Monday, October 1, 2012

Recap: West Ham 2-1 QPR

West Ham scored twice from lofted crosses to the back post to secure a win in a gritty game lacking in technical quality.

Combined, the two sides completed just 504 passes, the third fewest in a Premier League game this season (Reading vs. Stoke produced a remarkably low 369 completed passes and Norwich vs. QPR had just 455 completed passes).

West Ham lined up in a 4-5-1 with Carlton Cole given the start at forward. Andy Carroll returned to the substitutes bench after being sidelined with a hamstring injury. QPR employed a 4-4-2 with Djibril Cisse and Bobby Zamora at forward. Shaun Wright Phillips played right wing and Ji Sung Park operated on the left but slightly more narrow.

Central Midfield Zone

West Ham's 4-5-1 gave them a man advantage in the center of midfield and they used their numerical superiority to completely prevent QPR's two central midfielders, Esteban Granero and Alejandro Faurlin, from getting on the ball. With virtually no presence in the center of midfield, QPR struggled to link play between defense and attack and were forced too often to hit hopeful long balls to the corners for Cisse and Zamora. Faurlin and Granero completed just 46 and 35 passes respectively, fairly low numbers for center midfielders. Combined they completed only 20 passes in the attacking third. It was apparent within 25 minutes that QPR needed an extra man in the center of midfield to allow them to get some possession and build play through the midfield. However, Mark Hughes stuck with just the two center midfielders for the whole first half and QPR continued to struggle to develop any rhythm in their play.

West Ham's Crossing and Direct Play
Despite their numerical advantage in the center of midfield, West Ham showed little interest in using the extra man to control possession. They looked to get the ball in wide areas to wingers Matthew Jarvis and Ricardo Vaz Te to send crosses into the box or knock the ball long into Cole for him to flick on. The midfield trio of Kevin Nolan, Mark Noble and Mohamed Diame completed just 26, 46 and 22 passes respectively. When they did get the ball they looked to shuffle it to Vaz Te and Jarvis. As is so often the case at West Ham, Cole was often an isolated figure up front but he did well to hold the ball up and flick on aerial challenges. When the Hammers played the ball long out of the back, Jarvis would tuck in and run behind Cole for the flick. It was pretty rudimentary stuff but QPR never looked comfortable defending crosses into the box.

Sam Allardyce was forced to make two like-for-like substitutions in the first half when Winston Reid and Joey O'Brien had to exit due to injury for West Ham. James Tomkins replaced Reid and George McCartney replaced O'Brien.

After 56 minutes Hughes finally addressed the need for extra bodies in the center of midfield and replaced Wright-Phillips with Samba Diakite and Park with Adel Taarabt. Diakite played in the middle, forming a central midfield trio with Fuarlin and Granero. Taarabt played narrow on the left but cut into the middle frequently and seemed to be given free reign to move into positions to get on the ball. The change in shape paid immediate dividends for QPR. Diakite provided an extra body in the midfield and some powerful runs forward while Taarabt gave QPR some creativity and urgency in the final third. Immediately the home sign began to control the play and were finally able to effectively transition the ball from the defensive third to attack. Taarabt's goal was a bit of individual brilliance but he was able to cut in from the left and take the shot because West Ham's center midfielders were occupied elsewhere.

With his side clinging to a 2-1 lead and being overrun in the center of the park, Allardyce would have been wise to use his final substitution to pull either Jarvis or Vaz Te for a player that could compete and win balls in the center of midfield. Yossi Benayoun and Gary O'Neil were the only two midfielders on the West Ham subs bench so O'Neil probably would have been the preferred choice. However, Allardyce elected to go with another like-for-like sub, replacing Cole with Carroll.

Just three minutes after Carroll's introduction, Diakite picked up a second yellow for QPR. Their brief spell of midfield dominance ended and West Ham were able to see out the 2-1 win.

This was a game of rather poor quality but an entertaining one to watch develop nonetheless. Against a relatively combative West Ham center midfield three, Hughes should have moved away from his 4-4-2 with wingers earlier to get an extra body in the center of midfield. He ultimately made the right substitutions but why he waited 11 minutes into the second half when it was painfully obvious QPR had no midfield presence is a mystery. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please participate in the discussion.