It speaks to the competitive nature of football that even a defeat in the League Cup that might serve us well over the weeks to come still stings. Pragmatically, exiting the competition spares the team an extra game or two at a time where fitness is short, while we also had the benefit of getting minutes into players who needed them and still played well should be seen as a positive on a few levels. It’s just frustrating to see your team squander a comfortable winning position in a game.
That League Cup defeat will soon be forgotten amid the more important business of getting our league season going. It has been clear from the first three games that this team is rusty as a result of a lack of competitive action, however, we cannot allow that to become an excuse. Getting a first league win of the campaign in this upcoming game against Queens Park Rangers could well provide that extra spring in the step to counteract what has been lost during a six month spell of inaction.
With Ben Sheaf, Tyler Walker, Fankaty Dabo and Michael Rose coming through Tuesday night’s game unscathed, Mark Robins’ options for the weeks to come have been significantly boosted. However, for this game specifically, the short turnaround from Tuesday evening makes it unlikely that any of those aforementioned four players will start this game.
With Liam Kelly out injured for a week or two, it would have been a boost to have Ben Sheaf available as a starting option for this game. This is the exact situation that the Arsenal loanee was signed for but it has come slightly too early for him to take it. Instead, it’s a chance for Jordan Shipley to show what he can do at Championship level. Having a left-footer alongside Gustavo Hamer’s right foot provides a nice balance in the centre of the park, however, Shipley needs to improve his concentration with and without the ball if he wants to play regularly in a deep midfield role at this standard of football.
Another of those four players who it would have been useful to have available here is Fankaty Dabo. Josh Pask has put in a diligent shift at right wing-back in the opening couple of games, but it’s clear that it isn’t a position that he’s comfortable with. Dabo’s availability will unlock an extra dimension to our attacking play, at the moment, it’s very much focused on the left side of the pitch, where Ryan Giles and Callum O’Hare have been linking up nicely.
Last Time We Met
It was a case of a team on the way down losing to one on the way up the last time we took on QPR. The Sky Blues were in the midst of an Aidy Boothroyd-induced tail-spin while QPR were sauntering their way into the top-flight via the twinkle toes of Adel Taarabt at the peak of his powers.
An opening goal from Marlon King threatened to alter the script of the game, however, it proved to be the inciting incident to begin QPR’s hero’s journey. Two moments of brilliance from Taarabt netted QPR the three points. The first came just before half-time, where he beat two defenders to curl an equaliser past Keiren Westwood. The second came with 11 minutes to go, as the Moroccan magician bent a cross from absolutely nowhere past our defence for Wayne Routledge to secure the win for the Hoops.
The Manager – Mark Warburton
Having taken Brentford into the play-offs at this level in his first full season as a manager seven years ago, Mark Warburton has struggled to find a home. Spells at Glasgow Rangers and Nottingham Forest started off brightly but gradually fell away. With less pressure of expectation at Queens Park Rangers, Warburton seems to have found a club where he can lay down roots.
A positive personality who likes to play attacking football and develop young players, QPR were one of the most entertaining teams in the Championship last year. With Ebere Eze running the show, QPR were the kind of team who risked conceding goals in order to score them. Only the top three sides scored more than QPR, only 24th-placed Hull City concede more. With that defensive record in mind, starting off the campaign with a clean sheet in victory over Nottingham Forest was an encouraging start.
Who To Look Out For
Having lost their key sources of goals over the past nine months in Ebere Eze, Jordan Hugill and Nahki Wells, the onus this season is on Ilias Chair, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Lyndon Dykes to provide the firepower that can cover for QPR’s defensive laxity. Chair is a diminutive attacking midfielder capable of conjuring moments of magic out of nowhere, Osayi-Samuel is an incredibly rapid and skilful winger, while Dykes is a battering ram centre-forward who’ll create the space for Chair and Osayi-Samuel to operate in.
Tom Carroll in central midfield is a creative player of Premier League quality when at his very best. His passing ability could really knit things together for this QPR team, with the respective energy and physicality of Luke Amos and Geoff Cameron around him to reduce his physical workload.
It would also be hugely beneficial for QPR this season if they could tighten up at the back. The summer signing of Oxford United centre-back, Rob Dickie, should help, even if he is better known for his passing ability. In addition, the returning Seny Dieng from an impressive loan spell at Doncaster Rovers adds a genuine presence in goal – although, Joe Lumley was favoured last week. Furthermore, last week’s clean sheet was aided by a more disciplined showing from their full-backs, with Osman Kakay and Lee Wallace coming in for the more attack-minded Todd Kane and Ryan Manning.
Where The Game Will Be Won Or Lost
While QPR kept a clean sheet in victory over Nottingham Forest last week, I’m not sure that is enough to demonstrate they have turned a corner defensively. Part of their defensive issues stem from the balance of their midfield, where Mark Warburton has brought in quite flighty, technical players, which puts a lot of strain on the legs of Geoff Cameron – who is 35 and more naturally a centre-back – to cover spaces their attacking players leave behind. If we can contain QPR’s attacking threat, there should be goals for us at the other end of the pitch.
Whether we can contain QPR’s attacking threat is the key question for this game. This could be where we see the value of having a physical central defender in Kyle McFadzean, to help deal with the brutish Lyndon Dykes up top for QPR. However, Dykes isn’t the only danger here, with Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel offering different kinds of threat. The balance we’ll have to strike is in pushing up enough to stop Dykes being able to attack balls into the box, denying space in front of our defence for Chair to operate in, while also reducing the space in behind for Bright Osayi-Samuel to run into.
That variation of attacking threats is why QPR score so many goals, if you can stop one, it can end up creating space for the others to thrive. It should be considered an achievement to keep a clean sheet here. We are likely to need to score at least once to take something out of this game.