QPR hosted Tottenham in what was their second Premier League London derby in succession. QPR’s defensive rigidity continued as they were able to record their second clean sheet in a row. The goalless draw also saw the end of a strong 3-game win streak (9 goals scored) for Tottenham. This article will attempt to highlight QPR’s formational evolution and show how they managed to stifle Spurs.
QPR made one change from their victory against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Granero paved way for J.S. Park. While it may have sacrificed offensive creativity, Park gave QPR the necessary tracking when Lennon drifted inside. Taarabt continued up front while Mackie remained wide. Nelsen continued to fulfil his duties even with his pending new job as head coach of Toronto FC.
Tottenham remained largely unchanged. Bale returned from injury and took the place of Sigurdsson as left winger. Adebayor started his final game before the African Cup of Nations, and Kyle Naughton continued as a make-shift left back after impressive defensive performances. Benoit Assou-Ekotto was on the bench. While, Sandro was forced off with an injury after about 20 minutes, Parker came on as a like-for-like substitute.
‘Arry’s Evolution – Taarabt’s Role
Offensively, Taarabt’s new role under Harry Redknapp differs greatly from Cisse’s. While Cisse played off the shoulder of the last man, usually attempting to latch onto any through-balls or counter-attacks, Taarabt has been given a freer role. Against an organized defence, the Moroccan mimics a false 9 in the way he drops deep to collect the ball. The onus of attack is shifted onto SWP and Mackie, both of whom are expected to run beyond Taarabt and take advantage of his creativity. This can especially be noticed when comparing Taarabt’s passing with that of Cisse.
Against an unorganized defense (counter-attacks), Taarabt takes up a more wide position as the main target. This is an attempt to exploit the space left behind Naughton and Walker, as well as to stretch the two central defenders. His movement and actions are highlighted by the heat map below. Note that Taarabt is never recorded to have a significant touch/duel centrally inside the opposition penalty area. While this clearly has to do with the nature of the game, wherein QPR were mostly defending, it nonetheless shows Taarabts more natural habit of dropping deep and acting as an advanced playmaker, rather than an out-and-out striker.
Defensively, Taarabt’s move into the striker position gives more rigidity to QPR’s structure. It allows for another central midfielder, in this case J.S.Park, to close down the opposition.
QPR’s Defensive Shape
Harry Redknapp fielded ten players who are very strong defensively. Mackie, even though he has played as a striker, is a strong two-way player as a right winger. His tracking stifled Kyle Naughton’s advancement, limiting the full back to only one cross. Similarly, and possibly even more admirably, Shaun Wright-Phillips tireless tracking of Kyle Walker, as shown below, meant Walker’s five crosses all came from corners. SWP spent roughly the same period of time in all areas of the left side of the pitch.
The result of QPR’s defensively-minded and rigid structure forced both Naughton and Walker, the latter especially, to pass in-field, where Tottenham were out-numbered 3v2. The lack of space on the wings also meant Lennon and Bale drifted more inside to receive from their full backs. Together, the two wingers only managed 3 open-play crosses, none of which were successful. The space inside also became too tight, notated by their lack of success in the dribbles (Lennon 2/6, Bale 0/2), and QPR’s interception rate.
From the fact that QPR made no substitutions, it is clear Harry Redknapp was pleased with the way QPR managed to limit Spurs advances wide and stifle them centrally. While Spurs created chances, Julio Cesar was MOTM after all, they were nonetheless fewer and further between than AVB would have preferred. For QPR it is a step forward. If they manage to organize themselves similarly away from home, they will begin to pick up more results like their last two EPL games.
Tactical Talking Points
- Will Harry bring in another striker and sacrifice a midfielder against lower-ranked teams at home? Ever since Cisse went off for Derry at half-time vs. Liverpool, QPR have kept a clean sheet in the Premier League. That is equal to +225 minutes, which is an admirable stat.
- Who will start instead of Adebayor in the coming weeks, and will the formation change? Most likely Dempsey will get the call, especially after his goals in the FA Cup. It should be noted that Sigurdsson began the season in the AM position in a 4-2-3-1. Dempsey has also been known to fit into a deeper role, so it will be interesting to see if Spurs will revert from their 4-2-2-2 to a more 4-2-3-1 without Adebayor.
- How would potential signings Remy and M’Vila fit into the system? Should certain reports be believed, both are on their way to QPR. M’Vila works best as the deepest defensive midfielder, with a strong repertoire of Hollywood passes to complement the system. While M’Vila would fit very well into QPR’s system, Remy would most likely necessitate another ‘Arry formation tweak.