Why Have QPR Scored So Few Goals This Season?

 Harry Redknapp
QPR have averaged 1.09 points per game under Harry, a regression from their previous manager Mark Hughes, who averaged 1.25 per game.

QPR’s attempts to further establish themselves in the Premier League this season have failed dramatically, especially when one considers the investment that owner Tony Fernandes has made in the squad. While fans and pundits alike will contest QPR’s demise being down to a range of factors (wage inferiority complex, hostile squad harmony/ stability) the most alarming stat that has emerged is their inability to score goals.

This season, QPR have scored a mere 29 goals in 36 matches, an abysmal return.  Only Stoke and Norwich have scored between 30-40 goals, with every other team scoring at least 40 times this campaign.

The Hoops’ last 5 match results are typical of the club’s season long problems.  A 0-1 defeat against Arsenal, a 0-0 draw at Reading, a 0-2 defeat to a seriously blunt Stoke side, a 0-2 defeat at Everton, and a 1-1 draw at home to Wigan.  It took Theo Walcott just 22 seconds to condemn QPR to another defeat last weekend, and Redknapp must take the blame for consistently sending out teams incapable of putting the ball in the back of the net.

Irrational Selections

 
The problem stems entirely from the midfield, where Redknapp has frequently sent out a combination of players that fail to strike any balance between attack and defence.  This isn’t a question of attacking quality- Fernandes has invested millions into proven quality up front, and Loic Remy, Adel Taarabt, Bobby Zamora and Andros Townsend are all good enough to far exceed what the team have achieved this season.

Redknapp’s flat 4-4-2 in 0-1 defeat
against Arsenal last weekend

Take Redknapp’s 4-4-2 against Arsenal (left) last weekend.  In Jermaine Jenas QPR have a box-to-box midfielder, a player capable of scoring occasionally (2 goals in 9 appearances since he was signed)  but not someone who is particularly creative.  Jenas is partnered by Stéphane Mbia, a converted centre back, who by all accounts is competent in the tackle but again uninspiring in attacking intelligence and providing midfield guile.

While a number of teams also conform to playing a defensive-minded central midfield partnership, usually they have alternative attacking outlets, particularly out wide.  Ji-Sung Park has long been heralded as a workhorse- a defensive winger, but he too is again uninspiring going forward.  Andros Townsend is creative, and has been excellent since joining, but by placing the static Tel Ben-Hiam behind him nullifies any complete threat from that flank.  Why Redknapp chooses to arm his midfield with just one  direct attacking outlet is baffling.

This situation is worsened by Zamora and Remy, who are both inept ‘link up’ players. Remy is an archetypal poacher, someone who prefers to battle against the offside trap as opposed to dropping deep, while Zamora is physical presence up front.  Both can score goals (provided someone assists them), but neither of them are creative in the slightest. Against Arsenal, Redknapp essentially sent out 7 defensive players and 3 sporadic attacking outlets, with no link in between.

 

Mbia 


Mbia made his name as a
powerful defender in Ligue 1.

Greater attention should be placed on Mbia’s place in the team.  Under Mark Hughes’ tenure he only made four appearances, while Redknapp has chosen to use the Cameroonian 22 times in the last 23 matches.  As previously stated, Mbia is not a central midfielder- he made his name successfully by playing as a central defender in Marseille’s Ligue 1 winning 2009/10 season.

The acquisition of Chris Samba combined with Redknapp’s desire to retain Clint Hill’s place in the team (he is captain since Ryan Nelson’s departure) perhaps means Mbia isn’t needed in defence.

QPR’s 4-3-1-2 used in the 0-0 draw at Reading.
NB: Mbia still given a support role while
Granero holds.

Yet throughout this season Mbia has proven his ineptitude when the ball is at his feet, a critical factor in his ability to adequately fulfill a central midfield support role.  He averages a mediocre 0.7 key passes per game (12 best in the squad), and he also loses possession 10.1 times per game (a shocking figure for a ‘midfielder’).  His inability to retain possession in midfield is a key reason why QPR only average 45% of per match possession this season.

Even when Redknapp has mixed up his tactics (which has happened on several occasions this season) Mbia still maintains an overly advanced role in Rangers’ midfield, despite his offensive weaknesses.  In their 0-0 draw at Reading recently (left), Redknapp went for a diamond in midfield, but kept Mbia in a supportive role, with Esteban Granero holding  (a greater technical player) and Taarabt playing as a number 10.

With Taarabt as a number 10 QPR have their creative link man, but Redknapp still maintained playing 3 defensive players behind him, with little attacking support going out wide.  Again, while a 4-3-1-2 with Taarabt in the team is an attacking improvement, a 4-2-3-1 with Townsend right would have been far more potent.

Taarabt deployed as a false 9 in 0-0 with Spurs.
NB: Mbia still most advanced midfielder to
exploit space made by Taarabt’s movement.

Likewise, in Redknapp’s false 9 formation used against Spurs earlier on in the season (right) Mbia still occupied the most advanced role in Redknapp’s midfield.

Taarabt was excellent in this game, and it is a shame that Redknapp did not persist with the formation, as Spurs were subdued and QPR were lively, and might have won.

Set Pieces


A final point to consider is QPR’s lackluster return from set pieces.  As aforementioned, only QPR, Norwich and Stoke have managed to score less than 40 goals this season.  17 of Norwich’s 34 goals (50%) and 14 of Stoke’s 32 goals (44%) have come from set pieces, an invaluable contribution to their offensive stats.Only 6 of QPR’s 29 goals have come from set pieces, a dire return.  If they had managed to score something more similar to that of Norwich and Stoke, it is not to absurd to think that they could have ‘nicked’ one of the six 0-0 draws that they have been held to this season- that would be a 12 point turn around.  This is perhaps a slightly speculative point, but there is no denying how vital the set piece has been to Norwich and Stoke’s survival attempts this year, something QPR have desperately needed.Redknapp

Redknapp never had an easy job in saving QPR. Whether his task was impossible is contentious- they were only 5 points adrift with 26 games remaining when he took over, but perhaps Mark Hughes did actually leave him a squad that had little chance of bonding successfully.As (hopefully) shown, Redknapp’s tactics can be questionable.  Interestingly, in 2010 he almost seemed to take being referred to as a tactician as an insult:‘”You can argue about formations, tactics and systems forever, but to me football is fundamentally about the players.  Whether it is 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, the numbers game is not the beautiful game in my opinion. It’s 10 per cent about the formation and 90 per cent about the players”‘.

Whether he wants to be a tactician or not, his midfield and attacking combinations have been confused this season.But Redknapp is not the central question here.  QPR’s inability to score this year clearly comes down to a terrible balance of quality in their midfield, which lacks a sincere amount of creativity.  Ironically, the player who dominates QPR’s midfield stats most significantly in both attack and defence (in other words, their ideal ‘link’ player) is Alejandro Faurlin- he is the team’s leading tackler (3.3) and leading average passer (51.1) -10 more than any other player.  It’s unfortunate that Redknapp overlooked his quality, as he was dished out on loan to Serie A outfit Palermo in January. It is perhaps QPR’s disregard for Neil Warnock’s Championship winning players that epitomises their downfall… their expensively assembled squad has individual talent, but lacks a cohesive balance with a well thought out strategy.What might have been? Below is an alternative team that Redknapp might have produced…

  • Back four insignificant tactically, providing Derry drops deep enough when Bosingwa & Traore push forward.
  • Key is the midfield combination of Derry (holder), Faurlin (link, box to box player), and Taarabt (creator).
  • Townsend and Remy are the two players who should be allowed to offensively express themselves.

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