Date:Friday January 24 2014
With the business end of the Championship season fast approaching, Vital QPR takes a closer look at the similarities and differences between the 2010/2011 Championship winning side and the current 2013/2014 squad aiming to replicate the Rs title glory.
Both sides had played 26 games by this point, both mounting serious promotion challenges. The 2011 side were sitting top of the pile come the middle of January, three points clear of second place Swansea City with a game in hand to their name. In contrast, the current QPR side find themselves in second place, five points off pace-setters Leicester City.
The discernible difference between the two sides is found under the goal difference column; the 2011 side outshining their 'opponents` by a full 12 goals. Neil Warnock`s side had managed to net 44 times compared to Redknapp`s poor 31. Clearly both managers had set their stall out on a watertight defence though - the 2010/2011 side conceding 16 goals compared to the 2013/2014 sides` equally impressive 17.
Every title winning side is always built on a resolute and sound defence and in Paddy Kenny and Robert Green QPR can lay claim to possessing arguably two of the league`s finest goalkeepers. Amazingly, both shot-stoppers could boast a total of 14 clean sheets to their name by this point in the arduous Championship season; Kenny went on to make a club record 24 by the end of the 2010/2011 campaign, picking up the Players` Player and Fans` Player of the Year Award in the process.
The similarities between the two are uncanny; both guilty of somewhat inauspicious starts to their QPR careers, mistakes all too often creeping in to games before going on to become one of the side`s most reliable performers. Probably the hardest decision to choose between, the final decision as who to pick came down to match-winning saves. While Green has undoubtedly made some impressive saves this season, Paddy Kenny came to QPR`s rescue on more than occasion and at times won points singlehandedly for his side. Kenny gets the nod ahead of his counterpart for this one, just.
VERDICT: PADDY KENNY
Only one word can describe the right-back position for both sides - solid. The ever reliable Bradley Orr and Danny Simpson barely put a foot wrong up to this point in the season; only an injury to Orr preventing him of equalling Simpson`s impressive record of playing every minute of QPR`s promotion campaign. The acquisition of Kyle Walker undoubtedly gave the 2010/2011 side a much needed attacking push, but Orr was an integral part of that QPR side.
While both full-backs provided excellent defensive cover their attacking threats were somewhat limited; Danny Simpson`s reluctance to beat a man or deliver a threatening cross preventing him from pushing on to develop into an excellent Premier League defender. Orr`s unwillingness to even cross the halfway line at times nudges Simpson ahead of his opposite number for the final pick, but let`s not deny that Simpson has arguably been in the top three of QPR`s standout performers this season.
VERDICT: DANNY SIMPSON
The players occupying this position for both sides couldn`t be more different if you tried; the laidback and elegant Benoit Assou-Ekotto a class above most of his Championship opponents this season, the hard-working, no-nonsense Clint Hill admirably adapted and transformed his game to keep up with the fast pace of the league`s threatening wingers. Add to that the fact that Hill isn`t even a left-back, was kept up by a supposed dodgy ankle and experience vastly evaporating pace you can see how impressive his 44 appearances were that season.
Assou-Ekotto`s attacking threat, dangerous crosses and passing ability possibly sways the verdict in his favour, however the reliable Clint Hill rarely put a foot wrong in his campaign at full-back; the same can`t quite be said just yet of the Cameroonian. While the jury is still out with some fans towards Assou-Ekotto, admittedly mostly when we`re not winning, I am firmly in the 'big fan` camp of the 29-year-old. Despite this, Hill gets the pick for the left-back spot - a real 'hero` of the 2010/2011`s title winning side and his consistent performances allow him this recognition.
VERDICT: CLINT HILL
The centre-back partnership this season has been so rock-solid it could have given keeping the Titanic up a damn good go. The acquisition of Richard Dunne has been one of QPR`s most impressive signings in recent times and despite lacking the pace of yesteryear, his intelligence and physical presence has seen him win battles with ease against some of the league`s top strikers. If he can stay fit he will go through the Championship season with relative comfort; the occasional loose pass the only downfall to his name.
Neil Warnock started the 2010/2011 season with Fitz Hall in one of his centre-back slots before quickly realising ex-Arsenal man Matt Connolly was a safer option than Hall`s helpless hamstrings. Connolly was clearly a talented footballer, schooled in the 'pass-first ethos` of Arsenal`s academy, yet his physical weakness and confidence were clear flaws in his game. Richard Dunne`s imposing performances this season are rewarded with the pick for the first centre back opening; ousting a dependable, yet anxious and tense, Connolly.
VERDICT: RICHARD DUNNE
Clint Hill, one of the few well-regarded 2010/2011 survivors, gets his second nomination of the day and having been deployed in his favoured position this season makes a mockery of the 'squad rotation` and 'aging bodies` clichés of fellow opponents. His heading ability as impressive as anyone in English football, his defensive attributes still as wily and crafty as they were three years ago. His pace and passing ability perhaps two of his weakest attributes but no one can deny the centre-back a place in QPR folklore let alone a spot in the comparison between two QPR teams.
Kaspars Gorkss was Neil Warnock`s mainstay in the QPR defence in 2011 and certainly assisted Kenny in keeping his record number of clean sheets. Though a little shaky at times, perhaps in fear of being partnered with Hall and Connolly more than anything, Gorkss displayed a level of defending that was appropriate for a Championship winning side (a promotion with Reading the following season further demonstrated his qualities as a talented defender). The Latvian gets the pick ahead of Clint Hill for this one; more so for his ability to offer his side a little more composure and intelligence than his equal.
VERDICT: KASPARS GORKSS
A big similarity between both the 2011 and the current side is their failure to consistently field two high-performing wingers. Gary O`Neil has been rotated with Matt Phillips and recently Yossi Benayoun on the right of midfield this campaign; a nasty injury to fans` favourite Jamie Mackie allowed Wayne Routledge to step in and take the berth on the right side of the pitch for the 2011 side. O`Neil has been largely inconsistent in an attacking sense but his defensive and hard-working duties have seen him picked for Redknapp more often than not.
Jamie Mackie`s lung-busting attacking and defensive runs set the stall out for a potent offensive threat for Warnock`s side and following Mackie`s injury, Routledge continued this impressive danger for the second-half of the season. Both wingers were often match-winners for their side and there`s no question they would have slotted straight into the current side. While Redknapp`s side have been somewhat laboured in the attacking third, both Routledge and Mackie were positive and threatening when circling the oppositions box.
VERDICT: JAMIE MACKIE/WAYNE ROUTLEDGE
While Junior Hoilett and Phillips have alternated this season, Tommy Smith and Hogan Ephraim exchanged roles on the left flank for Warnock`s side. Smith and Ephraim were best described as 'consistent performers` throughout the 2010/2011 campaign - they rarely beat men and a lack of goals were considered a problem but they still played an integral part in the majority of QPR`s impressive performances. Their consistency is in stark contrast to the current QPR midfielders; Hoilett started the season like he had finally decided to live up to the hype that was expected of the Canadian but injuries and a lack of confidence hampered his impressive early start.
Matt Phillips again may not possess the consistency his predecessors did, but his pace and ability to beat a man, albeit when he can be bothered it seems, makes him a dangerous Championship winger. Despite not primarily being employed on the left this season, he comes up against Smith and Ephraim in vying for a spot on the wing and gets the nod ahead of the two 2011 performers. If he was to get a good run of games under his belt, and play with a little less fear, he could crop up as one of the purchases of the season.
VERDICT: MATT PHILLIPS
The 'defensive midfielder` is a position that has been utilised by both Warnock and Redknapp, but in considerably different circumstances. Shaun Derry, who arrived amidst a wealth of disappointment, sat in front of the back four primarily to halt any opposition attacks and mop up any mess that Adel Taarabt had contrived to create up front. He performed his job superbly, going about his business in a way that let others shine but still growing into a champion for the Loftus Road faithful. His tiring legs, like Clint Hill, turned out to be not so tired and he easily made the 'Makelele` position his own.
Redknapp`s utilisation of a defensive midfielder has come in the shape of Tom Carroll, a diminutive player whose education through a highly-rated academy system can be seen by his clear technical style. The current Rs manager said upon Carroll`s arrival that all of QPR`s play would come through the Spurs loanee; his passing and incisiveness has, on the whole been, satisfactory. He is always an option for full backs and wingers, but his physical weakness and occasional wayward passing has done little to endear him fully to the QPR fans. The majority of Rs fans would take a fit and menacing Shaun Derry over the technical and mechanical play of Tom Carroll any day.
VERDICT: SHAUN DERRY
For every defensive midfielder a creative and artistic playmaker is required. Alejandro Faurlin, QPR`s impressive South American import, did not let the FA enquiry that shrouded the 2010/2011 side deter both classy and purposeful performances throughout that season. Warnock said that Faurlin was the best player he had ever had the pleasure of managing and his aerial threat, brilliant tackling and ingenuity in the middle of the park was a delight to watch. Goals were often hard to come by for the Argentinean and perhaps gives Joey Barton one extra tick to his name when comparing the two.
Barton has been handed a similar role to Faurlin this season; his composure and tenacity key to the way QPR are set up this campaign. The midfielder seems to have been forgiven by the QPR fans following his previous misdemeanours and has commendably repaid the faith shown in him with a string of level-headed performances. Barton, however, lacks the vision and class Faurlin possessed three years ago and his continual desire to play long cross-field passes seems to be the limit of his attacking creativity. Faurlin will never be forgotten for his inspiring midfield performances and undoubtedly wins this midfield battle.
VERDICT: ALEJANDRO FAURLIN
The ongoing comparisons between Adel Taarabt and Niko Kranjcar have sparked the scrappy debate between which complete side was/is better than the other. A ridiculous rumour implying Taarabt would be returning to Loftus Road seemed to ignite the discussion as to who fans would rather have in their team. There`s no denying both are far too good for this league; the way they go about their business is a joy to watch and both players` penchant for trying the outrageous has given both sides their entertainment factor. There`s only one winner for this spot though, and the goals and assists Adel Taarabt provided his side allowed him to singlehandedly get QPR into the Premier League.
Taarabt ripped apart teams with such ease on a regular basis, something which QPR fans seem to have all too quickly forgotten, and is the main reason the 2010/2011 side were so potent and enjoyable to watch. Kranjcar has yet to take a game by the scruff of the neck, something his counterpart did with such effortlessness, and while Kranjcar`s talents are clear to see, Taarabt with his nutmegs, creativity and flamboyance wins this encounter all day long.
VERDICT: ADEL TAARABT
Just as Taarabt was enjoyable to watch for his creativity, Heidar Helguson was enjoyable to watch for his aerial prowess and superb hold up play as a striker. Similar to Charlie Austin, the Icelander was utilised as a lone striker and did so to huge effect. His dodgy knee, akin to that of opposite number Austin`s, managed to hold up for the best part of a whole season and his experience, ability to bring others into play and all round attacking presence was a big factor in QPR`s 2011 promotion. The 13 goals he scored were far from terrible, given the goal threat Taarabt offered, but a real critic could possibly say he should have ended up with a few more.
Charlie Austin, on the other hand, already has 14 goals to his name this season and is well on course to become the first QPR striker to net 20 goals in a season for a very long time. Austin`s willingness to run and work opposing defenders throughout 90 minutes has not gone unnoticed and he could easily be described as the complete Championship striker. Strength, creativity, a superb work-ethic, great heading ability and most importantly goals has seen him become one of the most revered Championship strikers and gets the nod ahead of Helguson in this comparison. Let`s just hope his knee holds up.
VERDICT: CHARLIE AUSTIN
Date:Friday January 24 2014
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