In Keeganomics, another winger is always welcome - Preview
Friday, 17th Jan 2020 20:15 by Clive Whittingham
Free-scoring, free-conceding QPR's decision to add another winger to their squad prior to the visit of Leeds on Saturday has raised eyebrows.
QPR (10-5-12, DLLWWL, 15th) v Leeds United (15-7-5, LDWDLL, 2nd)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday January 18, 2020 >>> Kick Off 12.30 >>> Weather – Bright but cold >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
If you needed a week to sum up Queens Park Rangers 2019/20 then how about the one where we scored six against Cardiff City, who were in the Premier League last year, five against Swansea City, who might well be in the Premier League next year, and then went 3-0 down before half time at Brentford, who’ve never been in the Premier League in their lives. (Naturally, everything is judged by the Premier League these days, which is why we’ve erroneously spent the week tugging on Sergio Aguero’s dumpy little willy and proclaiming him the greatest Johnny Foreigner since records began in 1992.)
The 11 goals plundered from Wales finest through a mixture of speed, skill, width, incisive passing, immaculate control, supreme vision and players flooding forwards from all areas of the field electrified Loftus Road. Ilias Chair, Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel, Jordan Hugill and Nahki Wells is a fivesome capable of rivalling anything in this league, and for a couple of afternoons after a lean few weeks of misfiring they showed it in spectacular fashion. It lifted Rangers to 45 league goals scored this season (and another eight in three cup games) which is second only to table toppers West Brom who lead the division with 50. The subsequent sound defeat at Griffin Park, induced by all the usual tropes and failings we’ve shown on that ground for the last five years and defensively all the way through this Championship season, means only Luton (56) have conceded more than our 51.
It’s into that heady mix of flamethrower attack and limp dicked defence that Warbs Warburton has decreed a new player must be added, and that new player should be… another winger. Too bloody right as well, welcome Jack Clarke, come on in the water’s lovely. Though, looking at him, some armbands might be an idea. Just you stay in the shallow end please. Boy.
The defence has shown itself not to be good enough. Todd Kane is more of an attacker anyway and often gets exposed by skilful wingers partly because of the formation, but also because he’s not half as good going backwards as he is forwards. Angel Rangel has impressed when he has replaced him, but is 68-years-old and capable of playing only once every six weeks. Grant Hall has been steady, which is all you could really expect of him after two solid years of injury problems, but does look and feel like he’s only ever ten months away from the next lengthy lay-off. Speaking of which, we haven’t seen sight nor sound of Yoann Barbet since the weather turned a bit cold and even when he was playing he divided his time between pretending to be a ball-playing midfielder and pressing his case to be moved into that position by conceding a succession of utterly needless penalty kicks. God love Toni Leistner, but he turns at the speed of milk and he too now has a calf problem. Conor Masterson looks good, and therefore must be loaned out immediately. Ryan Manning started brilliantly, has had a little dip lately (and that’s all it is), but is more of a midfielder anyway. Lee Wallace also hadn’t played for 18 months before getting here, and even that had only been in the notorious SPL, and is also a member of Angel Rangel’s Bridge club.
Amidst that, Warburton has very sensibly concluded that there’s no point in selecting them any more and they should each be replaced by an additional attacking player to go and play in the part of the field where we are good. I’m starting to think he’s only picking a goalkeeper because the rules dictate it a necessity – he certainly doesn’t seem bothered that the one we have costs us a goal every half an hour or so – and now by replacing one of the back four with an attacking child from Leeds via Spurs he’s confirmed it. Those asking who Clarke will play instead of are missing the point, he’s going to play with them. All of them. All at once.
It’s this sort of blue sky thinking that our game has missed since Kevin Keegan looked at a free scoring but defensively susceptible Newcastle team some 12 points clear of Man Utd at the top of the Premier League and thought ‘what this could really do with is a sprinkling of Tino Asprilla’. And his porn star wife. And his machine gun. This is for people who think a chip pan fire would benefit from the addition of cold water - to cook the chips faster doofus. If you look at Championship games descending into anarchy under the barely held control of a piss-weak, card-happy referee and think your first addition from the bench would by Josh Scowen wielding a board with a nail in it then this one’s for you. We’ll play Wells and Hugill up front, Eze, Chair, Osayi-Samuel and Clarke behind, and we’ll shit ‘em.
Anyway, we’ve been on Frank Lampard’s Media Training Webinar this week which tells us that all light-hearted light-hearted points must be followed by a no but seriously serious point, and we’ve got two of those for you now. Then a Geoff Cameron fact. Then the elsewhere bit where we’ve given Brentford a new name. Then pub.
On the face of it, that addition of Jack Clarke on loan from Tottenham this week makes no sense. No sense whatsoever. Mark Warburton has been at pains to point out that he can play left, right or centre, but whichever one of those he plays will be keeping out a player we own, a player we’re hoping to develop to sell, and a player who’s playing well – Ebere Eze, Bright Osayi-Samuel or Ilias Chair. We’ve already had to leave one of those out on the occasions we want to play Nahki Wells and Jordan Hugill together. We’ve already been trying to think of excuses why Marc Pugh might get a run out. And we’ve already had two loans from the Premier League who haven’t had a look in because they too want to play in that front four or five and will now be returned to their clubs. At the same time, we are crying out for quality, strength and pragmatism in the middle of midfield, and the centre of defence. Another winger is a gratuitous addition, particularly for a club that’s pleading poverty because – as we keep saying – these Premier League loans don’t come for free. Certainly not from Daniel Levy anyway.
But, as Donald Rumsfeld said after leading Wigan Athletic to glory in the 1985 Freight Rover Trophy, there are known knowns, unknown knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.
In the known knowns, we know (because Lee Hoos and Mark Warburton both told us at the pre-Christmas fans forum) that we want to be seen as a trusted destination for these excellent young boys from the Premier League, hence the appointment of Warburton and the persistence with this style of play, even when our goalkeeper is passing the ball straight to the Luton Town striker ten yards away in front of an open goal. It gets us players we can't afford to buy. In that environment, if Tottenham want to loan us a player they paid the thick end of £10m for just six months ago then we say thank you very much, take him, stroke his duckling-like hair and try not to give him too much Red Bull after midnight.
In the unknown knowns we know that we need to sell Ebere Eze for serious money this summer, and we know that Tottenham are one of the clubs heavily linked with him. We don’t know whether this, and/or Luke Amos’ loan, may be part of that in a try-before-you-buy arrangement. The notion that Spurs may offload some kid they spent that sort of money on just last summer back to the Championship to secure the next flavour of the month only marginally less ridiculous than the idea Jose Mourinho has the single foggiest idea who Jack Clarke is, let alone has any intention to ever use him for anything other than polishing his shoes.
In the known unknowns we know we desperately need strengthening in deep midfield and central defence, but we don’t know who the club have identified for that role (and believe me, they’re not sitting there watching the same games we are thinking it’s all fine back there) bar Aberdeen’s Scott McKenna, how available they are and how much they’re going to cost. If it’s a straight choice between Clarke and a better centre back and they’ve gone for Clarke then that’s patently ridiculous, but who says it is? There may be another centre back to come this January, or maybe the player they want for that position isn’t going to be available to the summer in which case are we banned from making any other moves at all until that one particular problem is sorted? It’s a point weakened somewhat by Ryan Woods (who’d be bloody ideal) going on loan to similarly skinted Millwall today, but still…
And in the unknown unknowns we don’t know the fitness status of our treasured trio of Eze, Chair or Osayi-Samuel. Eze has played every game bar one this season and burned out at exactly this point last year; Chair benefitted from stepping back out of the team in December and has come back in strong; Osayi-Samuel has had a good recent run but is the sort of quick, muscly athlete that doesn’t benefit from prolonged exposure and is never quite the same again once hamstrings start to go. We, rightly, accused McClaren of mismanaging the squad last year, setting us up for a fall from a tall cliff in the second half of the season. We shouldn’t now slate Warburton for taking measures to avoid the same. Or, even worse case, getting a replacement in because he thinks one of them is leaving this month.
The second serious point (no we’re not finished give that bloody microphone back) is that this all comes back to the insidious influence of the EPPP regulations, which allow category A academy clubs (basically the Premier League) to swoop in and have just whoever they damn like from everywhere else with minimal notice and non-existent compensation. It’s further exacerbating an existing situation where clubs like Spurs, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Man City and others just greedily hoard any half decent youngster they see, pay them an absolute fortune to pissball about in an uncompetitive academy league on pristine pitches, and occasionally loan out into neutral territory. Clarke wasn’t one of those, but having slipped through the net was swiftly hoovered up for a quick £10m last summer after literally half a dozen good performances for Leeds, with no real idea where he was going to fit at Spurs or how they were going to use him and is now on the treadmill of loans into places he can’t hurt his parent club.
Championship clubs are now being invited to “pitch” to Premier League clubs for their hoarded academy talent on loan. Leeds’ presentation to Arsenal last summer was so impressive they pulled the plug on sending Eddie Nketiah to Bristol City and packed him off to Elland Road instead, where his education has been furthered by sitting on the bench and watching the Championship’s statistically most wasteful striker at work. Naughty Marshmallow Bielsa’s insolence has been punished by having him, and Clarke, withdrawn for the second half of the season, leaving Leeds looking for new loans and the Premier League wondering why they’d send a player to watch Patrick Bam Bam Bamford butcher ten goals (two penalties) from 68 shots inside the area for six months. Warburton deserves huge credit for picking Chair, Eze and Osayi-Samuel (on considerable merit) ahead of Matt Smith and Jan Mlakar, which won’t have impressed either parent club. One hopes we haven’t made concessions to Spurs about how much Clarke may or may not play. The general consensus in Yorkshire is he’s never been quite the same since a weird and worrying collapsing incident at Middlesbrough last season (too much energy drink, according to local legend) and he’s only played three times for them this year.
The idea of the Championship clubs being mere staging posts for boys who should be out there playing proper football, not being artificially parachuted in for a dozen starts here and there when it suits a parent club, sits no more comfortably than the idea of B Teams infiltrating the lower leagues. Charlton provided a superb home for Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher in the first few months of this season, but because an injury crisis has driven their form and performances downhill during the winter he’s been recalled and immediately packed off to Swansea who are in the top half and managed by Steve Cooper, the former England U17 boss. The Swans have also been able to snare Rhian Brewster from Liverpool. Bully for them, and for us if indeed Warbs Warburton’s reputation is as high as is made out among the so-called elite.
But being the best dog at begging for scraps from the master's table is no kind of existence, and if Clarke is coming here to make mistakes on our time while our own players sit on the bench then they can whistle for it. Mind you, if he scores the winner tomorrow on debut against his former club and then does nothing else at all for the rest of his time here, I'll take that.
Links >>> Title chasers beaten – History >>> Falling apart again? Interview >>> Lee Cook’s spoiled broth – Podcast >>> Bankes in charge – Referee >>> Leeds United official website >>> Yorkshire Evening Post – Local Paper >>> Yorkshire Post – Local Paper >>> The Square Ball – Fanzine >>> WACCOE – Forum >>> Marching on Together – Forum >>> Not 606 – Forum >>> SB Nation – Blog
Geoff Cameron Facts No.83 in the Series – Geoff was banished from Angel Rangel’s Bridge club when he failed to procure a side of bacon on his designated week.
Team News: QPR have Toni Leistner back available for selection at centre back after he sat out the Brentford loss with a calf injury. Geoff Cameron deputised for him to begin with at Griffin park and can now move back into midfield should Warburton decide to drop Dom Ball, who was withdrawn at half time after a pretty dire first 45. Or he could go right back, where Angel Rangel’s appearances have been fleeting and Todd Kane has been exposed defensively of late. Yoann Barbet is finally back training again and being lined up for some action in the cup against Sheff Wed next week. Joe Lumley’s personal horror of a season only got worse against the Bees and the big question mark over the team will once again be whether Liam Kelly comes in to replace him from the start. Jack Clarke could make a QPR debut against the team he played for permanently last season and on loan this. His first ever start for Leeds came on this ground in the FA Cup last January.
As ever, Leeds’ dip in form has coincided with the absence of Pablo Hernandez. He played in all seven of the seven straight victories through November and December and the draw with Cardiff but went off after three minutes at the loss at Fulham and hasn’t started any during their current run of one defeat in seven games. A substitute appearance last week in a 2-0 loss to Sheff Wed means he could return for this one. What a pisser. Barry Douglas has been trapped in the corner of his bathroom by a large spider and is unavailable.
Elsewhere: The distant flutter of winged creatures coming home to roost rattled through the rafters of HMRC’s Derby County this week as the EFL belatedly decided that valuing a brownfield site on the edge of a retail park in the general vicinity of Derby, useful only as a football ground to Derby County Football Club, at £80m to another buyer might be a tad high and plonking it on the balance sheet to avoid a breach of the FFP laws might be a bit of a pisstake. It will, of course, only result in a nine point deduction, dolled out in some 18 months’ time, when Derby are 15 points away from the play-offs and 15 points away from the drop zone, but it’s the principal of the thing, and it nudges them ahead in the Official Statement league table ahead of their home game with Jarrod Bowen FC tomorrow.
Now, we’ve got a lot to talk about here, and none of it’s very good, and we’ve already prattled on for long enough up there, so let’s start rattling along. There’s a disparate collection of midweek games in hand occurring over the next few days which means Nottingham Florist are playing at home to Lutown at midday on Sunday (just because, that’s why) and then again on Wednesday night at home to Hayes and Yeading. Director of football Mark Bowen has decided that manager Mark Bowen is worthy of a new contract there, just three months since giving himself the job, and his other chance to justify that with points this week comes on Saturday at Millwall. Gary Rowett’s suddenly play-off chasing Scholars added Ryan Woods from Stoke today in what could turn out to be the Championship deal of the window.
Two games for Grimethorpe Miners Welfare who go to terminally out of form Bristol City tomorrow, then host Preston Knob End on Tuesday. Preston themselves face Charlton tomorrow, who themselves go on to face Tarquin and Rupert on Wednesday and they’re currently 1-0 up against Middlesbrough tonight (Friday). Keeping up? Me neither, don’t worry about it, West Brom win the league, Luton go down, Leeds shit out in the play offs.
Saturday games not mentioned: Birmingham v Cardiff, Sheffield Owls v Mad Chicken Farmers. Monday games not mentioned: leaders West Brom at home to Poke City. Tuesday games not mentioned: Middlesbrough v Birmingham. We just don’t like Birmingham. Bit boring.
Justice League leaders Lokomotiv Gunnersbury will almost certainly be the best team the Cowley sisters Danni and Nikki have faced all season.
Referee: Peter Bankes, recently promoted to the Premier League, is the man in the middle for this one. He oversaw three QPR defeats, and two penalty awards against, in three appointments last year, including a controversial loss to Leeds at Elland Road. He was in charge of our win at Millwall in September this season mind. Details.
QPR: Saturday is the battle between the two strikers who have caught the eye of the “expected goal” freaks most this season. Nahki Wells, with 12 league goals this season, has the division’s best conversion rate with 29.3% of his shots finding the net. The trendy hipster xG stat says he should have 6.6 goals apparently. At the other end of the spectrum, Patrick Bamford has had more shots inside the penalty area than any other player in the league this season (62). His xG total is 15.61 but he’s only scored ten. Good luck with all of that. Two more goals from set pieces at Brentford moves QPR out to 19 conceded from dead balls this season – two ahead of the next worse side in the league, Wigan. Only bottom of the table Luton 58 have conceded more goals overall this season than Rangers – 51. QPR have won five, drawn four and lost five at home this season, following a 2018/19 campaign in which they lost a club record 11 home league games. They have won their last two games on this ground by an aggregate score of 11-2 though, putting Cardiff and Swansea to the sword. The R’s have only kept two clean sheets all season, Preston H and Birmingham A.
Leeds: The comfortable 2-0 win against QPR at Elland Road put Leeds top of the Championship and was the first in a sequence of seven straight victories that put the Whites 11 points clear of third in the automatic promotion race. That run came to an end at home to Cardiff when a 3-0 lead turned into a 3-3 draw. They’ve won only one of seven games in all comps since then, allowing Brentford to close the gap to six points. Two of the three defeats in that sequence came at Fulham (2-1) and Arsenal (1-0) in the FA Cup, extending a dire run in London to one win in 20 league and cup games – 14 of those have been lost, including the cup game with Arsenal this year and the FA Cup third round here last year. QPR have won four of the last five games between these sides at Loftus Road, but the one win in this whole sequence did come on this ground the season before last when a Kemar Roofe hat trick helped Leeds to a 3-1 win.
Prediction: This year’s Prediction League is sponsored by The Art of Football. Get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. We were spot on with score and scorer last week, and last year’s champion WokingR reckons…
“How on earth do you call this? Our performances and results are swinging from the sublime to the ridiculous at the moment. I'm going with a very optimistic 2-2 draw but this could just as easily be a six goal win either way.”
Woking’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Leeds. Scorer – Bright Osayi-Samuel
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 2-2 Leeds. Scorer – Nahki Wells
The Twitter/Instagram @loftforwords
Pictures – Action Images
Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.
You need to login in order to post your comments
Blogs 31 bloggers
Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
Queens Park Rangers Polls