QPR 2-1 Fulhamby EWEN
Following three consecutive draws and noticeable improvement in performances, Harry Redknapp’s great escape looks to have finally got under-way after a comprehensive victory against fellow West London rivals, Fulham.
The major changes for QPR were Djibril Ciise returning to the starting line-up and Adel Taarabt moving to a more central position; playing just off the Frenchman. Alejandro Faurlin linked up with Stephan M’bia in the centre of midfield for the Rangers meaning demotion to the bench for Shaun Derry. Martin Jol opted to keep the same starting XI that beat Newcastle on Monday night, 2-1, with the exception of Alex Kacaniklic making way for Kieran Richardson.
Before criticising every player who wore black today, bar one or two, it would be unfair not to highlight the man of the match performance. Adel Taarabt took up a free role, similar to his position during QPR’s promotion season and stole the show with two great goals. It was clear from the first minute that he was up for it and boy was he trouble. There are few other players in the Premier League more dangerous, running at a defence with pace, than the Moroccan. You could argue that both goals were fortuitous but in both, Taarabt had either already done the hard work or still had the hard work to do. After seventeen games without a win, QPR needed someone to be a little bit selfish and that won them the game.
Schwarzer’s distribution was poor (as always) but on the whole he dominated his box well. The goals were not his fault: one a deflection and one couldn’t have been any further into the bottom right hand corner of his goal. A late save from Ciise prevented the scoreline from being more humiliating. Sascha Riether’s exit at half time due to injury, unfortunately, meant that the right wing would be defunct going forward. You can never criticise Stephen Kelly for lack of effort but he offers nothing when attacking.
Redknapp may well have found his go-to midfield in Alejandro Faurlin and Stephan M’bia. The perfect balance between brawn and brains. Faurlin, the creator, links midfield to attack, while M’bia acts as the powerhouse. The perfect midfield combination still eludes Fulham. Should it be Diarra and Baird, Diarra and Sidwell or Sidwell and Baird? All duos are different but all have one thing in common: lack of creativity. When Chris Baird filled in for Mahamadou Diarra against West Brom earlier this season, he was pinging forty yard passes, to feet, all over the pitch. “We’ve found our Danny Murphy replacement” were the shouts from the crowd. I think it’s safe to say he certainly is not. The difference between West Brom and recent performances is how much time he’s been allowed on the ball. Lots of it will mean he looks like Paul Scholes in his pomp but when being pressed, like QPR did to him today, his passing is as good as Schwarzer’s. Steve Sidwell spent most of his time either being embarrassed by Taarabt or cleaning up Baird’s mess.
Something struck me today about the way Sidwell plays if the game’s not going for him. If he’s on the losing side or having a poor individual performance, he’ll foul everyone who he can’t be bothered to run after. Another referee may have sent him off in that game and the difference between today’s Sidwell and Monday’s is frightening. Rodallega was poor, once again showing a first touch reminiscent to playing a 1-2 off a brick wall. With Kieran Richardson, you have a winger who doesn’t know how to take on his marker. Playing Kacaniklic would do wonders for his development and provide the team with a little bit of desire which wasn’t present at Loftus Road. Mladen Petric demonstrated, not for the first time, his knack for coming off the bench and making a difference. Perhaps the long awaited Erik Nevland super-sub replacement? Two goals as a substitute so far this season with five altogether.
It was only going to be a matter of time before Harry got Sparky’s random assortment of players working together. Bit by bit, he’s figuring out what his strongest team is. Julio Cesar, Adel Taarabt, Stephan M’bia and Alejandro Faurlin provide a promising spine which can only improve with the inevitable influx of new players in January. Fulham, simply, need Bryan Ruiz back. It’s a well known fact that Berbatov wants as much to do with the attack as possible, but his presence is needed as the number nine. As previously mentioned, there’s no creativity and no balance between the two deeper midfielders. In January, a player to fill the void left by Danny Murphy and Moussa Dembele is a must.