Neither Mark Hughes nor Harry Redknapp can quite decide who is his best midfield four. With the likes of Samba Diakite, Stephane Mbia, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Junior Hoilett, Adel Taarabt, Esteban Granero, Park Ji Sung, Alejandro Faurlin and Shaun Derry all competing for a starting place, you would think competition could only be good news. For QPR though, this is a nightmare.
There are some big names in that midfield that should really be playing week in week out, but instead have fallen victim to the mysterious forces of underperformance that lurk behind the walls of Loftus Road. Shaun Wright-Phillips, for one, has not scored once in the league for the Hoops and instead, has collected numerous other achievements such as hitting the woodwork and having his one screamer disallowed. Adel Taarabt, the Moroccan magician, finds himself as frustrating as he is gifted, taking on six players with relative ease only to scuff his shot into the hands of the waiting keeper.
What QPR need more than anything is consistency. With a leaky defence as well as limited forward options due to unfortunate injuries to both Zamora and Andy Johnson, the answer to solving QPR’s poor run has got to lie in the midfield where Redknapp has more than sufficient options. The very centre of the park is the gateway to both attacking and defending, and with the perfect central midfielder, QPR might just be able to claw their way out of the disaster that lies ahead.
Both Faurlin and Granero encompass somewhat similar playing styles. Their constant passing and movement help QPR retain possession a little longer, which may just stop opponents from getting hold of the ball and tearing apart the nervous defence. One thing is for certain though: the two come from very different backgrounds.
Alejandro Faurlin is largely seen to be the club’s championship hero, one of the key players that helped the R’s win the league in their title winning promotion. Loved by many for his discipline and ball distribution, the Argentinean was at the heart of Warnock’s 4-2-3-1 formation that gave Taarabt licence to create.
Esteban Granero, on the other hand, is one of the many new faces at the club, brought in by Mark Hughes in his bid to turn the club’s fortunes around. The Spaniard probably couldn’t hail from a bigger club, crossing the pond from Real Madrid for a bigger challenge he has definitely found in QPR.
Comparing both their performances this season, their efforts have been matched in terms of passing. Granero, however, edges Faurlin in the final third, a zone that Faurlin does not venture much into as compared to his Spanish teammate.
Passing aside, the two players highlight very different strengths and weaknesses.
Ale Faurlin trumps El Pirata when it comes to possession. Faurlin gives the ball away a lot less than his teammate, and also wins the ball off opponents more often than him. Increasing possession should be a concern for Redknapp’s men with more wasteful teammates like Taarabt, who can be a defensive liability.
Faurlin also performs better defensively when compared to Granero. He wins more ground and aerial 50-50s, while also picking up less yellow cards than his Spanish teammate. Considering that QPR have the worst goal difference in the league, Faurlin could be a decent choice in solidifying the leaky defence behind him.
Giving due consideration to the fact that Granero has played almost twice as many minutes as Faurlin this season, Granero still outperforms Faurlin when it comes to attacking. Faurlin is almost non-existent in offensive attempts, creating very few chances. However, one should also note that Granero has poor conversion rates, putting in 80 crosses this season with only 19 of them being accurate. Although Granero may be more active in attacking, he is also extremely wasteful, which could be a problem when you consider the fact that QPR also have another wasteful teammate in Adel Taarabt. Faurlin is clearly the safer option to play, while Granero could be impressive if he works on his form.
These statistics will not exactly lighten Redknapp’s headache. There is no clear- cut answer as to who should play in the centre of the park for QPR. Perhaps the answer for the London club is not to find the best four to play week in, week out but rather, to find the four that suits the game at hand. Over to you, ‘Arry.
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