End of Term Report 17/18 – Strikers
Wednesday, 6th Jun 2018 11:22 by Clive Whittingham
LFW's wraps its coverage of QPR's 2017/18 season with the stats and assessments for the club's collection of misfit strikers.
9 - Conor Washington D
Oh Conor, with your big sad eyes, this is going to feel like kicking a puppy. It started so well, with a double on the opening day to win the first match against Reading 2-0. I remarked in his write up last season that while he wasn’t scoring enough, we weren’t exactly supplying him with much to go on, and on the rare occasions he did actually get a clear sight of goal he tended to stick it away – like the pressure one on one against Forest in the final home match of 2016/17. But even on that good day against Reading he skied the ball over the bar when played clean through on goal and the bad misses continued to stack up this season, with one dire effort in the win at Birmingham from an absolutely prime position for a right footed striker to find the far corner sticking in the memory along with a big chance to get us a point at Sheff Utd.
But more troubling than the misses, in a weird way, is the lack of misses. He just never seems to be in the right place at the right time, like the opposite of Charlie Austin or Kevin Phillips. Totally unfair to compare a lad we got from Peterborough to two of the best English strikers of the last 20 years, but that knack of finding space in the box, anticipating the bounce of the ball and mistakes in defence, that even mediocre lower division strikers like Billy Sharp need has either drained away or was never there in the first place. You can’t knock his work rate, and Ian Holloway valued that in constant desire for a high press which will come up in various positive and negative contexts through this final write up, but 13 goals in 60 starts and 32 sub appearances is a total I’d expect from a central midfielder. I don’t think he can talk about lack of opportunities any more either, because he’s been played with a partner, and he’s had a better midfield behind him this season, neither of which happened in his first 18 months with the club.
Occasionally he looks like he’s getting somewhere, like the Reading goals, or the one against Wolves at home, and you think he might come good, but by the time he turned in a completely anonymous display in the away match at Reading – when Ian Holloway had once again changed a winning team to bring him back in – he looked absolutely bereft of threat, belief, confidence, positioning and basically everything you need to play up front. I feel for him and I’m led to believe there may have been some personal issues towards the end of the season which meant Reading was his last game and we should always be mindful of things like that before sticking the boot in – the comments made about him whenever his name is mentioned by the club on social media are, at times, disgusting. But I suspect his time is up here now, barring a miraculous recovery under Steve McClaren very early into next season. Ipswich were interested last summer, but have since changed manager, while Millwall had a sniff in January, but have since found form and goals with their existing side. A part exchange with a League One side, maybe even back to Peterborough, has been mooted as a way of getting a new striker into the building in the present, crazy, market, though whether he’d willingly take the wage cut that comes with that I don’t know.
At the moment it’s a gamble that hasn’t paid off.
24 starts, 10 sub appearances, W10 D10 L14
6 goals (Reading H, Reading H, Fulham H, Wolves H, Burton A, Wolves A), 2 assists (Hull H, Burton A)
0 LFW MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 7, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 7, 6, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5, 7, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 4, 4, 5, 5 = 5.363
Interactive Ratings – 5.27
12 – Jamie Mackie C
We’ll come onto the question of whether Ian Holloway’s team was a long ball outfit in a moment when we assess Matt Smith, but it’s worth remembering that Plan A this season was actually Jamie Mackie and Conor Washington starting up front together, using their speed and work rate to harass and harangue defenders in a high press. Mackie started in good form too, scoring against Ipswich, at Sheffield Wednesday, and possibly the most Jamie Mackie goal I’ve ever seen in my life at Middlesbrough when he block tackled a dodgy back pass through Darren Randolph and into the net. A very harsh sending off at Preston, and subsequent back injury requiring surgery, curtailed his season in December, though he was fit enough to come on for a final QPR appearance against Birmingham in the last home game when he came within a fine David Stockdale save of scoring a memorable goal. God I wish that had gone in.
His second spell at the club has not been a success – absolutely decimated by injuries. He was the right signing at the right time following relegation from the Premier League and would have been vitally important to how Chris Ramsey wanted the team to play had he not been ruled out for the first year with a succession of hamstring problems. He was a clear Man of the Match on day one at Charlton that season. In his farewell interview in May he lamented that he was finally fit and raring to go, but with his contract at an end and costs being cut it was an obvious decision not to renew the deal of a 30-something year old with a growing back catalogue of fitness worries. He was at least afforded a dignified and affectionate send off this time, parading around the pitch with his family, as opposed to the disgusting, callous and uncaring way he’d previously been bombed out by That Tosser Redknapp.
A great clubman, whose departure exacerbates the problem of influential, senior figures in the dressing room all leaving the club at once this summer just as the place is full of impressionable, inexperienced young players. A better, or certainly more effective, player than many people give him credit for – somebody who came up from the very bottom division with Exeter and Plymouth and developed his game enough to be effective in the Premier League and score vitally important goals for us against the likes of Liverpool and Man City is worthy of more respect than the sniffyness that sometimes came his way. The very best of luck to him wherever he’s going next – please God not to Lord Cuntleroy’s barmy army at Fleetwood.
You’ll notice that his numbers are incomplete for this season, and that we haven’t listed the interactive Man of the Match awards for the other players. That’s because some absolute sex case decided around September/October time to dedicate an unbelievable amount of their Sunday afternoons to bolstering Jamie’s match ratings to ten out of ten by filling the form in multiple times (47 times for Bolton away for example) as a guest. At a conservative estimate we reckon that would have taken in excess of an hour to do each week – closing the browser, deleting the cache and starting all over again each time – so it was clearly very important to whichever dick tip was doing it. Sadly, it means Jamie’s stats are incomplete for his final season.
16 starts, 5 sub appearances, W4 D7 L9
4 goals (Sheff Wed A, Ipswich H, Boro A, Villa H), 0 assists
3 yellow cards (unsporting, foul, foul), 1 red card (Preston A, serious foul play)
0 LFW MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – 7, 6, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 5, 6, 5, 5, 6, 5, 5, 6, 4, 5, 5, 5, 4, 7 = 5.57
Interactive Ratings – NOT AVAILABLE
17 – Matt Smith B
I found the end to 2016/17 depressing not just because we lost seven of the final eight games, but because the team lazily regressed to an all out long ball outfit, pumping one hopeless punt after another down the middle of the field because we had a six foot six inch striker and it was the easy thing to do. Problem was, Matt Smith’s back to goal game isn’t that good, and even if it was you have to get men around him in any case. That criticism that Ian Holloway was nothing more than a hoof and hope merchant persisted from his main critics this season, but honestly I went to the vast majority of matches, would definitely call a spade a spade if I saw it, and didn’t think it was the case. There were times when plan A had broken down that we did go a lot more direct, often to good effect such as the comebacks from two down against Millwall and Brentford at home and a near miss at doing the same at Wolves. There were also odd occasions when we did it and it didn’t work at all, such as the mindless last 30 minutes at Millwall away, but overall (at home, at least) this season I think we’ve been pretty good to watch considering the players we have available.
Smith’s main problem is mobility, or rather the total lack of it. Those concrete blocks they put on bridges and outside public buildings to stop extremists running people over in hire vans have got more acceleration and smaller turning circles. That, and what seemed to me to be consistently harsh treatment from various referees who turned down several blatant penalties for defenders pulling him down (Barnsley at home just before Scowen’s goal the most obvious), hindered the first half of his season where a late equaliser against Millwall and fabulous headed winner against Wolves were the main highlights. He sat out the initial January games and Rangers conceded two soft goals from set pieces at Bristol City during that time – the amount of headers Smith wins in our own box should not be underestimated, and is probably one of the big reasons he’s preferred to Sylla so often.
After that, with Holloway talking about the hard work they’d been doing on his fitness, he played very well indeed, scoring big important goals against Cardiff and Bolton before coming home with a wet sail with three in his last six. No surprise that this also coincided with the likes of Paul Smyth coming into the team, adding width and crosses which Smith likes, as opposed to long straight balls down the middle which he does not. A total of ten assists, mainly headers and knock downs from Freeman’s excellent set pieces, also not to be sniffed at. He peaked, like so many of his team mates, at Villa Park, turning in his best performance of the season, totally dominating Big Racist John in the air, on the ground, with the ball, without the ball and in every other department besides. We gave Ebere Eze man of the match that night but it probably should have been Matt. Like the team though, he’s done most of his good things – ten of his 11 goals and eight of his 10 assists – at Loftus Road.
Likeable lad, hard working, effective when used and serviced correctly, and with a hand in 21 goals one way or another last season – not bad at all for £500,000 in the current market. Creditable season.
19 starts, 25 sub appearances, W13 D9 L21
11 goals (Hull H, Cardiff A, Millwall H, Wolves H, Brentford H, Cardiff H, Bolton H, Forest H, Norwich H, Preston H, Birmingham H), 10 assists (Fulham H, Brentford H, Cardiff H, Wolves A, Bolton H, Forest H, Sunderland H, Fulham A, Norwich H, Norwich H)
3 yellow cards (foul, repetitive fouling, repetitive fouling)
2 LFW MOTM Awards (Brentford H, Norwich H)
LFW Ratings – 4, 5, 6, 6, 6, -, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 7, 5, 7, 5, 8, 6, 6, 6, 5, 5, 5, 6, 5, 6, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 6, 6, 8, 6, 5, 6, 7, 5 = 5.76
Interactive Ratings – 5.68
34 – Bright Osayi-Samuel C
Signed at the same time as David Wheeler and, for a long time, suffered the same fate: two wingers signed for a team that didn’t play with wingers forced to sit out for long periods of time and then try and make the best of rare opportunities given in foreign positions. Wheeler had his nadir as a loan striker in an away defeat at Derby, for Samuel his came when also selected up front in a draw away at Barnsley. The recurring themes don’t stop there either – like so many of his team mates, he benefitted from the change of formation after the second Nottingham Forest debacle, finally able to play semi-regular football in sort of his position and looking very good doing it, particularly against Sheff Wed and Birmingham where his pace and directness frightened the visiting defences. And, like Paul Smyth and several others, he can count himself unlucky to have been rewarded for those good performances by being dropped for the following game – a goal and great showing against Birmingham in the final home game rewarded with a spot back on the bench on the last day at Leeds. Holloway infuriated plenty of people with that, most importantly his bosses.
I don’t think we’ve seen enough to know whether Osayi-Samuel will make it at this level or not, but the raw ingredients are certainly there and the prospect of him and Smyth playing either side of the three in Steve McClaren’s preferred 4-2-3-1 set up is a promising one.
6 starts, 12 sub appearances, W4 D4 L6
1 goal (Birmingham H), 1 assist (Sheff Wed H)
0 LFW MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – 7, 4, 5, 5, -, 6, -, 6, 5, 5, 5, -, 6, 7, 5, 7, 5 = 5.57
Interactive Ratings – 5.28
37 – Paul Smyth A/B
Well this is exciting isn’t it? QPR, back to picking up gems from the other side of the Irish Sea through sound scouting – first Ryan Manning from Galway, and now Paul Smyth from Linfield. Praised for his attitude, demeanour and “breath of fresh air” on the training ground, he was given a first team chance against eventually-promoted Cardiff in January and seized it with both hands. Measuring just under four feet tall and weighing about three and a half stone soaked through, he went up against man mountain Sol Bamba and got right under his skin. Not only that, but he scored a great goal on debut to win the game – one of three U23 graduates to score on his first full league start for the first team this season (Eze – Sunderland, Oteh – Burton).
He would later add a beautifully taken goal in the 4-2 thrashing of Sheff Wed at Loftus Road, and was great as a substitute in the second half of the comeback at Fulham. In the ‘world of tens’ we talked about in Ilias Chair’s write up previously, it’s nice to see a young player coming through focusing and refining the very basics of attacking – get in the penalty box and get a shot away, or get to the byline and get a cross in. Smyth is lightning quick, slick of touch and single minded in his aims. He’s a pain for defenders, and looks a real find.
One of the things that did for Ian Holloway was the maddening changing of winning teams, and leaving Smyth out after that superb Sheff Wed showing for a home defeat by Preston was a prime example. Even without his obvious boundless energy, Smyth couldn’t possibly have been tired given the relatively small amount of football he’d played over the previous months. I’m all for developing players slowly, not exposing them too much, making the tough decision and taking the stick for it to protect a young player, and mostly I think Holloway handled the crop of youngsters very well – introducing them all gradually over the season to the point where they looked happy and comfortable in the Championship by the end of it. But he meddled too much at times, over thinking and over complicating things, and the way Smyth was bounced in and out of the team for the meaningless end of season games can certainly be categorised as that.
8 starts, 6 sub appearances, W4 D2 L7
2 goals (Cardiff H, Sheff Wed H), 1 assist (Bolton H H)
1 yellow card (repetitive fouling)
2 LFW MOTM Awards (Cardiff H, Derby H)
LFW Ratings – 8, 5, 7, 6, 5, 8, 6, 7, 7, -, 7, 6, 6, 5 = 6.38
Interactive Ratings – 6.45
40 – Idrissa Sylla C
Odd. Just odd. All of it, and all of him.
His goals per game record remains good, at 17 from 30 starts (plus 31 sub appearances of varying lengths). He got seven this season, from 15 starts and 13 sub outings. He’s certainly a far bigger goal threat than Conor Washington (four more goals from half as many appearances), and yet Washington was given more minutes. Frankly, it felt like Ian Holloway took against him from the start, and not for very much at all – a grumpy (and nothing more) reaction to being subbed while playing well at Reading, and the idea that the “French lads” didn’t “run around enough”. Harsh, on both counts, because I don’t see Matt Smith doing a great deal of hustling and harrying of defenders in possession either and yet it was Sylla who was repeatedly called for it. I was uncomfortable with his treatment by the previous management to be honest.
Coming back to our Ian Holloway interview he said: “Sylla has got talent, but he’s also got to do what he needs to do to defend and get that right. It’s about body language. He has a happy knack of scoring whether he plays ten minutes or 90. I’m very consistent if you know me. People outside may not think it, but I’m very consistent. I want to enjoy myself, I want people to toe the line, I want people to work hard, I want people to give me everything they’ve got. At times I haven’t seen Sylla give me everything he’s got so he’s had some from me.”
That’s not to say he’s brilliant, or even particularly good. He scored at Sunderland, but missed four other great chances to win that game, as well as trying a ridiculous 40-yard volleyed attempt. His well converted penalty against Sheffield Wednesday – at the end of the most elaborate run up you’ll ever see and preceding a prolonged celebration that was still going on as Wednesday kicked off – was not only his longest range goal for us, it was nearly further out than all his other goals put together. A sizzling one yarder in the last minute against Hull in August, and the farcical winner against Sheff Utd gifted to him by the goalkeeper, typical of this prolific scorer of accidental goals. He always looks like he's having a bloody lovely time.
He was given a run in the team over Christmas – a cynic may suggest that was to try and encourage interest from the likes of Reading and Hull who’ve sniffed round and wondered why he doesn’t play more given his record – and he didn’t do much with it, culminating in a bad display at Ipswich on Boxing Day when he missed several chances to win that 0-0 draw. But, overall, he was out of the team more than he was in it and Holloway/Bircham just never seemed to trust him. When the team is struggling for goals from its strikers that seems weird to me. Yes work rate, yes defend from the front, yes team over individual, yes to all of that, but there is more to the game than simply high press. It’s not the be all and end all. You need somebody to put the ball in the net, and Sylla’s about the best of a bad bunch for that at the moment. Another one with an intriguing year ahead, if he stays.
15 starts, 13 sub appearances, W8 D7 L10
7 goals (Hull H, Sunderland A, Bolton A, Sheff Utd H, Sheff Wed H, Sheff Wed H, Brentford A), 1 assist (Sheff Wed H)
2 yellow cards (over celebrating, dissent)
0 LFW MOTM Awards
LFW Ratings – -, 5, 7, 6, 6, 7, 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 6, 6, 4, 6, 6, -, 5, 7, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7, 5, 6, 5 = 5.92
Interactive Ratings – 5.46
The re-signing of Kazenga LuaLua on loan from Brighton was fucking stupid. He’d been mostly injured, and largely ineffective when he was available, during a previous six month loan spell so quite why we felt that justified another crack over a full season I do not know. His dire missed sitter in the last minute at Sheff Wed could have got an away win under our belts at the first hurdle, instead we had to wait until December and it became a millstone round the team’s neck. Thankfully we were able to cut the deal short midway through the season and he then spent the rest of 2017/18 doing nothing in Sunderland colours instead. Given that we subsequently signed David Wheeler and Bright Osayi-Samuel in the summer window as well, and as it turns out had the likes of Eze, Smyth and Chair coming through, this was a wholly unnecessary, gratuitous move. You can’t very well plead poverty when you’re doing stuff like that. Some of his latter performances for the reserves had to be seen to be believed.
Speaking of lazy, over-weight, wasters, we finally get to bid farewell to Jay Emmanuel-Thomas this summer with the ludicrous three year contract we gave him finally at an end. Once again, the only sight and sound we’ve seen of this leach all season was the invite for his “swazzy” Soho birthday party around Christmas - £10 before 23.00, £20 afterwards, girls get in free. I hate him, and footballers like him, with every fibre of my being. This is a sport that never learns though so interesting to see which club he cons into taking him next, after a summer spent as the “VIP guest” at Miami Beach nightclubs of course.
The Twitter @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
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