Good Hull forwards, bad QPR defence, and the ref's faulty watch - Knee Jerks
Monday, 3rd Dec 2018 16:54 by Antti Heinola
Antti Heinola uses his six talking points to reflect back on Saturday's disappointing home defeat by Hull City.
People laughed when Stewart Lee once took the piss out of a cab driver for saying 'you can prove anything with facts', but maybe that cab driver was in fact extremely wise. On the one side, we've only lost two in ten and only one of our last five at home. On the other hand, after a great run, we now only have one win in five and it could feel like we're slipping down the other side of the mountain. This is the life of a QPR fan. And, in fact, contrary to popular belief, the life of fans at the vast majority of clubs. Take the rough with the smooth - you have to, because what choice do you have?
I started getting concerned after the two quick (and poor) goals given away at Rotherham, and now I'm worried we've returned to the dark days of the start of the season. That's nine in four games now after shipping just three in the previous six. I'm not quite sure what has happened, but a lot of the goals to me appear to be down to some basic errors: giving the ball away in a dangerous area (twice on Saturday); goalkeeping error (v Brentford); defensive gifts (Stoke); awful defending from set pieces (last three games). What started as unusual blips after weeks of excellent concentration and heroic effort, is now feeling more like a pattern.
On Saturday, Toni Leistner looked exhausted, Rangel looked tired and was struggling with high diagonal balls, Lynch had another poor game after his magnificent October and early November, and Bidwell was below par. All three goals were highly avoidable (although the third was less about defence and more about a poor ball by Hemed) - but worse than that was, particularly in the first half, we looked vulnerable almost every time Hull attacked.
I'm not quite sure what's gone wrong, but I suppose the main thing to look at is that we've also started scoring a lot more goals while we've been conceding. Perhaps the balance isn't quite right. Or perhaps the team as a whole was understandably tired after having to chase a game for the third time in a week.
Not quite sure what was going on in the first 20 minutes on Saturday, but it was pretty dire, or, being kinder, tired stuff. Sloppy passing, slow to the ball, second balls lost, defensive frailty. You can't start a game that slowly. It was similar to the Rotherham game - we looked ok on the front foot, but anything that came at us we looked scarily vulnerable. The first goal I saw coming the moment Bidwell and Lynch got in a mix up - as soon as we didn't win that first ball, the result was almost inevitable.
We've had two really hard away games, whereas Hull had two home games, albeit one against Norwich, so perhaps that had affected things, I don't know. Once we did wake up, we probably had our best spell after their second goal and really should've gone in at the break on level terms after creating some great chances, forcing some good saves and seeing a shot crack the post. Still, we need to start better than that.
The 'Plan B' at the moment is to revert to a midfield diamond, keeping Eze behind two strikers, but with Freeman pushing in and Luongo going wider. It's not a bad plan and it worked against Rotherham. But on Saturday we were crying out for width. Dave Mc even called it on Twitter very early on - we weren't pressurising their full backs with pace, and there was joy to be had there.
That was proven late on (very late on) when Osayi-Samuel was finally introduced, picking splinters out of his backside as he ran onto the pitch. He had five minutes plus injury time to make an impact, and he didn't get near the ball for the first four. But then he delivered three quality balls into the box, terrorised their full back and helped produce a goal. You went away thinking that had he come on even five minutes earlier we might have salvaged a draw.
Having a Plan B that the team understands and can switch to quickly is only common sense, and marks a change from last season where you'd frequently see Freeman or Scowen in long conversations with the bench following a couple of changes made by the manager. But we need one that involves BOS, because he can change games and he does give us an extra gear with his pace. It seemed bizarre it took SMc so long to bring him on when we had three strikers up there just gagging for a cross or two.
Not a knock on Eze at all, it was a tough game and he struggled to find space. I think he's been brilliant this season and of course your first instinct is to keep him on. However, he's played almost every minute of every game, and I think that Saturday was one of the rare games when he should have been sacrificed. It wasn't happening, and moving him further and further back into midfield only nullified him further.
Keeping him on is understandable, because he can change a game quickly, get a goal out of nothing. But earlier this season McClaren made a huge decision when he decided only one of Wells and Hemed could start a game. It was a tough one, but the right one, and the one that benefited the team the most. Here a similar thing was needed. On Sunday, Jurgen Klopp sacrificed a misfiring Salah, and (fortunately) got the result he needed. And that's the lesson. Eze may in some ways, with Freeman, be our best hope at finding a goal, but when you're loading the box, it's easy to defend if there's no threat out wide to stretch the defence. Every now and again, it's ok to sub the wonderkid.
Bowen, Grosicki, Campbell
A quick word on Hull. I hate it when fans say one team was useless, thereby giving no credit at all to the opposition. The fact was, Hull played very well - that's worth noting. We caused them problems, but I thought Elphick played well at the back and the keeper made some fine saves. But it was up front where I was most impressed. Campbell's movement, pace and strength were very good - probably the best I've ever seen from him for years. And we struggled badly to get the ball off Bowen or Grosicki, who dribbled well and passed intelligently and held it up when they needed to. With those three on the offence, you'd expect Hull to start doing a little better.
I say 'additional time', but only officials, commentators and twats call it that. It's injury time or, at a pinch, 'stoppage time', isn't it? I thought the ref was not great throughout - not biased, particularly, just poor. One case in particular when we had a yellow dished out and then he failed to issue one to a Hull player for an almost identical offence was particularly irritating. Inconsistency is worse when the two decisions are just moments apart. But it was injury time that was my biggest bugbear. Campbell was down for a minute before the board even went up (89-90), hinting that if he hadn't have been down, it would only have been three. I just cannot see it. I was genuinely expecting 6, with 5 as an absolute minimum. I don't care too much about time wasting, everyone does it, Hull were no worse than anyone else really. But the ref has to add that time on. On Saturday in the second half he spoke to players two or three times about it, twice did some time-consuming business of doing a drop ball, we had goals, subs etc. Four minutes was flabbergasting. I'm not blaming the ref for us losing, I hate that, but I thought the timing was badly wrong in Saturday.
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