It’s a return to the site of the major incident of last season. Loftus Road. QPR. Anton Ferdinand against John Terry. Oh, and there’s also a football match to be played also.
Our first match after the most recent international break pits us in our first truly emotional contest of the season. Not only is this QPR, but after the events of the past year, to say that Loftus Road will be emotionally charged might be the understatement of the century. To add fuel to the fire, both Terry and Ashley Cole have trained and are declared fit, while the Ferdinand’s have declared that they will not shake either man’s hand. Despite the animosity, the handshakes will go on, and both clubs said they would respect it. Does not mean that Mr. Ferdinand will.
On to the match itself, and on paper, this matchup should heavily favor the Blues. However, QPR still have many questions about them because of the signings they’ve made as the deadline closed. Esteban Granero, Julio Cesar, and Stephane Mbia are undoubtedly talented players, but we have yet to see how exactly they fit into Mark Hughes’ plans. Only Granero has featured for QPR since signing, and then the international break hit. And that, my friends, is point number 1.
QPR are a complete enigma because I’m not entirely sure what they’ll look like overall, so it makes it hard to judge their strategies.
For a team that is expected to be on the fringes of a relegation battle, to sign just Granero and Mbia alone is a major coup. However, since QPR have brought in no fewer than 13 new players and shipped out at least 11, including Joey Barton, it’s hard to gauge what type of side they’ll be. I can look at individual areas, but as a whole, it makes them a tad difficult to predict,
That being said, I think the one thing that I’ve noticed about them in the first three matches is that they’re a team that seems to either get a comfortable 2-0 win, earn a low-scoring draw, or get totally shellacked by an opponent.
In the first match of the season, once they got behind to Swansea, it seemed to me that one or two heads dropped, one or two lost concentration, and before they knew it, Swansea were running riot. Against Norwich, I thought they had the better of the play and probably should have won. However, they didn’t take their chances, and Norwich battled hard. Against Manchester City, I thought QPR gave a good account of themselves until they conceded the Dzeko goal to give City the lead. After that point, City ran riot through them and QPR were probably lucky to not have conceded at least 5 goals again.
Where their heads are after the break will have a big say as to how they finish.
If I’m looking for QPR’s main weakness, it has to be at goalkeeper, even with the signing of Julio Cesar.
I don’t know of Julio Cesar is going to be able to play in this match. I do know that Julio Cesar is not the same keeper who helped Inter to winning the 2008 Champions League Final. Injuries have robbed him of a lot of time between the sticks and might be the biggest reason why Inter let him go for nothing.
However, if I’m a Chelsea player and Robert Green is the goalkeeper, if I get within sight of goal, I’m shooting and forcing him to make saves. Some of the goals that he’s conceded this year have been soft to say the least. I’m not entirely sure he’s recovered mentally from World Cup 2010, but it’s safe to say that he’s not the keeper he was before then and might be the biggest weakness for QPR.
The second biggest problem for QPR is the lack of reliable creators in midfield and attack.
If I’m to look at QPR’s squad, I wonder who really creates the goals for them. While the addition of Mbia adds steal to the midfield and Granero and Ji Sung Park add a bit of energy and composure, none of the three are really known as midfield creators.
The most creative force for QPR is Adel Taraabt, but he’s Adel Taraabt. Prodigious talent, world-class skill, but he’s also a world-class head case that, at times, simply plays for the glory of Adel Taarabt.
The second most creative force is Junior Hoilett, and he’s shown that he will be a good player. The issue is that he’s also just 22, and in the throes of a relegation fight, it’s a lot to ask for him to be the sole creator of goals.
The QPR strike force is not bad, but they are awfully streaky, and not really great finishers
Hughes has decided to reassemble his strike force of Fulham, bringing in Bobby Zamora last January and picking up Andy Johnson on a free this summer. Not terrible striking options when you take all things into consideration. However, what would worry me is that Zamora had just 20 goals in 91 appearances for Fulham and Johnson had just 13 goals in 86 appearances.
The other striker is Djibril Cisse. We all know who he is.
Final point: After the Super Cup match, serious questions have to be asked about the shape of the midfield two.
While I was disappointed with the result in the Super Cup, I was most disappointed with how the midfield performed and essentially left the center defence out on an island to cope with 3 attackers. In particular, it may be sacrilegious, but Frank Lampard was a large part of the issue. If he’s going to start in a side playing with 2 holding midfielders and 3 attacking ones in front, he has to pick his moments to get forward better, yet decide to sit deep more than he goes forward.
If you watch that match back, John Obi Mikel could have been better and stronger on the ball. Branislav Ivanovic could have acknowledged that Adrian was being used to counter in the space he left behind. Gary Cahill, David Luiz, and Ashley Cole could have formed better lines. However, the biggest thing that stood out for me is that Lampard is being used, positionally, as the distributor and ball player from deep. Yet, in that match, I’d venture to say that 60% of the time, he was making runs into channels and forcing Mata to come deep.
In fact, the vast majority of the time when Lampard received the ball and played a short pass to Mata, he immediately set about on a sprint into the box, meaning Mata had to come deeper. That’s all well and good if Mata can come forward again, but he couldn’t. Lampard, instead of coming deep, would play off Fernando Torres in that second striker position, essentially meaning we had 4 midfielders attacking and 1 defending high up the pitch.
We can get away with that against the lesser sides, but against top opposition, if Lampard doesn’t start restricting his runs a bit, I expect us to be beaten in a similar fashion every time.