The Blues are waking up to another opening day hangover after a defeat which provided a microcosm of the familiar woes faced last season, chiefly a lack of cutting edge with Cahill the #1 culprit. We lined up in a pretty orthodox 4-4-2 with Heitinga holding and Osman given the attacking duties from central midfield. Cahill played right up top with the dire Beckford. QPR lined up in 4-2-3-1 with Smith and Taarabt in the wide roles but attacking predominantly down their left flank with Smith angling runs from the right.
Personnel wise, the Heitinga/Osman central midfield and Beckford/Cahill axis didn’t look convincing and resembled players who had rarely been paired together. The team generally looked unbalanced with 2 central midfielders playing on the flanks. Rodwell was again accommodated, this time in a wide midfield role with the onus to get forward and create when possible. As discussed in my When Skies are Grey column pre match, Rodwell lacks a creative spark to his play and is quite robotic on the ball; for instance last season he created a chance for an opponent every 202 minutes. As the chalkboard below shows (bottom chalkboard), he made just 2 forward passes in the opposition half all game – I’d play him anchor man or not at all.
Barkley’s display was unquestionably the only positive – he does possess the ability to take a player on which we lack. The chalkboard (left, top) shows his passing adventure with a significant amount of forward passes. Barkley had more shots and more dribbles than his teammates and was also our most fouled player, picking up useful free kicks on the edge of the QPR goal. I would personally start him next week at Blackburn in a 4-2-3-1 alongside Arteta and Osman and behind Saha.
QPR Goal Deconstructed
Our hosts where decent in possession and in Alejandro Faurlin had the games most effective performer, just shading Barkley in terms of output. The Argentinian midfielder completed 81% of his passes (well above the QPR average of 69%) and won 10 tackles. His role was to break up play and feed the attacking midfielders, something he did in the build up to the goal. As the below shot shows we afforded Buzsaky too much space following a prolonged period of possession from the Hoops.
The Hungarian finds time and space to roll the ball into Tommy Smith to slot past Tim Howard. It was a terrible goal to concede. Baines and Jagielka both had opportunities to clear their lines but rushed clearances and returned possession to QPR. As the move progressed, Jagielka was again guilty, this time of poor marking (circled) he has Smith marked but then gets sucked in enabling Smith the time and space to slot.
The second half was more of the same from the Blues; Barkley switched to the right to accommodate Arteta on the left. Beckford was then withdrawn with Cahill furthest forward with Fellaini supporting him – a move that made us look more threatening but ultimately to no avail.
The Blues were slack and lacked a cutting edge but still created enough goal scoring chances to take at least a point –it was a familiar story of square pegs in round holes selection wise and a lack of bite in the final third. A reaction will be required against a woeful looking Blackburn side next week – as mentioned above I would return to 4-2-3-1 with Osman further forward.
Fair play to QPR – they had a plan and stuck to it – and in Faurlin they have a class act who will claim many plaudits this season with more showings like this.