At the end of January we asked our readers to cast their vote for the Top 12th Man in their side and in the English Premier League. Nearly every side was represented in the nominations. These articles, one for each current Premier League club, comprise the end result of countless hours of reviewing each teams statistics. While the numbers were certainly important, we also examined the context in which those numbers were accumulated. After the publication of the 20 individual team nominations, we’ll have a single post that reveals the Top 12th Man, to date, for the Premier League in the 2011/12 season.
Queens Park Rangers have had a difficult season. Their talismanic midfielder has gone missing for large parts of the year, they let manager Neil Warnock leave the club and appointed Mark Hughes. Despite investing heavily in the squad they sit just above the relegation zone on 21 points from 23 matches. Over each of the past two transfer windows they have been amongst the busiest of the clubs. Included in rolls of those added to the club were Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Luke Moore at the end of the summer and signing Taye Taiwo, Nedum Onoha and Djbril Cisse as the winter window came to a close.
DJ Campbell and Jay Bothroyd have both been injured this season, and when they’ve managed to be on the pitch they’re performing well below expectations. For Campbell and Bothroyd, it has been just 1290′ combined in the EPL, the duo scoring 3 goals and adding just a single assist. Certainly this was a great impetus for the addition of Djbril Cisse this winter. However, it has been the inability of players like the strike duo to make an impact that has left, in our estimation, Adel Taarabt as the Top 12th Man in Mark Hughes’ squad.
Away at the Africa Cup of Nations, Taarabt has enjoyed a tumultuous season. Rumoured to be departing for greener pastures this summer, Taarabt has started just 12 games, making only 3 substitute appearances and being omitted from five squads on the bounce between November and December as Rangers recorded just a 1-1-3 record.
Taarabt certainly isn’t putting up the same level of numbers as in seasons past. Last year in the Championship Taarabt had 19 goals, more than 2nd leading scorers Heider Helguson. Helguson again leads the Hoops scoring charts, with 8 goals. For our purposes, Helguson is considered a starter in the first choice QPR Starting XI. In contrast, Taarabt has yet to record his first Premier League goal this season. At 22 years of age, the Moroccan remains a sublimely talented player and his skill shown in previous years must not be dismissed. His passing remains top shelf while the crossing rate is acceptable at 25%. In addition to the statistics shown here, Taarabt has hit the woodwork twice. He has also embarked on 13 successful dribbled. His opportunities on free kicks have been limited with the arrival of Joey Barton, and may be limited by Akos Buszaky going forward, but of his five direct free kicks shots, four have forced saves with just one ending off-target.
Undoubtedly his attitude contributes to a negative perception of the ambitious youngster, and his on field contributions have yet to match the potential shown last season. However, Taarabt has also suffered from a bit a bad luck. As he returns from ACoN duty we fully expect that he will contend for a starting role within Hughes squad, but if not would provide the new gaffer with one of the top options off the bench in the EPL. Without another truly standout option on the roster to compare him against – Adel Taarabt is our choice for Top 12th Man at QPR.
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