I was at work last night so unfortunately had to miss the game against QPR. I’ve made up for it since however and have watched it twice, right from start to finish.
Being honest it didn’t make for good viewing. We were lucky to get a point, but in all honesty I’d take it.
Over the years we’ve had more than our fair share of games which should have yielded better results thanks to the ‘on the night’ performances so forgive me for snatching an undeserved point when one comes along. I’d rather that than play well and have nothing to show for our efforts, which has been and will be the case again at some point.
It should have been the QPR show, the Joey Barton show, but it wasn’t. They may have deserved more from the game but ultimately the party was pooped by us. Call it poor finishing, poor play from us or anything you like, but the fact remains that we came away with a point and without conceding a goal.
On the other hand I feel that the game was there for the taking. QPR were always going to be up for it, and why shouldn’t they be? They’ve just got a new owner who has slashed ticket prices, sorted sponsorship deals and pandered to the fans since his arrival. They’ve signed an awful lot of players in a short space of time and I dare say that if we were in their shoes I dare say that we’d be riding the crest of a wave also.
It was never going to be easy but the fact that we were woeful from many perspectives made it even easier for Neil Warnock’s R’s.
The one area of concern was our attacking threat, or lack of it I should say. Leon Best and Shola Ameobi started up front for us and once again it was Best who came out on top. One striker tried whilst the other floundered. It’s the playing of two strikers that I’m questioning at the moment.
You see, in my opinion, our strength is in midfield. We have a lot of options in there, good options, that we can call upon. I don’t think many people dispute that. What also can’t be disputed is the fact that we are light in defence and light, in terms of quality and not numbers in this case, in attack.
To play two strikers you need to have a pair that will work together and feed off each other as well as bring others into play. I don’t think we have two strikers capable of doing that together at the moment. The closest I would say is Leon Best and Demba Ba in fairness which is the pair that I’d have started with last night given the brief glimpses of good work that we saw from the pair against Fulham.
We then have a problem when you start to think about including Hatem Ben Arfa. There is a lot of expectation on his shoulders, although I’m sure that he’ll handle it. He will be playing when he is fit though so we need to accommodate him, which brings us back to the having room for two strikers argument.
I just don’t think there is if truth be told. The 4-4-2 has a time and a place, but that time and place is rapidly decreasing. It doesn’t suit our strengths and it doesn’t counter other teams who are also of the same mindset as I am. We need to get more modern!
I suppose to illustrate my point I should you some fancy graphics, so have a look below and see what you think of my general musings.
On the left we have what we were faced with last night. Look at the amount of space in front of defence and midfield. It’s not hard at all to exploit it and when you combine that with a few shoddy performances you can see perhaps part of the reason why we were lucky to come away from Loftus Road with a point for our ‘effort’ if that is what you can call it.
QPR had three in their midfield which immediately outnumbers our two. Add to that the fact that neither striker really tracked back to help out and you can see perhaps why they were overrun. It happens. It was a tactical mistake which Alan Pardew has admitted so at least we know that he has seen what we see.
The issue is how to deal with that acknowledgement, which is where I’d like to draw your attention to the image on the right of the two above. In my mind that 4-2-3-1 kind of setup plays to the strengths of our team when everyone is fit. It gives us options not only in terms of personnel but in terms of play aswell.
Let’s look at the way it can work in game first of all. The like of Cheik Tiote and Yohan Cabaye act as the anchor men or deep lying playmakers. That fits their strengths. Tiote is a ball winner who has limitations when it comes to creating stuff whilst Cabaye likes to pop the ball about and they can do so whilst dropping back to help with the defensive side of things and sit in front of the back four if needed. They can advance and retreat depending on which phase of play we are at. Push up in attack and sit deep when defending. Sorted.
Moving onto the more attacking side of things. I’ve put Hatem Ben Arfa as the man “in the hole”. There have been enough caveats dropped to suggest that his role will be behind the striker. It could just as easily be Gabriel Obertan or Jonas Gutierrez however as both of those players have the ability to play in that position. In fact I remember Jonas especially making a good fist of it at Chelsea towards the back end of last season.
The benefit of having a player there is that they can link play and also drop back and help out in midfield should the need arise. They can also run the ball out of midfield and link up with a striker meaning that whoever is in attack (Demba Ba in the image, although it could easily be Best in fairness) has support who isn’t, shall we say, static?
You then have the two wingers, or outside forwards, or whatever you wish to call them. I’ve used Gabriel Obertan and Jonas Gutierrez but they could just as easily be occupied by Ben Arfa or Sylvain Marveaux. They too can drop back and advance as and when required. They can even join up with the striker and assist him.
My preferred tactic is a very fluid system which allows for plenty of movement and gives us plenty of options in both attack and defence. It plays to our strengths in terms of the players that we have who are likely to be starting, and it plays to our strengths in terms of players who we have waiting in the wings. Dan Gosling can cover any number of those positions for example, as can Danny Guthrie perhaps, and Haris Vuckic, and Sammy Ameobi. The wingers can switch about and play in different positions depending on the opponent and how a particular game is panning out. It gives us options.
Obviously it doesn’t help out our lack of numbers in defensive areas, but short of playing one at the back I don’t see how we can accrue any decent backup until the next transfer window anyway so we’re always going to be reliant a little bit on luck. It’s not ideal but it is what it is.
What needs to be done is for a way to be found which can utilise the players we know we have at our disposal, and I think my 4-2-3-1 kind of nails that, even if I do say so myself. With it we don’t need to accommodate two strikers and it ensures that we get all of our creative players on the pitch.
I don’t usually take part in this tactical stuff online, but it’s something that I’ve been pondering for a while now so just thought I’d put it ‘out there’. I hope you’ve enjoyed the musings from my virtual tactic board, but what I really want to know is if you can see my point?
What do you reckon?