Sep 12, 2011

QPR vs Newcastle: Tactical Preview

Caught on camera: Santon's sexy face

12.09.11 – Monday–8pm

Location:  Loftus Road

Early prospects:  A tricky fixture, but still with the potential to carry on the good start.

Waffle: Following the early season international break Newcastle return to action with a Monday night visit to Loftus Road to face Championship champions Queens Park Rangers.  Of course, the 15 days that have elapsed since the hard fought win over Fulham have included the end to the transfer window – an end which looked promising upon signing Davide Santon but quickly turned underwhelming when the ‘promised’ striker failed to materialise.  But despite the disappointment, the closing of the window couldn’t have come at a better time – the frustrated feelings of many fans having time to cool, and in turn attention can properly turn back to where it matters – the pitch.

Arguably, the annoyance of not achieving the perfect transfer window (within reason) is equal to that of the distraction that it’s provided to our very encouraging start to the season, and form on the whole – being hard to imagine with all the muffled grumbles that NUFC are now unbeaten in their last seven competitive games, stretching back the 3-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool on 1st May. Regardless of the grievances, all we can do as fans is bite our lip and continue to support the team as fervently and defiantly as possible – lest we see this excellent start go to waste…

The Team:
From Championship mid-tablers to potential Premiership upstarts in the space of 15months, QPR have been the beneficiaries of some substantial investment, particularly towards the end of the last transfer window.

Line-ups: NUFC likely to be largely unchanged from the team that faced Fulham, with the possibility of Ameobi returning to the starting XI and Davide Santon rumoured to be made to wait for his debut.  QPR could feasibly give debuts to no fewer than six players – and though hugely unlikely, the most pleasing of which would surely be that of the delightfully named Tommaso Trani…

QPR started life in the Premier League after a 15 year absence in sobering fashion – a 4-0 home loss to Premier League ‘middle men’ Bolton Wanderers signalling that despite being promoted as Championship champions the step up is not to be underestimated.  The R’s did manage to get their tally underway with a timely three points away to troubled Everton, only to be brought back down to earth with a 2-0 loss to Wigan, watched by new-signing Joey Barton.  After three games, six conceded and just the one scored, they have seen a significant flash of investment in the playing squad adding a number of players who the more disingenuous may argue lack any real quality, but will add some much needed Premier League experience to their side.  Certainly since the investment the R’s look far more able to stave off the threat of relegation, and with the ability and will to spend further in the January transfer window their chances of staying in the top tier can only improve.

Despite the influx of players it is likely QPR will still maintain their 4231 layout,  still focussing heavily (at least for now) on providing service their enigmatic captain Adel Taarabt – a man who either assisted or scored a whopping 53% of their goals last season.  Despite their rocky start, the R’s will be a tricky opponent on home soil where they will be looking to get their season properly up and running after a morale boosting fortnight off.

Notable dangers:
Naturally, Adel Taarabt is an obvious threat and one which must be limited within the game to in order to drastically improve any chance of return to Tyneside with points.  Deployed primarily in a free role (operating mainly on the left side of the field) his movement through channels can cause problems to both defence and deep midfield, with his favoured move of cutting inside and shooting from range the source of a number of goals last term.  Taarabt has already managed an impressive 3 shots per game so far this season, and it’s also worth taking note his ability to win free-kicks, winning just short of 4 FKs per game.  In the season opener Bolton deployed the bang-average Nigel Reo-Coker to cover Taarabt to remarkable success – limiting the Moroccan’s effectiveness in the game to almost zero and as such smothering QPR’s threat as a team.  However, since then a number of additions to the attacking ranks see our opposition possess a fairly steady array of alternative options to that of Taarabt, with the pacey Shaun Wright-Phillips and, obviously, Joey Barton.  Presuming that Barton is stationed within the ‘3’ portion of the 4231 then NUFC will be facing a pretty dynamic and balanced attack and will need to take steps to smother this.

Taarabt lines up another on the right peg

Tactical suggestions:
QPR’s adoption of the 4231 and the intimation that both prospective wide players (Wright-Phillips and Taarabt) will be given free-roles (as suggested by manager Neil Warnock) the expectation is that both will be looking to move infield and create a narrow attacking triangle.  In reaction to this, the NUFC defence would be wise to adopt a compact mentality, with Tiote dropping deep as usual to help close off the open areas of space in which the opposition midfield will look to adopt.  Assuming Pardew again adopts the 442 layout the emphasis should be upon breaking quickly to the flanks (biased towards the right flank) after periods – Obertan being key to the success of this and thus it must be drilled into him the importance of him not drifting from his right midfield position.  Attacking wise, QPR are likely to be fielding a back line with three debutants – four players unfamiliar of each other’s habits and movements.  This is certainly something NUFC should look to exploit, particularly in the centre of defence where our strikers could reap rewards if they are to play closer together, working in tandem to target a specific defender and help retain possession high up the field.

Final thought and gut feeling:
It’s undeniable that playing QPR a fortnight earlier would have been a far more appealing prospect than at present, but the opposition is still a state of flux and still to prove themselves as a formidable Premier League outfit, home or away.  Three points are more than possible to an NUFC team that have made winning ugly an effective habit recently, and should be aimed for.  But if we were to leave with another point on the board I wouldn’t be grumbling:  narrow away win.

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