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Hasselbaink seeking right combination of solutions v Brum - Preview
Friday, 26th Feb 2016 23:35 by Clive Whittingham

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's ongoing quest to get QPR scoring goals without it leaving them wide open at the other end gets another trial run against Birmingham this Saturday.

Queens Park Rangers (13th) v Birmingham City (7th)

Championship >>> Saturday February 27, 2016 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather — Cloudy, chilly, breezy >>> Loftus Road, London, W12

The transfer window era has made it particularly difficult to do any major surgery on a squad in a short period of time. Throw in Financial Fair Play and it becomes more difficult still.

If you’ve been in the Premier League and approached it as Queens Park Rangers have done — and, indeed, how the league’s lizard-like misogynistic pig of a CEO Richard Scudamore openly says he wants clubs to approach it — and spunked a load of money all over the shop only to be relegated anyway then it’s something of a dire situation you find yourself in.

You face having to move on basically an entire squad, whether you want to sell the players or not, and replace it with an entire new one, often cutting corners and taking players you probably would otherwise pass on. Or, you could just have Harry Redknapp as your manager, completely ignore the Financial Fair Play rules, spent the thick end of £80m on wages, scrape a promotion and hope you never wind up back under the league’s jurisdiction.

Trying to do things within the rules this season, with only three months in the summer and one in the winter to trade, has been a challenge for QPR and has left them with a team that is something of a footballing whack-a-mole — solve a problem in one area of the pitch and another pops up somewhere else.

That has been perfectly exemplified in the last three matches. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had started to throw a little caution to the wind in an effort to get his team scoring goals, which QPR have struggled to do without Charlie Austin for more than three years now. The Dutchman had begun fielding two strikers and two wingers, in a classic 4-4-2 system, to commit men to the attack in the hope it would bring goals. A 3-0 win at Rotherham, and 1-0 success at home to Ipswich after a very decent performance, suggested things were improving.

The much-maligned Chris Ramsey had tried something similar — throwing Matt Phillips, Massimo Luongo, Tjaronn Chery and others up alongside Austin. Let’s not forget that by the end of September, that tactic had made Rangers the top scorers in this division by some distance. The R’s scored three at Wolves, four at home to Rotherham, three at home to MK Dons, four against Bolton. Although Ramsey is derided among a large section of the QPR support, Rangers are still to reach his total of six wins this season despite playing 19 times since he was removed from his post.

But against Fulham, Hasselbaink found what Ramsey had also discovered. By trying to play on the front foot, it left a defensive central midfield and back four hopelessly exposed and QPR conceded goals for fun — they had the league’s worst defence by the end of September as well and averaged at least two goals against across their first 11 league matches. Open this team up a bit and you guarantee a steady stream of goals at the other end, and run the risk of occasionally ending up in a similar state to the unluckier guests at Michael Barrymore’s pool parties — particularly when playing Fulham.

Neil Warnock, in his brief spell in charge, knocked that particular defensive mole on the head. Rangers conceded only once, from a penalty, during his four matches in charge, but the way they did it caused a problem elsewhere. Warnock played without a recognised striker at all for the majority of those matches and the R’s scored just twice — neither from open play, and one that would have been saved by any other goalkeeper in the world — as a result. “There aren’t many goals in this team, we know that,” Warnock said. Wrong, there are, you just have to accept they’ll go in at the other end as a result.

Having been stung by Fulham at Loftus Road, Hasselbaink too added extra men to the midfield, and played a 4-5-1 at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night. The result was an improved defensive showing, but very little goal threat. Poor Conor Washington looked like a boy who’d lost his mum in a shopping mall, wandering round completely alone in the Sheff Wed half. The lack of a goal will be playing on his mind, and being left to feed on scraps, mostly scraps booted long and high down the field to him, won’t be doing much for his self esteem. But the dangers of committing too many men forward alongside him have been seen.

And there are lots of these frustrating quandaries all over the field. Matt Phillips can’t be bothered to defend properly and was a big part of the reason Fulham had it so easy, so you move the harder-working Jamie Mackie onto that side against Bolton but he isn’t as good with the ball going forwards as Phillips so you lose that threat. Ale Faurlin makes the team tick but can’t play every game, so you pick Daniel Tozser as the most natural replacement for him but he gets completely overawed in the Fulham match so you add Karl Henry alongside him but that requires a man to be removed from the attack. Paul Konchesky is poor at left back so you move James Perch over there, but that sees Nedum Onuoha go to right back which isn’t his favoured position. Massimo Luongo plays further forward and you miss his ability in the middle of midfield, but when he plays in the middle of midfield we look wide open defensively.

So the intrigue in an otherwise non-descript, meaningless home match against Birmingham City is which mole Hasselbaink chooses to whack this week, and which he’s willing to risk leaving standing. The real quiz is what he does during the summer to stop this being the case next season.

Pools Panel verdict — score draw.

Links >>> Assessing the Blues — Interview >>> East in charge of Birmingham visit — Referee >>> Tweets, training grounds and tickets — Tony Fernandes interview >>> Where attitudes go to die — Podcast >>> That night in the snow — History

Sam Di Carmine wheels away to celebrate his spectacular winner on this ground against Birmingham in 2008. Rangers, reduced to ten men early in controversial circumstances by accident-prone referee Stuart Attwell, clung on to the 1-0 win in the driving snow to give caretaker manager Gareth Ainsworth three points.


Team News: QPR will again take a check on Ale Faurlin;’s thigh injury before deciding whether the Argentinean can retake his place in the starting 11. In form goalkeeper Alex Smithies took a boot to the face at Hillsborough but is fit to start. Seb Polter may be recalled in attack after an impressive cameo at Hillsborough.

Nicolai Brock-Madsen (hunger strike) and Jonathan Grounds (pure laziness) are both doubts for the visitors.

Elsewhere: Fernando Forestieri doesn’t think much to this February weather, and having sat out Sheffield Owls’ midweek draw with QPR suspended he’s managed to get himself sent off again tonight in a 0-0 draw with Tigers Tigers Rah Rah Rah. Never mind the fact it was for diving, when he was actually almost snapped in two by a wild Michael Dawson challenge, it’s our intro and we’re sticking with it.

An exciting weekend of televised mediocrity continues tomorrow lunchtime with Wolves hosting the Derby Sheep’s annual panic. More on Monday night too, with Sky kindly shifting the Champions of Europe’s local derby at Brighton to the most inaccessible time possible without actually sticking it on in the middle of a working weekday.

That leaves nine games for 15.00 on Saturday and we’ll rattle through those quickly because it’s late, I’m tired, and most of them are rubbish anyway.

The Mad Chicken Farmers at home to Franchise, The Red Dragons hosting Preston, the Nottingham Trees against the Wurzels, and Ipswich going to Huddersfield are four prime examples. Neil Warnock’s Rotherham are going to have a third go at scoring an actual goal at home to Brentford.

Tarquin and Rupert will be hiding the valuables with Boro coming down from the north while newly minted Bolton host Big Spending Burnley in a clash of the division’s moneymen. Belgium’s Finest circling the drain with a visit from Waitrose, mercifully, concludes the list.

Referee: Not quite sure why they’ve felt the need to drop a Premier League referee down for this one, but here comes Roger East anyway. Last seen on this ground for a 1-0 defeat by Southampton in the Premier League just over a year ago. Full details of that, his many other QPR appointments, and his recent stats available here.


QPR: Only Leeds can match QPR’s 14 draws from 32 league matches played in the Championship this season, following successive 1-1 stalemates at Bolton and Sheff Wed in the last two matches. Nine of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s 14 league games have finished level, with two wins and three defeats making up the rest. The Sheff Wed match in midweek was the twenty first time in 22 league outings the R’s haven’t conceded a goal in the first half, but it also took their tally of points lost from winning positions this season to 23. Even half those points would see Rangers in the play-off mix had they been held onto. At Loftus Road only Fulham, Forest and Cardiff have won this season and two of those were heavily indebted to Rob Green for their points. The dozen headed goals scored by Rangers this season is the joint most in the league, along with Ipswich.

Birmingham: The Blues are currently seventh, three points shy of the play-offs with a game in hand over Sheff Wed. They have lost only three times away from home this season, winning six and drawing seven of the other 13 matches. They’re unbeaten in four on the road after losing 3-0 at Sheff Wed — a 3-0 win at Derby sitting alongside draws at Forest, Bristol City and Rotherham. They have lost only two of the last 13 in the Championship, but have only scored two goals in the last four outings.

Betting: Professional odds compiler Owen Goulding tells us…

“Well we are definitely in that 'playing out the season' for the sake of it segment of the year, and we welcome another side to Loftus Road with play-off ambitions in the form of Birmingham City.

“Sitting three points of the play offs at this stage of the season will have surprised even the most ardent of Bluenoses, especially after letting their big asset Demerai Gray leave for Leicester in the transfer window. Their squad is a mix of long in the tooth pros with a smattering of youngsters. They are a threat from set pieces with Michael Morrison and Paul Robinson proving difficult to deal with. All in all, a steady, strong no frills team who will prove a test for the Hoops on Saturday.

“Birmingham have drawn five of their last seven away games and QPR's love of a stale mate at present means the draw looks of interest for this one. Bizarrely, the Draw is currently rated the least likely out of the three outcomes so at a big 12/5 (roughly 30% chance) I know where my money is going this weekend.”

Recommended Bet:QPR v Birmingham - Draw @ 12/5 (general)

Elsewhere my goal scorer bets for this week are as follows

Blackburn v MK Dons - Shane Duffy to score anytime @ 12/1 (WillHill)
Plymouth v Notts County- Carl McHugh to score anytime@ 10/1 (PPower)
Colchester v Shrewsbury - Larnell Cole to score anytime @ 11/2 (Coral)

Prediction: Reigning Prediction League champion isawqpratwhitecity tells us…
"Birmingham, for a team in seventh place, really aren't that flash. They had a couple of good 3-0 results in January, at Derby and home to Ipswich, but were assisted by Paul Clement's side having an extended case of the tomtits and Ipswich copping a red at half-time. Yes, I'm talking us up for a win here, if Jimmy can get Ale back and also be bullish enough to not leave poor Conor Washington out like a shag on a rock."

Jim’s Prediction; QPR 2-1 Birmingham. Scorer: Conor Washington

LFW’s Prediction; QPR 1-1 Birmingham. Scorer: Conor Washington

The Twitter @loftforwords

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CiderwithRsie added 00:08 - Feb 27
"the league’s lizard-like misogynistic pig of a CEO Richard Scudamore"

Bull's eye.

TacticalR added 00:33 - Feb 27
Thanks for your preview.

Is it a Catch 22, a conundrum or a complete mess? You really saw the problem at home to Fulham when JFH started with the team that had finished well against Ipswich. The luxury of having Austin around was that we could bypass the problem because we just had to defend and Austin's goals could be relied on to get us out of jail. That's how we got promoted.

I know everyone is down on Phillips, but he has chipped in with quite a few goals since Austin flew the coup, so it's a glass half full situation for me. We need him around while we wait for Washington and other new players to get going.

Unfortunately, our record this season against teams (like Birmingham) in the top half of the table isn't good - Ipswich are the only top half side we have beaten.

QPRski added 08:29 - Feb 27
"Whack the mole". What a brillant and apt description of our current footballing team selection "strategy" or dilemma.

M40R added 08:38 - Feb 27
Great analysis of the problems. In terms of solutions, there is something to be said for "horses for courses" - i.e. adapt the style to the opposition and home / away. For example, Fulham's strong midfield was never one for 4-4-2 whereas teams like Ipswich which bypass midfield was more of an option.

For me though, the biggest problem is the weakness of our full backs as all round footballers, able to add to build up play and attack, let alone defending well. Good players add so much to a team.

LongsufferingR added 09:32 - Feb 27
"Open this team up a bit and you guarantee a steady stream of goals at the other end, and run the risk of occasionally ending up in a similar state to the unluckier guests at Michael Barrymore’s pool parties"

I now have to clean up a pile of half-chewed cereal from my kitchen table. You're wasted here Clive.

enfieldargh added 12:15 - Feb 27
Thought we drew with Cardiff 2-2?

nix added 19:17 - Feb 27
Fantastic analysis as always Clive. The advantage for Hasselbaink unlike Ramsey or even Warnock is that we're in a position where we're neither going up or down. He is therefore being given time to tinker with different tactics and formations, which is something of a luxury for a modern day QPR manager!

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