
- Throw ins. Stop giving the ball away from every throw in. This has been on the Christmas list ever year since 1995 but I’d really like it this time please because it’s particularly boiling my piss at the moment.
- No excuses culture. Yes, the refereeing against Brentford (since apologised for) and Watford went against us, and I quite liked Warbs getting furious on camera rather than trotting out the same cliches, as a one off. No, we didn’t get what we deserved from good performances in those games and against Bournemouth and Bristol City. No, we’re not able to train as much as we’d like. Yes, you could count us unlucky against Reading where our shot hit the post and theirs didn’t. Yes, we’re aware of the budget constraints, and the talented players who have left. The fixtures, thick and fast, limited recovery, professional athletes, yadda yadda. Get all of that, very sympathetic to it, write about it all the time. Bit sick of hearing about it now though. Much of it afflicts the rest of the division in the same way, the job is to cope with it.
- Recruitment. This, more than who the manager is, is the problem for me, which is why I rarely call for them to be sacked. We moaned about the team selections, substitutions and post match comments of Hasselbaink, Holloway, McClaren and now Warburton. Unless we recruit better, you’re going to be moaning about Sherwood/Pearson in the same way in ten months’ time. It’s not as haphazard, ruinously expensive and biblically unsuccessful as it was under Hughes and Redknapp, but it is still all over the map. Manager wise we bounce from one type to his complete opposite, and then we tailor the recruitment to them so that when they’re replaced the squad needs complete open heart surgery to readjust it to whoever the new bloke is. You go from veteran Harry Redknapp to novice Chris Ramsay, an attacking approach to a very defensive set up in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, buying from Europe for him to buying domestic lower league players with Ian Holloway, abandoning the lower league scouting to loan Premier League players for Steve McClaren. Even under Warburton we’ve gone from apparently wanting to be that team the Premier League loans its kids to, bringing in Matt Smith and Luke Amos and going hot and heavy for Eddie Nketiah, to not having a single loan player in the squad. There have also been signings made purely because the manager worked with them before – Liam Kelly, Dom Ball – which is a massive no, no for us because the manager never sticks around long. Our opponents on Boxing Day, Swansea, have had a poor few years by their standards, but their recruitment remains on a very level single line through seasons and managers. They’ve not only not suffered for losing Graham Potter, they’ve actually improved league position, barely missing a beat. QPR don’t know what they are, and turning players over at the rate we do each summer isn’t conducive to progress. There have been good signings, I like Dickie and Willock in particular, but this squad was obviously short in midfield and at full back, as we said clearly when Willock was signed, and has been sent out into a Championship season regardless. Other clubs on similar and smaller budgets recruit far better than us, and while that’s the case you can replace as many managers as you like, things won’t improve much.
- Some excitement. I really enjoyed last season pre-lockdown, and I’m not blind to the fact that Ebere Eze, Nahki Wells, Jordan Hugill and Ryan Manning have gone from that team which was always going to make things tough this year. I’d also, like I say, take the worst ever 1-0 victory you’ve ever seen from this Swansea game. But in general, QPR have to be careful. Warburton still talks about playing a style of football fans want to come and watch, but we’re seeing that put into practice less and less. Rangers are slipping behind more and more local clubs, who have far better and more attractive sides, in more modern stadiums. We take the piss, and acknowledge they’re much further into their “project” than we are, but look at Brentford now compared to us, just look at them. Throw in Covid, which is robbing the club of its USP to attract new, younger fans – the atmosphere in our ground, the chance to actually meet the players and so on – and also detaching even the long-term die hards from their club. People are skint and going to get skinter; they’re learning to do other things with their weekends and falling out of the habit of going to QPR; they’re bored and fed up by the football, results and experience of watching it on streams at home; they’re perhaps scared and worried, or at least certainly not in a hurry to get back on the tube, in the pubs, into football stadiums. The club barely got 2,000 applications for the Reading game, and you only had to compare and contrast the School End from that fixture to the Tuesday with Stoke to know they didn’t make that number for the following game. Fifty two points and three teams worse than us will do for me at this point, I completely get the unique challenges posed by a season played in lockdown after a clutch of your best players have left, but this cannot be us forever. We have to find a way, and better recruitment is key to this, of trading our way out of this malaise and getting people excited by the team and the football. If they don’t give us something to shout about they’re going to find far fewer people doing the shouting when we do eventually come back. I’d just like to enjoy it again, it’s such an absolute drag at the moment.
- A Saturday. You can stick all of the above in exchange for one normal Saturday. A breakfast, the Crown, the people, the escape from work, the jokes, seeing a packed pub full of people catching up and enjoying themselves, friends walking through the door. Fuck the result, if I was in this for the winning I’d be in it somewhere other than QPR. Big part of the problem at the moment is we’ve just been left with the 15.00-17.00 bit of the day, which was often the bit that mattered least. I hope both regular readers and all your family and friends are safe and well in these horrible times, I hope you all have the best Christmas possible under the circumstances, I thank you for your tremendous support of LFW during 2020, and I pray we’re all back together in normality in 2021. This time next year Rodney…
Links >>> Taarabt lights up Christmas – History >>> Swansea tracking well – Interview >>> Martin in charge – Referee >>> Mistletoe and whine – Podcast >>> Nick London and Andy Sinton – Patreon >>> Swansea Official Website >>> Planet Swans – Blog and Forum >>> Swansea Independent - Forum >>> Wales Online – Local Paper >>> The Jack Army – Forum >>> SOS - Fanzine
Geoff Cameron Facts No.122 In The Series - If Geoff Cameron says you can’t watch the movie… then it must be really bad.
Below the fold
Team News: QPR remain without long term absentees Luke Amos and Charlie Owens, while Osman Kakay has been absent recently with an injury sustained in the home defeat by Reading. A party of volunteers is currently scouring the local Wetherspoons for any sign of Lee Wallace and we’re offering a year’s subscription to Railway Modeller magazine in return for a sighting of Marco Ramkilde. In this week’s episode of The Many Varied Adventures of Joe Lumley, Joe is staying on loan at Doncaster for the holiday period.
Morgan Gibbs-White is a long term and at the time of writing only significant absentee from this Swansea squad.
Elsewhere: With no little depressing inevitability, plague is starting to bite into the Mercantile Credit Trophy programme with Millwall’s trip to Bournemouth and Rotherham’s date on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour both postponed tomorrow, and further fixtures off late in the week as well. Football’s decision to crack on with 2020/21 without any firm decision or vote on what would happen were it to be curtailed in the same way 2019/20 was looks shrewder by the test.
Of the games that remain, the evening kick off between league leaders Borussia Norwich and fifth placed Watford is probably the pick. The struggle for control of the Vicarage Road dressing room has gone the way of Troy Deeney once more, manager *checks notes*Vladimir Ivic sacked after last weekend’s defeat at Huddersfield where he got caught in a lie about whether the veteran striker had been left out because of injury or just for being a general dickhead. Ivic has been replaced by *checks notes* Xisco Munoz (bloody knew it would be) who arrives fresh from a successful 11 match spell in charge of Georgian giants Dinamo Tbilisi, his first managerial job, and is already making all the right noises about his forthcoming five and a half weeks in football’s hottest seat. It’s now estimated that 12% of the population will have been the Watford manager at some point in their lifetime.
For QPR though, it’s firmly eyes down on the five teams currently below us in the table. We are eight points ahead of bottom placed Wycombe who haven’t won in ten ahead of their trip to Bristol City. Sheffield Blue Stripes finally put a win on the board at the tenth time of asking against Coventry last week to join Wycombe on 12 points ahead of a trip to the Mad Chicken Farmers. The Derby managerial committee has them unbeaten in six and with four clean sheets in a row, but four of those games have been drawn so they’re still third bottom, four points away from Rangers, and at home to Preston Knob End. Rotherham are also four points back, with a game in hand that’s about to become two in hand. Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers come next, 17 points to our 20, ahead of their 0-0 draw with Birmingham City this weekend. Brum are one of two teams, along with Cov who are at home to Stoke this weekend, who are two points ahead of QPR.
That just leaves us to say that Barnsley are playing Huddersfield in this week’s north-off and Reading are hosting Lutown. QPR have had the standard “sorry I fucked that up” apology from referee Matt Donohue for his handling of our recent game at LegoLand Kew, which cuts Spartak Hounslow’s lead at the top of the Justice League. They will, nevertheless, almost certainly be the best team that Cardiff have played all season.
Referee: Steve Martin of Beverley Hills, Ca, was part of an ensemble cast for unsuccessful 1994 Christmas movie Mixed Nuts, a dark comedy directed by Nora Ephron, based on the 1982 French comedy film Le Père Noël est une ordure. Details.
QPR: Rangers are currently winless in seven, the worst current sequence in the Championship bar Wycombe who haven’t won in ten. Rangers have only scored four goals in those seven games, and never more than one in a match. It’s now three wins in 19, four wins in 22, five wins in 26 and six wins in 30 since football resumed under lockdown in June. Three of QPR’s four wins this season have come at Loftus Road against Forest (2-0), Cardiff and Rotherham (both 3-2) but Birmingham, Boro, Watford and Stoke have left W12 with draws and Bristol City, Preston and Reading have won. The R’s have won just one of their last five at home. Five clean sheets so far is only one shy of the six managed in the whole of last season bhut only Wycombe (29), Coventry (28) and Preston (30) have conceded more than Rangers’ 27. Only Millwall (ten) have drawn more than QPR’s eight this season so far.
Swansea: The Swans have lost, just three of their last 15 games and currently sit third in the table, two points behind Bournemouth. It took until game four this season for Swansea to concede a goal and their record of just 12 goals conceded in 20 games is by far the best in the Championship – Boro and Watford are nearest with 15 apiece. They have kept 12 clean sheets in those 20 league games, including shut-outs in four of the last five games approaching this one. They’re not quite so crash hot at the other end, with 23 scored the lowest total in the top six and worse than a further six teams in the rest of the division. They’re yet to score more than two goals in a game and have scored one goal or fewer on 13 occasions. Away from home they’re 4-3-3 with the wins all coming to nil at Preston, Wycombe, Forest and Cardiff.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. You can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Congratulations OxheyR for leading the league at Christmas, qualifying him for our first prize give away of the season. Last season’s champion Mase offers us this…
“Another gloomy day looms, with promotion-chasing Swansea in W12. They are decent in both boxes and if they've laid off the turkey and mince pies should have enough to win relatively comfortably. Pressure on Warburton to grow and I'm not expecting any points in our next game at Carrow Road, either.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 0-2 Swansea. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 0-1 Swansea. No scorer.
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