|Sheffield Wednesday 1 v 2 Queens Park Rangers|
Saturday, 31st August 2019 Kick-off 15:00
What have we got ourselves into here? Preview
Friday, 30th Aug 2019 10:16 by Clive Whittingham
QPR head to Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday with the strengths and weaknesses of an entirely new look squad starting to become clear.
Sheff Wed (3-0-2, WWLWLW, 7th) v QPR (2-1-2, DDLLWL, 12th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday August 31, 2019 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Sunshine and showers >>> Hillsborough, Sheffield, S6
August has been a frantic month of eight matches for Queens Park Rangers (just the three in September, mental this league, proper batshit) and as we prepare for the last of those at Sheffield Wednesday, just exactly what sort of a team we’ve got for ourselves this season is starting to crystallise a little bit.
The club, by its own admission, felt the squad needed a hand grenade to be thrown in over the summer. In all, 16 players departed either permanently or on loan (Freeman, Furlong, Luongo, Lynch, Smyth, Wheeler, Baptiste, Cousins, Bidwell, Goss, Smith, Ingram, Dieng, Hamalainen, Wszolek and Hemed) and nearly that many have arrived, albeit Nahki Wells, Angel Rangel and Geoff Cameron were all here on different deals last season (Barbet, Masterson, Amos, Ball, Wallace, Pugh, Kane, Smith, Cameron, Wells, Mlakar, Rangel, Hugill, Barnes, Kelly). That’s not only incredibly difficult to do in one summer, but it makes predicting how the team will do, or even what it might look like on the field, incredibly difficult. Even what we’re seeing now, just seven matches in, probably won’t be what we see three months down the line when things have started to bed in.
But I came away from the three quick fire home matches last week, which brought defeats to Swansea (3-1) and Portsmouth (2-0) and a much needed win against Wigan (3-1), with three pretty clear conclusions about what we might expect of QPR 2019/20.
The first is that, potentially, we’re a good side. When we get the ball moving, when we’re popping it around one and two touch, when there’s pace and tempo to the play, when we’re playing with attacking intent, we look very good indeed. We lead the league for chances created in the opening Championship games and that will inevitably bring goals from strikers of the standard of Hugill and Wells if it continues – despite Wells’ poor end to last season and Hugill’s penchant for lifting the ball over the top of open goals from a yard out. Eze looks a cut above where he was last season, Pugh has been excellent for the minutes he’s been on the pitch and not blowing, Chair looks key to success to me and should be picked ahead of Matt Smith and Josh Scowen as it stands.
But, secondly, it doesn’t take a particularly big drop from that level for us to be very gettable. We saw in the first half against Wigan, and for spells in the second against Portsmouth, that when the swiftness and speed goes out of the play and players start hanging onto the ball too long mulling over options it’s very easy to set up against us and squeeze us into passing it back to the goalkeeper or going fairly long fairly hopelessly. Much of this seems to hinge on who’s playing at the base of the midfield, because when Geoff Cameron and Luke Amos are there we look pretty good, and when Dominic Ball and A N Other are there we look absolute crap.
This is a worry not only because it’s incredibly difficult for even the best teams in the country to maintain a high tempo, one-touch passing style for prolonged periods of time, and whenever QPR dip away from it even very slightly they look vulnerable, but also because Luke Amos is just coming back from a serious knee injury and Geoff Cameron spent a big chunk of last season on the sidelines. Admittedly that was only because of a horror show tackle from Kalvin Phillips which you can’t really legislate for, but at 34 it’s a bit much to rely on the American to play a full Championship season in the middle of midfield.
The other, arguably more pressing, issue is the middle of the defence. Grant Hall and Yoann Barbet may be able to pass the ball out as Mark Warburton demands, but they’ve been ropey defensively so far. Rangers are yet to keep a clean sheet, and have conceded 13 goals in seven games – well on course for a third consecutive season of shipping 70+ goals across the campaign. Barbet, in particular, has made rash tackles to concede penalties against Huddersfield and Swansea, and was unforgivably fast asleep for Pompey’s second during the week. He may knock a nice diag, but there’s a lot more to centre half play than that and the natives have got very restless, very quickly with the Frenchman.
Toni Leistner looked like he could provide a solution when he came on for the second half against Wigan and dominated a team that had previously been rather bullying us. But he then showed, both with his passing and his defensive play, why Warburton isn’t so keen on him with his midweek show in the cup. The second goal, in particular, showed the problem of having an immobile centre back in a back four if you’re going to push the full backs high and attack with them – with Todd Kane committed forward, McCrorie was able to drag Leistner out into an exposed wide area and burn him for pace. With the European transfer window still open and Leistner on good money, there’s no real guarantee he’ll even still be here by Luton at home.
Playing him as part of a back three, as against Wigan, is one potential solution, as is dropping Geoff Cameron in as the second ball-playing centre back instead of Hall or Barbet. He played well there at the end of last season, but moving him does then return us to the problem of who would hold the base of midfield – the idea of Ball playing regularly there is nearly as terrifying as the former Rotherham man’s first touch.
Overall, we’re good to watch and I’m enjoying it at the moment. I want to see Eze maintain these levels, and much more of Chair behind the striker. But we have been a little bit Brentfordy so far – beautiful in areas that don’t hurt teams, weak in ones that do. Sheff Wed is a tough one but I’m interested to see what we look like after another fortnight on the training pitch, when Luton come to town in early September.
Links >>> Barker’s Hillsborough chip – History >>> Bright start after Bruce defection – Interview >>> Return of the Nahk – Podcast >>> Brooks returns – Referee >>> Sheff Wed Official Website >>> Sheffield Star – Local Paper >>> London Owls – Blog >>> Owls Talk – Message Board
Geoff Cameron Facts No.63 in the Series – Geoff’s debut country and western album Let The Light Shine was number one in the charts in Benin for nine weeks following its release in 2003.
Team News: Mark Warburton will hope to have Geoff Cameron and Luke Amos back involved here after both missed the win against Wigan and loss to Portsmouth with tight hamstring issues suffered in the defeat to Swansea. Lee Wallace is still someway off a return from his hip problem. Jordan Hugill is certain to return to lead the attack from the start and Ebere Eze will be recalled but impressive recent showings from Ilias Chair and Marc Pugh throw the supporting cast behind the main striker into some doubt with Bright Osayi-Samuel and Josh Scowen the first choices there so far this season. Grant Hall will return at centre half but that’s likely to be instead of Toni Leistner, rather than Yoann Barbet who has attracted the ire of online fans for an erratic start to life at Loftus Road.
Elsewhere: It’s been a difficult start for several of the fancied teams this season. Poke City, a Premier League club just 18 months ago and still receiving substantial parachute payments, prop the league up with a single point and manager Nathan Jones questioned the mentality of his players after last weekend’s 3-0 loss to the Champions of Europe. They are at Birmingham City tomorrow.
Just above them, having already sacked their manager, Borussia Huddersfield also have one draw (at QPR) to show for their efforts ahead of an awkward trip to Lutown. They were in the top division last year and get maximum parachute payment this year. Likewise Cardiff, who kick things off tonight at home to Figgs Wodehouse-Ingleby as the Eleventh Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour stutters into life with only two wins thus far.
Middlesbrough, PSV Derby and Spartak Hounslow were all fancied in certain quarters, but all only have one win between them. Boro’s came at home to lowly Wigan Warriors, and they’ll face a sterner test than that away at Bristol City in the Saturday 12.30 game, live on Sky Sports Leeds. Derby’s was at Huddersfield on opening night, and they compounded their patchy league form with a 3-0 loss at Nottingham Florist’s Cast of a Thousand Footballers in the cup during the week ahead of their weekend trip to Griffin Park to face probably the best team they’ll play all season. Wigan, meanwhile, on a run of five straight defeats and only one goal scored, welcome Grimethorpe Miners’ Welfare.
Up at the top end, the Champions of Europe could seal their annual August league win with a home success against Swanselona, although Steve Cooper has made a very promising start in his first senior management role at the Liberty Stadium and that’s now a clash between first and second on the fledgling league table. Charlton and Reading, tipped as the bottom two by many, meat in Berkshire with the Addicks third and Royals eleventh. Florist stunned Fulham a week ago and will fancy their chances of more points still at home to always awkward Preston Knob End.
Unmentioned so far – Millwall Scholars v Allam Tigers, West Brom v Mad Chicken Farmers.
Eight games in August, three in September, such is the mad way of this division. You get a fortnight off to gather your thoughts after this round.
Referee: Leicestershire’s John Brooks let us boot Daniel Pudil in the head in the penalty area without giving Wednesday a spot kick at Loftus Road last season so seems a pretty amenable sort of chap. Details and stats.
Sheff Wed Wednesday have lost twice this season in the league, but both of those were on the road at Millwall (1-0) and bogey side Preston (2-1) in a game they conceded two penalties in. At home they’ve beaten newly promoted pair Barnsley (2-0) and Luton (1-0) without conceding a goal. This is only their third home match in all competitions, with the League Cup handing them an abandoned game with Bury and a 1-0 away win at local rivals Rotherham during the week. QPR’s 2-1 win at Hillsborough in May was their first in five visits since another 2-1 win in 2009/10. It was one of five home defeats suffered by Wednesday in 2018/19, with Boro, Norwich, Villa and Derby the other victors.
QPR: Rangers began the season with a 2-1 away win at Stoke having won just five away matches (Bolton, Ipswich, Reading, Forest, Sheff Wed) in the whole of 2018/19. The R’s have only won once since though, against Wigan last weekend (3-1) with defeats to Bristol City and Swansea and a draw with Huddersfield in the intervening period. No Championship team has created more chances than QPR so far this season – 36 – But Sheff Wed aren’t far behind in second with 29. No team in the league has conceded more goals from penalties since the start of last season – 13 – and that included Michael Hector’s goal here on the final day of last season. Rangers have conceded 14 spot kicks in that time, but Fernando Forestieri missed one in this fixture in May. QPR are yet to keep a clean sheet this season, and have conceded 13 goals in seven matches in all comps so far. Mind you, they conceded 13 in the first four last year and lost all of them so there’s some semblance of improvement in there somewhere.
Prediction: Our Prediction League this year is sponsored by 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…
“Despite all of Mark Warburton’s sensible and well-reasoned assessments so far, I'm still not convinced he knows our best starting 11 yet. And having seen our defence almost completely give up for Portsmouth’s second and almost a third straight after, I'm not convinced that the massive summer clear out has changed much in the player’s attitudes yet either. Despite Stoke, because everyone is beating them, I still don't think we do away from home, so going with 3-0 to Wednesday.”
Woking’s Prediction: Sheff Wed 3-0 QPR. No scorer.
LFW’s Prediction: Sheff Wed 2-1 QPR. Scorer – Jordan Hugill
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