After the unwelcome international break comes a trip to Loftus Road to meet familiar foe Mark Hughes who is currently presiding over his latest ‘project’ at basement club QPR.
Weakness in full back zones
Since taking office, Hughes recruitment strategy has been scatter gun bordering on an adolescent’s maiden voyage on Championship Manager. He’s recruited 20+ players and selected 23 players already this season (5 more than us) and has chopped and changed personnel and tactics – a sign he is far from clear on his preferred setup.
There is a clear weakness in the full back zones and defending the ball into their box. At the back they’ve conceded the 3rd most chances inside the box and only kamikaze Southampton have conceded more headed chances than our hosts this weekend. They’ve also made the 4th most errors (3) leading to goals with Anton Ferdinand always obliging for needy forwards. Given that we’ve scored more headed goals than any side in the top flight, it’s an area we could expose.
In the last home game against West Ham, Hughes played 4-4-2 with full backs not crossing half way as the below player position / importance visual demonstrates. The West Ham game showed they are susceptible to defending quick transitions in wide areas with their wide midfielders not tracking back to help out full backs.
In contrast, against WBA Hughes went 4-2-3-1 with fullbacks playing high up. As the visual below shows everything went through Bosingwa with him and Park making the most combinations (30) in the game.
Whilst the Portuguese is good going forward he’s poor defensively. If selected ahead of Onouha on Sunday our left side could do some serious damage. At left back, Fabio, Bosingwa, Traore and Clint Hill have all done a stint in recent weeks. None have impressed with Rangers defence leakier than a disgruntled coalition minister. In short, there’s no cohesion and Mirallas should get plenty of joy.
Their 61 chances created is the 4th fewest in the top flight. Against Allardyce’s mob, Taarabt came on and scored, and also found the net last time out against WBA. Granero has also warmed up to his new surroundings with a goal and assist in his last two outings. They are technically excellent players with quick feet who can dribble and win free kicks in and around the box whilst Zamora is a master at buying cheap fouls. As a consequence, they are the most fouled team in the top flight with 149 free kicks won. The most recent visitor’s to Eddie Hitler’s spiritual home received a whopping 8 bookings with 12 cards in total during the game.
With a weakness at the back, going forward is perhaps their best option of getting a positive result so I wouldn’t expect them to sit back which could be a good thing given the way other opponents have setup against us such as Villa and Swansea during our successful road trips this campaign.
In Granero they have a player who would walk into most sides in the top flight. He’s sublime on the ball and will graft too. Expect him to play alongside Stephane Mbia in the midfield slots. Further forward, Shaun Wright Phillips will play right, Park probably central and Taarabt on the left with Zamora in the lone striker role. For us, it remains to be seen if Fellaini makes it, or Darron Gibson for that matter. Without both we look a bit short in the centre. Naismith off Jela, Mirallas right, Ossie /Neville centre would seem the most likely selection with Distin restored at CB for Heitinga.
Everton are favourites for the clash at 5/4 with QPR 23/10 and the draw priced at 23/10 with Paddy Power. Moyes has a very decent record against Mark Hughes down the years. The duo have gone head to head in 13 league games, with 6 Moyes wins, 5 draws and 2 losses. The games have always been cagey affairs characterised by low goals output; 11 of the 13 fixtures have ended under 2.5 goals. With the way Everton have been playing coupled with QPR’s wretched defending I doubt this one will be a low scorer as 71% of the games the two have played this season have been over 2.5 goals and this bet is priced at 5/6 with Paddy Power. Given his predatory instincts and with Fellaini potentially out, you can get 13/5 Jelavic scores / Everton win double. The over 5 cards market could be the best option though given the above. You can view all Paddy Power’s odds on the weekend football by visiting their football zone here.
EB’s weekend football betting tips are up on the blog now – you can view them here