Selection wise there were several changes from the Blackpool win with Gibson ‘s injury seeing Neville move into midfield and Hibbert at right back whilst Steven Pienaar returned in place of Magaye Gueye on the left flank. Tim Cahill played his usual pivot between midfield and attack and was decidedly more threatening than the Straq. On the subject of the Argentine, an early observation of him is that he appears a lot more useful against defences who play out from the back with whom he can use his ability to run/hassle. When sides play long from the back and pressure is not required at the front line he is a lot less effective. He’s also not great aerially and holding up play – winning just 1 aerial against the QPR centre back duo’s 6 yesterday.
QPR had a similar type of formation with 2 defensive mids (Derry & Barton) and 3 attacking midfielders in front of them supporting Zamora. Strategy wise, Paddy Kenny was tasked with hitting a lot of long balls up field in the general direction of Zamora (21 in total) with Taarabt and Buzsaky looking to pick up the second balls and provide the key creative spark in the final third. The average position maps are shown (above) with Everton top & QPR underneath.
2. Stop Start
The game really didn’t flow from start to finish, with a silly amount of fouls – 36 in total – breaking down any rhythm and making the game incredibly stop start. Not surprisingly, of the 22 chances QPR created, 12 came from set pieces with the equalising goal one such example. As noted in last weeks post, Fellaini is up there with the most aggressive midfielders in the top flight and off the ball he committed 6 fouls, 6 tackles and 3 interceptions in this match. QPR’s attention craving skipper Joey Barton was the home side’s most busy player off the ball; the re-brand made 4 fouls, 3 tackles and 1 interception.
3. Drenthe Enigma
With 4 goals and 7 assists nobody has scored more goals for the Blues than Drenthe and -Donovan apart – no one can even come close to him in the creative stakes. I did a short piece on him last month which highlighted his strengths and weaknesses and both were on show yesterday. His goal was sublime, a 30 yard rocket following great pressure from Fellaini to win the ball back from Taarabt. Offensively he has the quick feet, pace and flair for the unpredictable that has occasionally brought to life a rather drab season at L4.
Moyes has been vocal in his distrust of Drenthe defensively and his concerns do carry weight. Its not necessarily the amount of fouls he makes but where he makes them and some of it is pretty basic stuff – i.e only go to ground if it’s absolutely necessary. His foul which led to QPR’s goal yesterday was crazy – especially as he’d committed the same rash foul in the same zone 10 minutes earlier. Hibbert (blue arrow) was on hand to cut off any ball into the box making the foul unnecessary.
In fairness to Royston though, his ball retention was good yesterday and he was only disposessed once compared to Pienaar who had a quiet game and was dispossessed 5 times.
4. Set Piece Defending
QPR’s goal could have been avoided. In the visual below the Blues have an advantage in the box of 8 men to 5 as Buzsaky lines up the dead ball. Before it is tossed in Cahill is marking Zamora sideways on with Neville in front of Zamora to attack the ball (circled)
When the delivery is struck Cahill attacks the ball (and gets under it) rather than staying close to Zamora which affords the former Fulham man far too much space to deflect the ball past Howard, whose own role in the goal is questionable. Credit to Buzsaky though, his shooting was wild at times but he was the games most positive player and his delivery is quality; the Hungarian damaged us at Goodison earlier this season when he assisted the winning goal and he did the same yesterday.
5. Final Thought
The draw was our third away 1-1 draw on the spin and despite us looking more dangerous early on QPR had much the better of the second period and could argue that they shaded the game overall. We’ve only scored more than 1 goal on our travels on 2 occasions so far this season, and 1 of them was against 10 man Bolton so it was unlikely we would take much more from the game. We would have hoped for better pre match but the point keeps our unbeaten run ticking along with the Blues undefeated in 8 games as we head into next week’s crucial triple whammy against Spurs, Liverpool and the Cup Quarter Final.