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Strange formations and persistent fouling - Knee Jerks
Thursday, 24th Oct 2019 09:27 by Antti Heinola

Antti's six talking points on Tuesday night's draw with Reading include QPR's struggles in defence and with a new formation, Reading's persistent fouling and the referee's allowance of it, and Jordan Hugill's effectiveness.

A game heavily marred by the actions of one man, who seemingly just wanted to be noticed. Not the ref, I'm not animal. Bloke behind me. Constant 'coaching' throughout the whole game, his head ready to explode at every misplaced pass from minute 1 to 90. CHANNELS! HIT THE CHANNELS! Gave me an earache.

Defence

Had an interesting debate on the way out. Why exactly are we conceding two goals per game? Is it that we are poor at defending? Is it that we are too gung-ho? Are we poor positionally? Or are we actually pretty ok at all the above, but have two or three mind-blowing moments of defensive weakness per game that basically gift goals? I honestly don't know. Asking for a friend. And for me.

First goal we were caught cold, we were high up the pitch and Puscas timed his run beautifully after a great ball from the outstanding Ejaria. It was a really good goal. I've seen some criticism that we were defending too high there, but BFG was on the halfway line and we were in possession - I'm not sure that was particularly wrong, although I'm no expert on defence, trust me. However, as with Hull on Saturday, I did feel Kelly, who had made one superb save earlier for what should have been a goal, was a long way out. Had he been further back, Puscas couldn't have shot and Leistner would have likely headed him off as he cut in. Still, harsh to be too critical there. Second goal, I'm with Warbs on. It wasn't so much the unmarked players as the three players who failed to close down Swift getting the cross in. And that is certainly a real problem on our part at the moment - we do not stop crosses very often, particularly from down our left hand side.

But are we a poor defensive side? Or one that lacks concentration? I just don't know. Hard to be too critical because we are in the play-off spots and it's exciting to watch, but we can't keep shipping two a game, surely?

Formation

It was an odd line-up when I saw it. I expected Hugill to come in at the expense of Wells, but didn't expect a change of formation. Whether that was to surprise Reading, or perhaps to give ourselves more protection down the flanks, or because he felt two strikers would really hurt them, I'm not sure. But it didn't work - although when you give the ball away as frequently as we did in that first half, you'll find most formations won't work. Still, it was an odd one, and it must've been a boost to Reading following Saturday's performance to see Eze placed out wide, where surely he would have less influence. And so it proved. They were able to box him in out there and pretty much the only time he got away in the first half was when he nutmegged a defender to set up Wells's sweet finish. It didn't really work anywhere. We lost the midfield battle, no one got hold of Ejaria or Swift, we were out-paced by their forwards and generally, it has to be said, were second best throughout. The move to 3-5-2 did help for sure, but it's always difficult to drag yourselves back when you've started so slowly.

Subs

Warbs's subs have been overwhelmingly good this season. Last night, they didn't have much effect - at least not a positive effect. Kane for Rangel was the right call, even if it was possibly enforced by injury, but while the change in shape helped to some degree, Kane himself had a bit of a shocker, giving the ball away too many times under little or no pressure, and worse still giving it away in key areas by opting for a pass back towards goal - usually to a Reading forward. The shape change did at least help us get a better grip on Ejaria, as Scowen looked to be detailed to sit on him, but did little to halt Swift, who sat deep and was almost always available to receive the ball and very, very rarely wasted it as he showed an impressive range of passing.

Contrary to some opinion on here, I didn't mind Amos for Wells as I thought it might help us tighten space in midfield, where we were struggling somewhat, but sadly Amos couldn't get to grips with the pace of the game. I don't think there's much doubt he's a very decent player, but at the moment, possibly thanks to a stop-start season for him, he's looking a little lost. It's not for want of trying - last night he berated himself several times for errors, but that in itself shows he's frustrated at his own form. The problem is, we haven't really got the luxury of him playing himself into form, so somehow, if he is to make the impact we expected this season, the sort of impact Ejaria was making, he needs to find a way of finding form quickly when his opportunities do come.

Then finally Pugh, who I really like, was again unable to really change things very much. He charged round looking for the ball, but never really got on it - only once, when he nearly went through did he threaten to make a real positive contribution. I think the ideas behind all subs were sound, but as a team we weren't quite there last night.

Persistent fouling

King Pep himself instructs his slick City team to foul, foul and foul again. Stop attacks, take turns, don't be afraid to make niggly fouls. It's not something we do (according to the BBC, our first actual foul we committed was, astonishingly, in the 54th minute, before the dam broke somewhat with Hugill being the main culprit). Reading, however, were all about the fouling and that was a big secret to how they managed to contain Eze and the rest of our team fairly well. They were helped by a referee trying to be lenient. But if you are as lenient as he was, teams continue to take more and more rope. The idea he was being bullied a bit was not helped by the fact that three or four Reading players were in his face for many decisions - acts he did little or nothing to dissuade.

The stats do not make great reading for the ref. Reading's persistent fouling was pointed out on TV, I'm told, and yet it took him until the 56th minute to finally show a yellow. This was Reading's 13th foul of the match, and it took Rinhomota four fouls to finally pick up that one yellow. Overall, they committed 23 fouls and just two bookings were issued. One for Rinhomota and one for Miazga for bodily throwing Hugill to the ground - an offence which could have easily counted as violent conduct and a red card. Miazga, incidentally, was not booked for any of his four spoiling tackles, and his elbow in Rangel's face was ignored. Lucky boy. McCleary managed three fouls in just 23 minutes after coming on, but despite all three arguably being bookable, got away scot free. Puscas managed four without a yellow. And perhaps worst of all was Yiadom, who five times committed fouls, twice with clear and deliberate handballs, and yet was never booked. And that leaves aside his other clear and deliberate handball that should have led to a penalty and a yellow card, but was ignored.

Fair play to Reading - their tactic to disrupt worked very well, even if it couldn't stop two moments of very good football for two good goals. But they were aided by a weak referee who compounded his lenience with the booking of Eze - his first foul of the night, and while I agree it was a yellow, the fact he was continually fouled deliberately and cynically, just as his attempted trip was, but the perpetrators were never once carded, only shows the poverty of the refereeing display we had to endure.

Hugill

Quick word on Hugill, who I thought grew more and more into the game. I love his attitude, I love he's a bit nasty and doesn't mind getting in where it hurts, and I love that he doesn't hide. In most games he's missed decent chances (again here he spooned a presentable chance over the bar), but he keeps going and also, generally, gets his reward, as he did last night with a very fine, if deflected, goal. I thought he did particularly well on the air, and he shielded the ball well too. A really dangerous player who has already surpassed his total goals for last season with his goal last night. Hardly surprising - chances don't come often in a Pulis team, but they are rarely rare in a Warburton side.

Dancing

That was the groundsman was it? More of this, please. Was like some kind of fever dream to watch at half time. The cat v the groundsman dancing to the music of a noted paedophile.

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kingfisher6404 added 11:01 - Oct 24
Totally agree re not closing down ball-players about to cross and you are right that this is more prevalent on our left. Why? Because Rangel uses his experience to prevent crosses, whereas Kane and Manning stand off and allow the cross. This needs sorting Warbs!
It is obvious that 4-4-2 (or derivatives thereof) does not work as well for us as 5-2-3, so use it! Amos coming on for Wells when we were 2-1 up was not a bad sub, but Kane was the only real defender available for WB duty. Why was Hall not on the bench or Wallace or Masterson? too much emphasis upon attacking players it seems. Also, Chair & Eze playing wider than normal was a game-play that did not play to our strengths; but the hard truth is too many players had an 'off-day' in the same game!
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Tomo_5 added 21:05 - Oct 24
I hope Simpson gets bounced down a few divisions for a month or two because his refereeing was some of the worst I've seen in years. A real recipe to ruin a game and give Reading the imputus they needed to play an unsavory game of football. I don't blame Reading for the tactics, it clearly worked, but Simpson needs a lot more education and experience to referee at this level.
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Myke added 00:14 - Oct 25
Cheers Antti, it's a real conundrum how Manning is recognised both statistically and anecdotally as being one of our top performers this season and yet he is still targeted - and with some justification - as a 'weak link' by the opposing team, who regularly try to overload him and get crosses in, with a good deal of success. For me, however, the real problem is not Manning, but the lack of protection Barbet offers in getting across to support him or fill in behind him if he has pushed forward. Warburton has rested/dropped Leistner/Hall/ Kane and Lumley without any change in our ability to reduce the goals against column. I think it's high time Barbet got a breather and let Wallace slot in there as part of a three, which as a natural left-back, should automatically provide Manning with extra cover. My son plays on the right side of a three and he understands that his role is often that of an auxiliary right-back - Barbet doesn't seem to get that.
With regard to Amos, it's being disappointing so far. I really thought he would be a 'Shaun Derry' protecting the CB's, while having the energy and youth to carry the ball forward into dangerous areas, but it just hasn't happened for him so far. Cameron and Ball have done fine, but due to age and limited ability, lack the drive to turn defense into attack. On the plus side,it's great to see Scowen getting back to his best form over the last couple of games and Warburton has recognised and rewarded that with a starting berth.
There is still a huge over-reliance on our front three to score all the goals, I'd like to see Chair, Pugh and others chip in with a few more. Overall though we are still in (Kevin Keegan wet) dreamland - long may it last!
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