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LFW End of Term Report 14/15 - Strikers
Wednesday, 29th Jul 2015 21:01 by Clive Whittingham

The new term is upon us, but like any good school teacher we've been on holiday and sacked off the reports. Here, belatedly, is our round up of QPR's strikers in 2014/15.

9 Charlie Austin A

There are only three players who can reasonably be classed as strikers who made enough appearances to warrant a full write up in this section and of those, one is Bobby Zamora and his bad hip and the other is Eduardo Vargas who was used almost exclusively on the right wing.

In the ‘others’ section we have Adel Taarabt and his fourth annual farewell tour (four starts, four sub appearances, no goals), Mauro Zarate and a loan so farcical QPR tried to take him back with a receipt after a fortnight (no starts, four sub appearances, no goals) and Reece Grego Cox the little-youth-teamer-who-could who injected some pace and dynamism but, again, no goals right at the end of the season with the cause already lost.

Essentially QPR took their biggest weakness from the season before — total and utter dependence on one player to score all of the goals — and exacerbated it. They went to the Premier League with one centre forward, who’d never played at the level before, and hoped for the best. A ridiculous notion that Loic Remy would stay at the club because Tony Fernandes played Fifa with him, or if he was to leave wouldn’t do it right on the deadline because he’s “not that sort of fellah” cost Rangers probably more than anything else last season.

It could have been so much worse than it actually was. Austin missed a penalty on the opening day against Hull costing Rangers one point and giving a relegation rival two extra ones. One wondered whether the step up was all a bit much for him as he seemed to struggle with both the pace of the games and the speed at which you have to get your shot off on the very rare occasions the chances present themselves.

Things turned around in September with a game at Southampton and a home match with Aston Villa. Austin scored three goals in those games and on two of the occasions somebody I was sitting near had just finished a monologue about how he was a Championship centre forward out of his depth when he did it. The goal at St Mary’s, in particular, was fabulous — swift, smooth, decisive, skilful. Austin has moved up the levels from Hungerford to Poole to Swindon to Burnley and then to the Premier League with QPR. Adjustment takes time but he’s shown a total devotion to honing his craft and becoming a quality centre forward and once he’d bagged those goals — all hit first time, crisply, giving the keeper no chance, suggesting he’d got used to the clinical nature of the top flight — he was off and running. It’s why I’d pay the £15m QPR are asking for him this summer in a heartbeat, and give him minutes for England — every time he’s been asked to step up he’s done it, changing and developing his game as he goes.

Against Manchester City at home he was absolutely magnificent. He scored once, had two others disallowed and was almost completely unplayable. When QPR went 2-0 down at home to West Brom, he scored three in return. He had arrived as a Premier League centre forward.

He finished the season with 18 goals which is staggering. Staggering. In a QPR team with no pace in it, no counter attacking ability, no way of getting and keeping the ball down the field consistently, no left winger to speak of, no ambition or ability to do anything other than roll over and die in every single away game… 18 goals. Imagine what he’d do in a half decent side.

But the reliance on him was unhealthy. The next top scorer behind him was Leroy Fer with six and after that it’s Bobby Zamora and Eduardo Vargas with three. The rest of the QPR squad put together only managed 21 goals and Austin got the assists for ten of those. In all, only 11 goals were scored last year without him having the final touch or the final pass.

At times watching Austin was like watching that WH Smith advert where Nicholas Lyndhurst played all the characters — in one game he popped up on his own goal line to execute a clearance and prevent one being conceded. There were times, the second half of Arsenal at home for one, when it felt like Charlie Austin against the world.

Cynics suggested this coincided with Roy Hodgson’s attendance. If it did, after the two seasons Austin has had for this club, we’ll forgive him that. I found it ludicrous, inexplicable and completely wasteful that Austin was an unused substitute for the drab, pointless, dire friendly in Dublin against the Republic of Ireland during the summer.

His match by match ratings perhaps don’t reflect just how many thousands of streets ahead of anybody else at QPR he was last season. There are still things to work on in his game. He’s not quick, his touch has improved but can improve further, his game with his back to goal is a million miles shy of what he’s like facing the posts — all of this will need to be improved upon if he’s to progress further because very, very few teams now play with a traditional two man striker set up. More often than not, wherever he goes, he’s going to play as a lone striker and his hold up and lay game will need to improve still further for that.

But fuck me, 18 goals. In that team? Thank you Charlie. A magnificent season.

36 starts, 0 sub appearances
Scoring — 18 goals (Sunderland H, Southampton A, Villa H, Villa H, Chelsea A, Man City H, Leicester H, Burnley H, West Brom H, West Brom H, West Brom H, Arsenal A, Burnley A, Hull A, Arsenal H, West Brom A, Villa A, Leicester A), 10 assists (Liverpool H, Man City H, Leicester H, Burnley H, Burnley A, Stoke A, Spurs H, Everton H, West Brom A, Newcastle H)
Discipline — 1 red (2 yellows, foul, foul, Burnley H), 6 yellows (foul, foul, foul, foul, foul, kicking ball away)
Man of the Match Awards — 4 (Man City H, West Brom H, Arsenal H, Spurs H)
LFW Ratings — 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 5, 6, 7, 7, 8, 5, 8, 6, 7, 9, 6, 6, 5, 5, 6, 6, 4, 6, 6, 8, 8, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 4, 7, 6 = 6.19

24 Eduardo Vargas C/D

Gigantic Chilean disappointment of the 2014/15 season #2 in the series.

Eduardo Vargas — along with his countryman Mauricio Isla, Leroy Fer and the two lads from Cardiff — was one of the reasons I actually thought we’d done reasonable business in the transfer window last summer. Playing for Chile Vargas averages a goal every other game, and has done again this summer as the nation lifted the Copa America for the first time in its history. He’s quick, aggressive, lethal in front of goal, pugnacious, skilful, technically gifted… it was one of those “how have we done that?” moments when we signed him.

A warning sign should perhaps have been his previous record at club level — five goals in just shy of 30 appearances for Valencia, three goals in 26 appearances for Napoli who only trusted him to start on six occasions, none of them in the league. Chile play in a very specific system and style (“the goalkeeper should have a 10 on his back” as Roy Hodgson said and we’ve quote here often) and is a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s also a team that has Alexis Sanchez at its heart. Isla struggled, as did Gary Medel at Cardiff the year before.

Initially it seemed like Harry Redknapp had little idea what to do with Vargas. During the 2-0 win at West Ham, which made an episode of Coronation Street look like the new Bond movie, Vargas remained on the bench throughout. He hit upon an idea while chasing the subsequent home game at Liverpool. QPR played in a direct style that day, long up to Bobby Zamora to unsettle the rickety Liverpool defence, and Vargas plundered two goals (we’re giving him the second, ludicrous to take it off him in our opinion), one of them arriving late into the box from wide right.

That was it in Redknapp’s mind — a man who says football isn’t about systems and tactics and formations, it’s about players — Vargas was a right winger. And there he stayed, bar one start at centre forward away at Everton where Rangers started reasonably well only for Joey Barton to hand Everton two quickfire goals before half time, the first by passing the ball straight to them and the second conceding a needless free kick on the edge of his own box.

Against Man Utd at home, Vargas had his nadir in a QPR shirt. When only 1-0 down he ran clear through on goal with men either side of him in support but did little more than tread on the ball and fall over his own feet. The fans bade for blood and he was duly dropped, but as happens so often in a struggling team searching for answers he became a solution again through his absence. People started to wonder why a team struggling for goals and speed could leave a quick, prolific international goalscorer on the bench. Those voices grew louder when Chris Ramsey brought him on as a substitute against Everton and he scored at the Loft End immediately. But, overall, he was poor that day — jogging around, seemingly not bothered, playing at half pace.

Vargas had turned it in. It was he who rolled his eyes and refused to come on at Crystal Palace when asked to at 3-1 down. Ramsey stopped picking him altogether, placing value in how players behaved and trained. If you want an example of how teams at the bottom of the league suffer from poor luck as well as lack of ability here it comes… The pair subsequently buried the hatchet and Vargas upped his input in training considerably. He was given a start at West Brom where he lashed in a spectacular goal from 25 yards to set Rangers on the way to a 4-1 away win. Almost immediately afterwards, he knackered his knee and was ruled out for the season. No sooner had hope sprung, than it was dashed.

Overall though, whether you blame Harry Redknapp for playing him out of position, Chris Ramsey for not playing him at all, the player himself for not doing better or trying harder, or simply the club for not recognising that scoring goals for Chile playing next to Alexis Sanchez is a bit different to scoring goals at club level… it seems like a terrible waste. Would a conventional front two of Austin and Vargas not have worked better than knocking it long to Zamora all winter? Would it have been as dull even if it didn’t work? We’ll sadly never know.

Another one to chalk up in the “good players who came to QPR and were shit” column.
16 starts, 6 sub appearances
Scoring — 4 goals (Liverpool H, Liverpool H, Everton H, West Brom A), 2 assists (Southampton A, Villa H)
Discipline — 0 reds, 1 yellow (foul)
Man of the Match Awards — 0
LFW Ratings — 6, 6, 6, 8, 7, 6, 7, 7, 6, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 5, 6, -, 5, 7 = 6.14

25 Bobby Zamora C

With one deft swish of his left boot, Bobby Zamora gave QPR fans the best day of their lives, entered himself into club folklore for the rest of time, and paid off the substantial outlay the club had made on him for — to that point - little return. We’ll always have Wembley.

For a while last season it looked like he may become a new Paul Furlong character — shaking off his boo-boy status and injury problems to score goals and pose a physical threat during a prolonged Indian summer. It had long been known that he could no longer play for 90 minutes, but rather than use what petrol he did have left as an impact substitute Rangers started playing him from the beginning of games until he ran out of puff.

This caught several teams on the hop, including Liverpool and Man City at Loftus Road, and led to Rangers’ best form of the season through December. Not good enough to play out from the back, not quick enough to trouble teams on the counter, QPR simply knocked it long to Zamora and he held it until reinforcements arrived. As plans go it was pretty rudimentary, but it was better than having no plan at all which was the position Rangers were in through September once Harry’s back three idea had been knocked on the head.

As an added bonus, Zamora became an occasional scorer of spectacular goals and puller of amusing faces. He whipped a first time volley into the top corner at Sunderland and lobbed Ben Foster at West Brom from 30 yards in full stride wide on the right.

But it shouldn’t be forgotten — lest we make the same mistake again — that Bobby Zamora was a terrible signing for QPR. Too old, too expensive and physically shot before he even arrived. Fulham must have been laughing all the way to the bank when they shifted Andy Johnson and Zamora onto their nearest neighbours, relieving them of their substantial wages and medical bills. The Cottagers would have done well to sober up for a moment and actually replace them, but it was wonderful business from them and awful from QPR all the same.

Zamora, at various stages, reckoned he had a bad back, hip, hamstring and calf. Not so bad that he couldn’t lift his boot up to shoulder height and stud Jordi Gomez in the face resulting in a red card in a crucial relegation battle with Wigan, but bad enough to prevent him running around and completing 90 minutes all the same.

That QPR extended his contract last summer showed how badly their search for an actual striker in the transfer market was going, although it could have been tinged with a hint of sentimentality for his play-off final winner. To then be relying on him as a first team starter and a central fulcrum to ‘the new plan’ hamstrung the team. When the other teams got wise to the tactic — roughly 20 minutes after it was first employed — it should have been ditched. To persist with it throughout the winter and into the spring was not only ineffective, but it was dull as hell to watch as well.

After all even if he had been younger and fitter what kind of plan is “knock it long to Bobby, he can pin defenders” anyway? Premier League teams got wise to his shortcomings a lot quicker than QPR did.

19 starts, 4 sub appearances
Scoring — 3 goals (Everton A, Sunderland A, West Brom A), 5 assists (Villa H, West Brom H, Spurs H, West Brom A, Villa A)
Discipline — 0 reds, 4 yellows (foul, repetitive fouling, unsporting behaviour, foul)
Man of the Match Awards — 0
LFW Ratings — 5, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 8, 7, 6, 7, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 4, 6, 3, 6, 5, 6, 6, 5, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 4 = 5.69


The idea that Loic Remy had some sort of bond with Tony Fernandes, some sort of honour that would prevent him from leaving QPR right on the deadline if the right offer came along because it would leave Rangers in the lurch, can be immediately dispelled as the complete rot that it is by his eventual destination. He went to Chelsea, who already had Didier Drogba and Diego Costa, to sit on the bench all season and play no football at all. It not only made QPR look stupid, but it hamstrung them from the first whistle.

Likewise Mauro Zarate who was signed at the start of January. Zarate is best suited to playing the ‘number ten’ role behind a lone striker, which made his acquisition rather odd. Firstly because QPR already had a clutch of players who like to play in that position — Jordon Mutch, Adel Taarabt, Leroy Fer, Niko Kranjcar, Eduardo Vargas. Secondly because even in Harry’s brief flirtation with a back three, Rangers didn’t play with anybody in that position at all. And thirdly because even if they had, they didn’t have a lone striker to play ahead of them. It was like coming home from work to find your family tired and hungry, looking in the fridge to find only three dozen bottles of milk, and rushing off to the supermarket to buy more milk.

QPR could, could, have made the best of the situation all the same. Play him upfront, play him on the wing, use him as an impact substitute or something. Instead what they tried to do, two weeks after buying him, was take him back to West Ham with a receipt to swap him in for a part-used Matt Jarvis. You’d struggle to find a more Harry Redknapp-like piece of Transfer Deadline Day activity not involving Niko Kranjcar as long as you live. When it turned out this isn't the bloody Exchange & Mart and that was all contrary to a whole myriad of Premier League rules QPR were left with no Jarvis, a totally disinterested and demoralised Zarate, and still no left winger or striker to shoulder Charlie Austin’s burden. We saw Zarate, fleetingly, across four substitute appearances. The whole affair made me rather envious of that boy on Slumdog Millionaire who has his eye taken out with a hot spoon.

Adel Taarabt we’ve done at length here already but worth saying that in his bloated, disinterested, seldom-used state we still had him down as Man of the Match three times (Burton A, Burnley A, Palace A) in just four starts and four sub appearances.

Reece Grego Cox turned the final home game of the season against Newcastle around with an injection of pace and life as a half time substitute. For a slight boy whose kit doesn’t appear to fit, he doesn’t shy away from the physical side of things. What role he has to play in the future remains to be seen but his involvement maintained interest and livened up performances once the inevitable relegation was confirmed in a way Michael Harriman might have done two years previous had Harry Redknapp not insisted on continuing to pick Jose Bosingwa.

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PunteR added 23:33 - Jul 29
Thanks Clive. Your end of term reports highlights how shambolic QPR have been run over the last few seasons.
Austin and a couple of players aside its just been a massive disappointment.
How is it that Austin and Vargas never played as a 2 up top.? How does that not happen, when we had so little options in front of goal?
I do feel we, understandably, played to Austin's strengths rather then setting up to play to Vargas's but at least Austin took his chances when it came where Vargas missed his.
I was pleased we extended Zamora's contract at the time but never thought he would play as many games and employ tactics throughout the season to lump the ball up to him.
I still blame Hughes era for a lot of the mess but also Redknapp should hang his head in shame.
Anyway its history now, roll on the new season and a new QPR era. Surely we cant mess it up again can we?

londonscottish added 10:28 - Jul 30
Vargas. What a waste. For whatever reason or reasons, a waste. Oh well onwards and upwards.


Antti_Heinola added 10:46 - Jul 30
'In all, only 11 goals were scored last year without him having the final touch or the final pass.'
Staggering. If Redknapp had got Hooper as he wanted I shudder to think where we'd be now.

HastingsRanger added 13:10 - Jul 30
Clive, spot on.
I thought Vargas had an exemplary game against Stoke and that was with nobody passing to him! A real wasted opportunity, which pretty much must be down to Rednapp.
And ifTaraabt had been played ahead of Barton (doing the Derry role which his ego didn't allow), that might have helped.
Stay up and imagine the rebuild in the Premiership, it's risky enough now!

QPRski added 13:24 - Jul 30
A good but horrific read - but oh so true!

I personally would give Charlie an A+
I was very suprised and impressed by Adels' statistics (MOTM x3 in 4 starts & 4 subs).

fakekerby added 15:49 - Jul 30
Charlie really was exceptional (again), i'd hate to lose him.

I feel sorry for Vargas. He clearly has a lot of ability and I felt he worked hard on the pitch. The failings with him lie with the management IMO. Firstly he had some dinosaur telling him he is a winger and he tried his best there (as his match scores show) and then he had some bloke telling him he had to give his all in every training session to earn his place on right wing, out of position.

I suspect the bloke isn't a bad apple (or egg), but merely just had enough by the end of it. Being told you've got to go on for SWP when he never should have been near the pitch in the first place was probably one step too far our international goal scorer.

pedrosqpr added 18:37 - Jul 30
Spot on with Vargas ,did anyone see him in the copa America ? A Chilean friend asked me about Vargas and why he wasn't performing . The only answer I can give is he was homesick. He never embraced neither Italy or Spain so why here instead.
It didn't help us with Harry playing him in the wrong place either , by the time CR came along it was too late he just wanted to go home.
bTW can anyone tell me why the media ask the opinion of Harry Redknapp .? Just seems kinda pointless.


pedrosqpr added 18:37 - Jul 30
Spot on with Vargas ,did anyone see him in the copa America ? A Chilean friend asked me about Vargas and why he wasn't performing . The only answer I can give is he was homesick. He never embraced neither Italy or Spain so why here instead.
It didn't help us with Harry playing him in the wrong place either , by the time CR came along it was too late he just wanted to go home.
bTW can anyone tell me why the media ask the opinion of Harry Redknapp .? Just seems kinda pointless.


richranger added 21:24 - Jul 30
Charlie's points total only .05 above Vargas???

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