Contrasting fortunes for Eze, Cameron and Wszolek - Knee Jerks
Tuesday, 9th Oct 2018 14:13 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola's six talking points on Saturday's draw with Derby include praise for the goalscorer, and Steve McClaren's bravery with his forced first half substitution.
For the second time this season, S-Mac steps back from the brink. I often think about managers in terms of being on the edge of a cliff, facing inland. After Bristol City, Steve had actually fallen backwards, but his pants got caught on a small branch, and with the victories that followed he had scrambled back up, and was lying on his belly, breathing heavily in relief. But then after Blackpool and Swansea, he'd fallen again, not as far as last time, mind, but bodily he was still over the cliff, just perhaps with both hands clinging to a small, sturdy bush. Now, after a win and a draw, he's back on his belly again. Let's see if he can get to his feet after the international break.
And if anyone can beat that for a tortured introductory metaphor, I don't want to read it.
People often talk about the drudgery, the relentlessness, the combativeness of the Championship. I saw someone, possibly on here, and not unreasonably, saying all 24 teams merely represent different degrees of averageness. Clive is forced on many occasions during a season to summon up a metaphor about the game he's witnessed that might involve two bald men fighting over a comb, two tramps scrapping over half a can of White Lightning or two mangey foxes battling over a rancid cocktail sausage. Now, it's difficult to argue with that point of view most of the time. The idea of watching a Championship game not involving QPR is nearly enough for me to turn over to the quilting channel (there is one), but on Saturday, I really enjoyed that game.
The pressure in the Championship has become so great that even early in the season we've seen teams getting a goal up and then doing everything they can in terms of niggling, feigning injury, breaking up play, stopping the game and good old-fashioned blatant time-wasting to hang on to that slender lead, as if survival in this division depended upon it. I swear this league used to be more fun. And I don't absolve us from this either. Some people praise it as 'being professional' and 'learning from what others did to us'. But by Christ it's dull. Doing it from the 85th minute onwards - fine. These days it feels like teams will do it from the 10th minute if they're one-up. Anyway, point is, on Saturday, possibly because the scores were equal for the majority of the game, we saw two teams both going for the win. And it was really good. Exciting, nerve-wracking, hopeful. OK, neither team looked brilliant, but both sides wanted to win and both managers made changes to try and get the win - not to simply shore things up for a point. A draw was about fair, although we had the better chances to win it, while overall they looked a slightly better side. Good. All good. Well done everyone. Except the ref, who was a bit of a dick.
There may be a lot of fuss right now about the impact of the so-called 'Premier League players' (of course, none are. Cameron has been let go by a Championship club, and the other two have barely played in the top division. They're Premier League players in the sense that Jamie Mackie or James Perch were Premier League players), but the last two games have shown that we can't accommodate both Wells and Hemed into the team at the moment. We are simply far more suited to a lone striker with other players bombing on behind them.
Saturday was a classic case in point. Derby, with their win over Man Utd and various other decent results and their England squad member, would've fancied a win at Loftus Road, but found us to be a match in all departments. Everyone looked happier playing in this was, just as they did when Ollie finally made the switch at the start of spring earlier this year. Luongo looked better, Freeman looked better, Eze didn't have a great game, but still looked better than when stuck on the wing. All in all, everything just worked better, because of the shape. It helped, of course, that everyone worked really hard too and that heads, for once, did not go down after the opening goal. This was the first point we've picked up all season after going a goal down.
The trick now is in keeping Hemed and Wells happy - probably the former more than the latter, as Wells is clearly first choice. But S-Mac has to do what's best for the team, and at the moment, it is this.
I love Pav, who I wish would do at least half as many step-overs as Freeman, because then we could call the trick the Pavlova. In fact, most fans love Pav. And yet managers don't. Three managers in a row now have looked at Pav and his odd ways and his strangely wooden way of moving (although Zidane looked a bit wooden too, and he was amazing), and decided they'd probably not play him much, or only when they had to. Has he ever had a run of more than five games in a row playing as a right midfielder? I don't think so. He's been wing back, right back, left mid, even central mid, but mostly on the bench. But he's Pav and you can't help asking why he doesn't start more. Particularly in this formation which sees the ever-willing (and improving) Jordan Cousins played out of position in the exact position we all feel Pav would excel.
For Pav, the international break may have come at the wrong time. With Bidwell out for a while and Rangel likely to switch to left back, the right side has opened up for him and he must be in line for a run in the side at last, even if it's at right back. And it would be deserved, because he was probably man of the match on Saturday once he came on for the unlucky Bidwell.
That in itself was a courageous substitution for Macca. While the stadium panicked and fretted that we hadn't got a sub ready, Steve took a moment to consider his options. Initially, Baptiste was ready. But using that sub would mean later on only two of Hemed, Smith, Pav and BOS could come on - it would be a severely limiting choice. So he gambled with Rangel on the left and Cousins on the right. It worked really well, not least because Pav gave a great display typical of Pav: winning 40-60s, chasing lost causes, somehow bumbling past defenders, using his skill, and also playing a smart, disciplined role ahead of Cousins. In this formation, a place should be found for Pav more often than not. When he first came here people worried a Prem club would snap him up - that always seemed unlikely to me and it still does - but he is a good, effective, hard-working player, and some of our best performances in the last few years have come when he's on song. He just don't get to sing much.
Geoff had until not made much of an impression on me, and, yes, the other week I openly mocked him in these very pages, because I didn't know who Graham Cameron was. But he made me at least partially eat my words on Saturday with his best game for the Hoops so far. Bosh said in another good post that he was 'on a different planet' and while the only way Gerry Cam is on a different planet is in his apparent support for the tw@t in the White House, he did have a good game on Saturday. He broke play up well, screened the defence and largely used the ball intelligently. I don't hold with the 'helped out Luongo' type thing as a barb against Mass - this is a team game, and in his position, that's exactly what he is there to do - he wasn't doing him a favour.
I also liked his passion, his belief. It feels like he's stepping up a bit, giving us a bit of the old USA! USA! Number One! type of leadership that any side without an American in it is sure to lack. I loved his reaction after his goal - a real, 'we can win this, yo!' type thing. He seems fitter now, which helps, and hopefully that will improve over this break after he's had a rest from his exertions. Took his goal beautifully. Good stuff, G-Cam.
This is classic Cousins. He's got a run in the side. He's improving, starting to show us what we can do as he gamely plays wherever he's told to. He nearly scored and should've scored against Reading. He's holding off challenges to his places. He drops back to RB to help out the team and does it pretty well. He's dogged, determined and surely now things are finally looking up. Yep, I have a feeling Jords is going to be alllll right. Oh, he's injured again. Let's hope it's not serious, the poor bugger.
Released into his favour number ten role at last, but it wasn't Eze's best day. But, QPR fans being QPR fans will accept that as a 20-year-old who's only been playing first team football for a year and only playing first team football at this level for a few months, he won't always be brilliant and judgement will be fair and not fall into dull stereotypes or harshness.
'He's been really poor today.'
Yep, all that and more, and worse, said within my hearing distance on Saturday. Profoundly depressing, full of the usual baseless projections about what's going on in a player's head. The usual clichés about young, skilful players that pervade a certain type of fan's thinking. The same fan who'll go on about how much he loves mavericks, too.
So what really happened, Saturday? He didn't have a great game, but it wasn't terrible. He didn't give up, he kept asking for the ball, he kept making space for himself, he kept trying things, and never hid despite the fact much of it wasn't coming off. That's it. It will happen. Having said all that, I do believe McClaren should feel he can take him off. Saturday I felt shifting Freeman into the centre and getting BOS on for Eze would have been a good move with 15 mins left. On the other hand, Eze can turn a game for you. Never easy taking a player off like that.
Pictures – Action Images
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