Sunday, 28 October 2012

QPR Still Self Harming

The R's made the short trip to the Emirates not expecting to get much and duly obliged with another self inflicted defeat to halt any progress or realisation of the potential that is locked within this team.

Mbia' s moment of bad tempered petulance
QPR having managed to stop gifting goals to the opposition reverted to their old way of self harming by having a player needlessly sent off. Not only were they reduced to ten men for the last 10 minutes or so, but the man dismissed, Mbia, was our best defender on the day and was more than adequately dealing with all Arsenal had to offer on the day. On reflection things looked ominous from the moment Hughes announced his starting eleven, as he inexplicably recalled Wright-Phillips to replace Park and persisted in selecting Zamora to lead the line. Sadly though, Hughes game plan was to play for a draw and this negative approach saw the R's rarely utilise Zamora and Hoilett or the talents of Taarabt, when this was not one of the Gunners better teams and today was a good opportunity to get a rare three points at the Emirates.

Although negative in our approach to the game Arsenal were not much better until the second half when, as the home team should, they took the initiative and after some iffy handling in the first half Cesar made three or four class saves to keep QPR in the game. The back four were playing like a solid unit with the centre half pairing of Nelson and Mbia developing into a reliable partnership until Mbia's was sent off for a moment of bad tempered petulance that seems to be a trait of our imported footballers. Granero was good but not at his best playing the way Hughes had set us up. The main problem defensively is when we have to defend in two banks. The the rear bank of four seems to have settled but its the bank in front that is still naive in its defencive duties with far too many errors and this needs to be worked on. The hapless Wright-Phillips was again ineffective and gave the ball away needlessly so many times in the second half. Sadly, he is finished at this level and I cant think of any other team in the Premiership that would start him, in fact he would find it hard to get in a Championship side. Zamora, when given the opportunity, didn't do anything to justify a starting place next week. In fact it was only with the introduction of the energetic Mackie that we started to do anything positive coupled with the withdrawal of Zamora for Cisse. The R's two best chances of the game came late on when Granero shot wide after a great forward ball from Taarabt and then from Mackie who picked the ball up just inside the Arsenal half and beat off  three challenges before shooting at the lunging keeper from six yards. Arsenal's goal came from a scrambled effort that proved later to be offside, but should have been dealt with long before Arteta put it in.

Arsenal goal offside
In contrast to our recent visit to Arsenal's North London neighbours in Tottenham, this Rangers side played nothing like as well as they did at White Hart Lane, although we did what we were asked to do by Hughes well and could have, maybe should have got a point from this game. The atmosphere at the Emirates was again sterile and unfootball like, unlike at Spurs, but the travelling R's did their best to improve it. Personally I think the additional fan base Arsenal acquired to fill this stadium are not the kind of fans we are looking for at QPR, if we are to follow suit with our stadium ambitions. In fact if a new, larger stadium will result in an experience like the Emirates, you can keep it and I'll stick with my nice little Loftus Road with its real football fans.

We left White Hart Lane in defeat but filled with hope and expectancy having witnessed a progressive and positive display from the R's. We left the Emirates also in defeat, but with many questions that need answering. Why, in his press conference, did Hughes say he did not set up the team negatively? Why did he say he could not recall Arsenal having any chances apart from the one blasted over the bar from twelve yards by Cazorla? Why did Hughes start with SWP and Zamora? Why is he in denial over what actually happened in this match?.

Why is this talented QPR team under achieving and not winning games? Why do we continualy conspire to find ways of self harming ourselves in the form of throwing points away? Why have we only got three points in nine games? Why did Mbia, when playing so well, lose the plot and get sent off? Why have we gone eighteen premier leagues away games without a win (equivalent of a season)? Why did Mark Hughes sign Zamora? Why doesn't Hughes admit when he's wrong? Why has Mark Hughes only won one away game in almost eighty premier league outings? Why doesn't he have a plan B for matches? I could go on but these are the burning questions that need answering and addressing now and need discussing across the QPR forums.

We have a better squad than at least eight to ten other teams in the premiership and should be and could be much better. So where is it going wrong? Yes we have had a lot a bad luck of late and injuries but this is a results business and I'm finding it incredibly hard to defend our manager, Mark Hughes. Hughes has been given the best resources in the history of this club. He's been given the opportunity to build his own team, brought in his own people in the form the unimpressive "Taffia" Welsh/ex Chelsea contingent and been give time, lots of it. But his record at QPR is absolutely diabolical. Only 6 wins since he took over almost a year ago and just 2 points away from home, A worse record than Warnock had, when he got his marching orders. By anyboby's reckoning that is not good enough and any credibility he once held is negated by his continued insistence on picking players that aren't good enough and harm QPR. You could almost forgive the abysmal lack of away points if the home form was any good, but its not and to survive we have got to pick up our points at home. (Sooner as well as later)

Questions need answering. Does Hughes have the answers?
They say the table doesn't lie, however it is too early for it to tell the truth and we have certainly been worth more points than we have. I, like my fellow R's, am expecting a change in fortunes and for a run of form that will take us to the promised land of mid table mediocrity. Every game we hope this will be the game it starts to go right, but it doesn't. How long do we wait before we change it? I didn't want Hughes in the first place, but have been reluctant to get rid of him because of the unsettling effect that sacking a manager has. This has been all to familiar in our recent history. I really hope Hughes can turn it around for us. His biggest opportunity to redeem himself is about to be afforded to him in the next three games against Reading, Stoke and Southampton. Get this wrong Hughes and there will be nowhere to hide, no more excuses.  If he doesn't get the right results he will really feel the wrath of the QPR fans. The same QPR fans that I am yet to hear sing Hughes name in adulation.

We are still more than capable of staying up, we are a good team, but it will only happen under the correct stewardship. Now is your time, Mr Hughes, to prove you are that man and to lead QPR to its destiny on the journey that we know as the QPR revolution. For the sake of continuity I hope it is him.

Onwards and upwards, come on you R's.

The Bush Ranger.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Step In The Right Direction

As the monotony of the international break came to an end, the R's played host to our visitors from the blue half of the Merseyside capital in the shape of high flying Everton. The Toffeemen, in stark contrast to the R's, are enjoying their best ever start to a Premier league season and a packed Loftus Road paid host to the Sky cameras as we waited in anticipation to see if we could pick up our first three point haul of the season.

The international break, normally unpopular with fans and disruptive to the clubs came at the right time for QPR as Mark Hughes and his "Taffia" coaching team were given an extra opportunity to work on our pitiful defence and the players fitness, all be it at the expense of QPR shoring up the table for another week. It would seem the break also gave Hughes the chance to do a little bit of thinking as he finally dropped Wright-Phillips from the starting eleven along the unreliable Ferdinand, opting instead to partner Mbia with Nelson. Hoilett, Diakite and Traore got starts as Hughes team selection took a step in the direction of what most R's fans have been crying out for.

QPR had a dream start, taking the lead within 3 minutes as Hoilett won a half clearance from an Everton corner deep in the R's half and ran the length of the pitch before unleashing a shot from the edge of the area that took a fortuitous deflection sending Howard the wrong way. This took a little pressure off the R's and enabled them to settle early, whist blowing Everton's game plan out of the window. The R's were steady without being spectacular for the next 30 minutes until Everton were awarded a free kick outside the R's area.  Zamora was busy barking orders at his team mates to mark their men only to do the opposite and let Distin, the man he was supposed to be marking, have a free header that hit the post only to rebound off the back of the unfortunate Cesar for the Everton equaliser. The next 5 minutes saw Everton come very close to getting a 2nd goal, hitting the bar as Rangers began to panic. The back four until then had been pretty solid and we only looked under threat from set pieces and when the defence needed support from elsewhere in the team. Neslon was again solid at the back and Mbia didn't put a foot wrong.

QPR continued to labour in the second half with Diakite lively and creating chances whilst the majestic Granero was in control in midfield, distributing the ball accurately and intelligently always keeping the ball moving and not afraid to compete with his Everton counterparts. Taarabt played well for periods and worked very hard again without making the spectacular impact he had done in his previous two outings. Sadly Park was disappointing again, although he worked hard he wasn't really effective and has yet to demonstrate the leadership qualities that are required to be skipper, personally I would have made Nelson captain. Zamora was poor (again) today and I have grave doubts about him. Yes he is good at holding the ball up but when we attack at pace and inter pass, the move always breaks down and the fluency is lost when it gets to him. His touch is awful and he can't lay the ball off at higher tempos and panics. He is much better as the last man in the move, as in the goal he got at Spurs. I really don't think he's the answer up front and think Hughes was very lazy signing him when looking for a striker. Hoilett did more than enough to prove he should start next game and should have had a penalty but was denied by the ref who also failed to give Everton a penalty in the first half.

Hughes was forced into two defencive substitutions late in the game with Nelson (Ferdinand) coming off with tight calf's and Traore (Onuoha) not up to 90 minutes yet. Zamora eventually came off for an enthusiastic Cisse who still doesn't seem to have mastered the rule of off side. Everton had Pinaar sent off for two yellows with around a quarter of the game left but QPR failed to capitalise as Everton put two resilient banks of four in front of the R's and QPR didn't want to take any risks although both teams had good chances to increase the scoring but on reflection a draw was a fair result.

It was a decent performance from QPR but we have played better this year and lost. We did show a few more glimpses of what we can achieve this year and it was disappointing not to win the game but at least we've stopped the rot. We can go to the Emirates next week with something to build on and are capable of taking a point at least.  Remember this is still a work in progress, all be it a slow progress. We are still bottom but still in touch with the pack. Just one or two wins can make a big difference to the table, our confidence and the perception of our club. Time is not running out for QPR yet, still 30 games to go and a winnable run of three games after Arsenal. But is time running out for Mark Hughes? No doubt the drama will unfold in the next 4 games. I'm still sure we'll be fine.

Come on you R's

The Bush Ranger

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Same Old Story

Premier League matchday seven saw the R's travel to the Hawthorns for a winnable away fixture that frustratingly ended in another defeat continuing our dismal run of results but leaving us all puzzled as to how we still only have two points to show for our efforts to date.

For the second game in five days, QPR found themselves two goals down within 30 minutes after yet again gifting our opponents the lead as a result of defensive inadequacy. The 1400 travelling R's had only to wait 5 minutes to see a repeat of the now all too familiar defensive lapses that inevitably end with a goal conceded. Clint Hill was left to deal with (the annoying) Shane Long by Nelson when the latter was better placed to have dealt with him. Long left Hill for dead to cross a quality ball to the oncoming Morrison to nod past the helpless Cesar. I personally think Ferdinand could have busted more of a gut to try and win the header, but Long should have been dealt with before he could cross. From then on the R's were playing catch up. Hill for the remainder of the half had a torrid day at left back, but he has my sympathy as Hughes should never have picked Hill at full back, he's immense as a centre back but sadly lacking as a full back. Bosingwa returned to the side at right back and looked miles from fitness and also performed very poorly, not winning a header all day and frequently going missing in the first half as the Baggies hit us on the break. It looks like he was rushed back from injury as he didn't look ready to play today. Hughes also opted to play Mbia in the holding midfield role but alarmingly didn't look like half the player he was against West Ham. Twice in the opening minutes Mbia gave the ball away and never looked convincing whilst his distribution was not up to scratch. Its early days for him but on this showing he looks like a better centre back than midfielder and I would play him there next to Nelson.

15 minutes later an innocuous cross from the right was not dealt with by Ferdinand as he completely fluffed his clearance straight in to the path of Gera to slot home past the again helpless Cesar. 22 minutes gone, two nil down with only two away points since Hughes took charge at QPR, things were looking all too familiar and the likelihood of a point let alone three were remote at best.

The R's tried to press but were continually caught on the counter attack with both full backs often out of position and we could easily have been three or four goals down. Park had started the game playing off the striker and was mainly ineffective, whilst Taarabt was wasted out on the left.  Zamora continually dropped far too deep looking for the ball, but this changed when (now facing a two goal deficit) Taarabt started to drift inside switching with Park. Granero along with Taarabt  were the most effective for QPR and in the 35 minute Granero's deft little chip forward was met on the chest by Taarabt who then volleyed the ball home from 15 yards to send the travelling faithful wild.

Hughes mercifully replaced Hill with Traore at the break as QPR dominated possession looking for a equaliser, but without creating any clear cut chances. West Brom at this point were quite happy to put everyone behind the ball, making it very difficult for Rangers. SWP was again full of energy, but completely ineffective and should have done better with one of our few shots at goal. Thankfully he was finally replaced by Mackie who managed to be more effective on the right hand side. Nelson, easily our best defender on the day, comfortably dealt with West Brom's rare second half forages into the QPR area but going forward the R's always wanted to make one pass to many sideways and made it easy for the hosts to deal with. Zamora had a quiet day as we failed to play to his strengths. The excellent Taarabt put in an industrious shift and worked very hard continuing in his commitment to improve his work rate. Park was replaced by Hoillett after the R's fans had been chanting for his introduction to the game, however he did not have the time to effect the game significantly.

As the game approached the last five minutes a West Brom counter attack was not dealt with by a static, ball watching R's defence, with Traore not committed enough to try and win back the ball. As a result some quick inter passing found Mulumba unmarked to tap in from six yards to restore their two goal lead. This triggered a mass exodus of R's fans who missed the excellent Granero curl in his first goal for QPR in the 92nd minute. Then just to compound the way things are going for the R's at the moment Bosingwa wasted a chance to get QPR a draw with the last kick of the game, blasting the ball over the bar from seven yards.

To surmise, its pretty much been the same old story for the season so far. Yet again we have conceded goals from teams on the break as a result of pitiful defending and individual errors leaving ourselves mountains to climb. The R's had a go and were dominant for much of the second half but lacked the cutting edge in the last third. Defensively we were again diabolical, but we knew that last season. All through the summer we knew we needed a centre back but all we bought in was Neslon, who has been our best centre half this season followed by Hill. Ferdinand, in my opinion is sadly not consistent enough to do what we need in the Premier League. He makes too many errors and has a degree of naivety to his game. Traore and Onuoha are also inconsistent and the former is often guilty of being lazy and ball watching and seems disinterested in defending.  Hughes must be tearing his hair out because he has not been able to pick his best defence because of injuries and although we have improved the squad, he has been let down by them. Hughes needs to find a settled back four and stick with them (injuries permitting) as this is the part of the team that needs to gel most.

Hughes finds himself under increasing pressure and many R's are calling for his sacking. On Saturday I heard people moaning about the team selection, but I never heard anyone chanting for Hughes head. Some of his decisions are questionable. Why does he insist on starting SWP, does he not remember it wasn't until he dropped him last season that we started winning. Why does he play Hill at full back? I said before I'm not his greatest fan and find his management style sterile and emotionless. But has he really had a fair crack of the whip. Injuries have meant the defence has been unsettled and we have giving goals away for fun.We have shown glimpses of what we can achieve. The QPR revolution is still on and I believe this side will go on to the next level. It just starting to look as if its going to take longer than we all hoped. Like him or not Hughes is more than capable of keeping us up. In August I had not even contemplated the possibility of even flirting with the bottom three this season so the position were find ourselves in is painful for all R's fans. We all know we're playing well on the whole. The midfield is better than last year, but the defensive frailties have not been fully resolved. Personally I have reservations about some of Hughes back room team and would be happier if they got a good defencive coach in. I still believe QPR will avoid relegation because this team can play football. They now have to learn how to win games.

We are rock bottom as we go in to the international break. I, like my fellow R's, was so gutted on Saturday. We are still in pain. We are angry, I know I am, so feelings are running high, that's why I left it three days until I published this blog post for fear of saying something I might regret. I was mad at Hughes on Saturday, but I don't think sacking him will help QPR. I would like to think he knows what he is doing, please don't let me be wrong. The anti QPR brigade are slaughtering us at the moment, but there are thirty one games to go and come the end of the season I'm optimistic that we will comfortably survive and I will gladly stick my two fingers up at them. We know how we feel at the moment, so imagine how Hughes feels. The last thing he needs is the supporters on his back, so if you can't support him, it would be better to say nothing, the job in hand is hard enough.

Hopefully this two week break will give the injured players time to fully recover and for Hughes to iron out the problems besetting the defence. The only way is up now, starting next game against Everton.

Blog to you soon

The Bush Ranger

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Comedy of errors... not funny anymore

Following the great performance (but still a defeat) at Spurs last week QPR suffered a morale destroying defeat against Reading midweek. This was further compounded by an unacceptable first half performance and yet another defeat to West Ham, that leaves QPR rooted to the bottom of the table after the worst start to a season in our history.

How can this be? How can the attitude and belief of this team have been swept away in just a week? In my last post I waxed lyrical about how the R's had turned a corner and moved on to a new kind of mentality. Well its seems the Reading defeat has kick started a step or more backwards. Was I wrong in my conclusion? I hope not, but it seems clear that confidence and momentum has been lost for the moment. We didn't play well against Reading conceding stupid goals (again) and the West Ham game left me feeling sick at half time.(Two more goals gifted to the visitors.)

The last week has been painful. Just when I was beginning to feel that watching the R's wouldn't be so tortuous, R's fans are again in chronic agony. We have arguably the strongest squad in our history. We have signed players from, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Man U, Marseilles and the like. We have rich owners that care. So where has it gone wrong?

Well for the West Ham game Hughes has to carry the can for that. He simply got his team selection wrong, very wrong and subsequently the first 45 minutes were an embarrassment to QPR.
We cant defend at the best of times, so of late we have played higher up, at higher tempo in order to give the back four some respite but this tactic was not employed. We were second to everything and lost the physical battle. Faurlin and Granero were below par and nowhere near what we have grown to expect from them. Onuoha was woefully inadequate and Hill is better employed as a centre half and is not the player we know he can be when playing at full back. SWP, lots of work rate no end product, you know the script. Park just couldn't get in to the game. Cisse and Zamora just didn't do enough. They have got to make more of an impact every game. West Ham are not a good side, but they are effective and employed spoiling tactics that earned them no less than eight bookings. It's ironic that it was QPR that were reduced to ten men when West Ham looked the more likely to lose a man when you consider how cynical they were.

On the plus side Mbia showed signs that he could prove to be quite an astute signing and his distribution was clever and accurate. Taarabt came on and rubbed Hughes face well and truly in it, scoring a fantastic goal and more importantly putting in an industrious shift noticeably contributing to defending deep in our half for the half hour he played. Diakate too, was effective for his brief 20 minute cameo before being dismissed for two yellows. That was the point when the R's second half improvement and revival was halted and hopes of getting anything from the game were ended. Such a silly boy when will he learn.

Needless to say, people will be calling for Hughes head. Personally I didn't want him in the first place, but he's here now and I don't see how sacking him will help. The fact is we are crippled with injuries, more so in defence which is why we have conceded five sloppy goals in the last two games.
Basically to score against us just get in our box and let us do the rest, as the inevitable ensuing comedy of errors will lead to QPR conceding. This is the team Hughes has built and he knows what he wants to do with it. He hasn't done anything wrong (yet) so deserves a chance with a fully fit squad. He normally gets his game plan right although not today against West Ham. We cant afford to keep chopping and changing managers like we normally do. We are supposed to have turned a corner. This is supposed to be the start of taking QPR to the next level. Last week it looked that way, this week we look like the same old QPR. That's called a step backwards. I just hope over the ensuing weeks and months we take a lot more steps forward than backwards.

Hughes said we will never be in "that" position again while he's in charge. Well we are, so do something about in now Hughes before its too late. I still think we'll be fine, but when you're bottom of the league it makes you feel worse. We lost to Spurs but I still felt alright, I had hope. But after the debacle against West Ham I have to admit I am crestfallen, so gutted. R's fans all know that feeling. I thought the QPR revolution would stop days like that.

Still I'll be there at West Brom on Saturday to see if we can get our first win of the season. By then I should have replenished my hope and optimism. In fact we all will have. We're QPR fans, that's what we do.

Still early days yet

Blog to you soon.

The Bush Ranger

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