This weekend, Arsenal travel across London to Loftus Road, home of Queens Park Rangers. QPR have undergone a transformation under new owner Tony Fernandes. In their return to the Premier League they have spent big money in acquiring the individual talent that you would think could keep them in the top flight.
Instead, they find themselves firmly in the relegation and only 8 matches to claw their way out of danger. The fans are understandably frustrated as even with the money that has been poured into the club, they still find themselves in trouble while Norwich and Swansea are comfortably up the table and playing some great football.
QPR have come off a big loss against Sunderland, while completing a brilliant (and hilarious) comeback against Liverpool just days earlier. The games showcased the best and worst of this QPR side and both matches were analysed to put together this scouting report.
QPR play a fairly simple 4-4-2, a formation we have had much success against. It would be very easy for a 3 man midfield to overpower the opposition, especially the way the QPR midfield moves. Samba Diakite has a more defensive role and drops deeper while Shaun Derry plays in a more box to box role. This leaves a large area in the middle that a counter attacking team like Arsenal could really take advantage of.
QPR are a side that have shown such vulnerability match after match. So much show that it should be a fairly straightforward victory for Arsenal. The team’s greatest weakness is the gaps they leave when moving forward. That lack of cover has led to QPR conceding a fair amount of goals as Anton Ferdinand and Nedum Onuoha are left completely exposed.
The suspension of Djibril Cisse could add a level of stability however. Having Taarabt on the left wing would have left a lot of space to be exploited since it’s a bit harder to do stepovers while tracking back. Instead, we’ll most likely see Taarabt fall in behind Zamora with Shaun Wright-Phillips coming in on the wing.
On the off chance that Taarabt still starts on the wing, it would make things a lot easier for Arsenal. He plays a free role and spends most of his time behind the strikers. All that does is pull his teammates out of position, whether it’s the right back trying to cover the gap he’s left or one of the strikers forced out wide to give QPR another option in attack.
The pressure on the ball is very lax and apart from the center back pairing of Ferdinand and Onuoha, no one closes down opposition players. This should allow players like Arteta time to pick out perfect passes. It will be difficult for Van Persie to play with his back to goal though and we should expect to see a lot of play from out wide. It would be ideal for Ox to start out on the left as his pace would cause major problems for Luke Young. It would draw Barton further back in an attempt to stop him too and give Gibbs the license to go forward a lot more.
There are several dangermen in this QPR side. Joey Barton and Bobby Zamora primarily.
Arsenal has quite a past with Barton. If he has one skill, it’s winding up opposition players. He managed to get Gervinho sent off in the opening match of the season and is very capable of doing it again. It could get very heated if Barton does start the match on Saturday and we’ll definitely see some handbags.
The other threat is Bobby Zamora who is QPR’s main target man with the absence of Cisse. It should be easy to isolate him as QPR like to get as many men behind the ball as possible during periods of pressure, leaving Zamora alone up front. The marking will need to be very tight on him from set pieces as his height will no doubt cause problems.
Paddy Kenny is also a very good goalkeeper and even though his defence doesn’t do him justice he’s a player that could take some work to beat.
The Weak Link
Samba Diakite has failed to impress in the few months since his arrival at the club and struggles to really control his area of the field. He makes silly fouls and finds himself out of position on several occasions, leaving his backline exposed. He has the highest pass completion rate in the QPR squad but can be prone to misplacing several passes when the opposition overwhelms him.
Boxing him out from the rest of his team will leave gaps for the Arsenal midfield to move into.
The West London club hasn’t managed to keep a clean sheet in the league since October and are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. Even though the atmosphere and pitch at Loftus Road may pose problems for the away team, it should be a fair easy victory against a relegation threatened side.
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