Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Taarabt Problem

Queens Park Rangers are back in the Premier League and have adapted to life pretty reasonably sitting on 12 points which after 10 games in a competitive division is not bad and considering they have lost 4-0 (on the opening day to Bolton - who are now below them) and 6-0 away to Fulham (again who are below them), it should be considered a marginal success.  They sit mid-table and right now there are three teams worse than them - Wigan, Bolton and Blackburn.

However, there remain two problems.  Their lack of firepower up front will come back to haunt them - I saw them dominant a Newcastle team at home but failed to find the net resulting in a goalless draw.  They drew 1-1 at home to Aston Villa, again they dominated but required an own goal from the doyen Richard Dunne for that point.  And in the result of their season when they beat Chelsea 1-0 they needed a penalty (that was nearly saved) to win, and even after two Chelsea players were sent off, they were lucky to walk away with three points; as the nine men of Chelsea played much better.

Interestingly, Neil Warnock did a brave step.  During the second half knowing that Chelsea with two less men were winning the midfield battle - Lampard, Mikel, Miereles remained - he dragged off Adel Taarabt and put on Tommie Smith to stretch the field and hope Smith and Helguson could keep the ball for a long time.

Unfortunately, Taarabt's reaction to his substiution was followed by a typical hissy fit as he stomped down the tunnel to the changing room and did not sit and watch his teammates famous victory. 

At White Hart Lane, following a dominant first half display by the hosts that resulted in a 2-0 deficit Warnock again withdrew the Moroccan for Jay Bothroyd who did score the consolation.  Warnock must have done the change in the changing room to avoid another embarassing display of respect from his gifted midfielder.

Taarabt is finding how difficult it is to step up to the Premier League from the Championship is significant.  Much has been made of the glut of goals being scored in the EPL this season so far, but the defending is so much better at this pinnacle of our domestic game.  Taarabt has harder midfielders to push off, most are international players who watch the ball not the man and whilst Taarabt has the skill and audacity to attempt anything, he nevertheless remains a slight figure not strong enough to push off opposing players like a Paul Gascoigne and apart from the odd bit of inspiration he does not offer anything in terms of tracking back and defending to the team effort which asks a lot of Shaun Derry and Antoine Faurlin.

Yet I got to thinking of what would be the best formation for Warnock to adopt to allow the best of Taarabt, last season as they ran away with the Championship QPR for the most part played two strikers with Taarabt playing off of or behind them allowing him to pull strings and influence play.  This season, in an attempt to shut up shop and consolidate in an attempt to be a team difficult to break down and score against.

Currently the formation reads 4-2-1-2-1: with Taarabt the first individual in front of Derry and Faurlin and behind Joey Barton and Shaun Wright-Phillips with one of Helguson, Smith and Bothroyd the lone striker.

Taarabt has not been given the opportunity to play behind a two prong attack, perhaps the formation should be closer to the 3-5-2 which took off in the Balkans and Central Europe during the 1980s because it allows a central midfielder to play allowing the use of a playmaker or most talented player, giving him leash to play knowing that there are two players behind to fulfil defensive duties (Wilson 2010: 282-285).  This has not worked yet becasue Warnock has not tried it.

I would suggest a formation of 3-5-2: Young, Hall, Ferdinand; Derry, Faurlin, Barton, Wright-Phillips, Taarabt; Helguson, Bothroyd.  This would allow allow Taarabt to put some influence on the goal-scoring opportunites, he is not even providing assists to the front line.  By moving Taarabt to the left wing and coming in like say Thierry Henry, would allow him to be explosive and move Barton into the middle of the park where he would be intimidating to the opposition.  By having Taarabt be in the centre is inviting more physical midfielders to tackle him and frustrate him.

Obviously though, the players are getting certain results and once Taarabt departed Rangers did play better and scored the goal to make it 2-1 with a chance to equalise before Gareth Bale's sublime second goal to seal the 3-1 victory.

This is not the end of Taarabt, even though he restated his wish to leave in the January transfer window.  Yet unlike other mercurial wonders like Gascoigne and Matt Le Tissier who even on off days would provide something to the team morale, Taarabt is a confidence player and maybe one goal will change the tide and resurrect his season.

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