On Saturday the Eagles have an easy away game against the league leaders QPR, so I popped over to Vital QPR with the usual questions.
With thanks to Boxer.
1) Is the season going as you expected and what has been the highlight and lowlight so far?
Evidently you will not need me to inform you that this season has been prosperous indeed, plenty of moments worth mentioning that served to epitomise the team spirit and creative talent the Rangers have in abundance at present.
Whether it be two goals in injury time to cap off a frankly unbelievable comeback against Derby, going unbeaten for so long in the Championship or even Adel Taarabt’s one-man goal of the season charge – all of the above have helped QPR remain consistent and remain at the top.
The only downsides I could single out in what has been an excellent season would be the home defeat against Watford, where in front of the viewing masses the QPR we know didn’t step forward, or the nasty injury to Jamie Mackie – an incident for which El-Hadji Diouf displayed his well-founded reputation.
The above is purely nit-picking and it is testament to Warnock and his back-room staff that I was scratching my head thinking of moments that made me wince this season.
2) Any January deals that we might not be aware of, but should look out for?
Our January signings have been well-documented, Wayne Routledge is probably the pick of those and the one that is bound to be most familiar to Palace supporters. The lively winger has been relatively consistent and links up well with Adel Taarabt – another angle of attack in what has been accused of being a one-dimensional side.
Other than that Dan Shittu’s return is something that has delighted supporters and added some depth at the back while Ishmael Miller and Tommy Smith continue to impress in their respective roles. Petter Vaagan Moen and Pascal Chimbonda will consider themselves unlucky not to have broken into the set-up while Troy Hewitt is a striker with bags of potential signed from non-league Harrow Borough.
3) Are you expecting to take 3 points this time, or given your lofty position has a bit of complacency set in and are you worried about back to back losses this week?
In light of the midweek defeat at Millwall and current off the field incidents it is imperative that QPR take all three points against Palace this weekend. The side seemed to be caught cold with a couple of hopeful long passes at the Den and will have to guard against this when the pace of Palace come to town.
Ostensibly however one defeat normally follows another and Neil Warnock will be doing all he can to get the players back on the title trail this weekend. I never expect in football, but I would certainly hope that we had enough in our armoury to defeat Palace this weekend.
4) Where do you see your current weaknesses? Any clues will be greatly welcomed 🙂
As odd as it sounds, the defence has proven a little bit fragile – owing maybe to the length of the season catching up on what was previously a very consistent rearguard. Kaspars Gorkss and Matt Connolly were dropped together, but football inevitably kicks you in the knackers and with Fitz Hall injured and Shittu suspended they will get their chance once more.
Pace against Clint Hill, as I’m sure you’re aware, is something that can trouble the veteran and he’ll need some cover if the R’s are to keep a clean sheet this time out. Nevertheless once again I am searching for reasons in what has been a tremendous season thus far.
5) Who will be your key dangerman?
Luckily we have them in abundance, the well-documented skill of Taarabt, the pace and creativity of Routledge all tempered by the steel of Shaun Derry and the shot-stopping prowess of Paddy Kenny. It is a lethal amalgamation of talents that can and should see Rangers over the line.
Taarabt is the obvious man to outline as he is so overtly skilful and clinical, and should this man be on his game he can trouble even the most ardent of defences. Where he fails Routledge may succeed, making Rangers a tough prospect for many sides at this level.
6) Do you believe Palace should be worried about our position in the table, or do you feel we will pull up the table and survive?
In truth I am far from expert on the current situation at Palace, other than to say that losing Neil Warnock along with some inflential players was evidently going to leave you weakened at the start of the campaign. George Burley cut a rather uninspiring figure, but now I think the club is in the right hands and moving in the right direction.
From the outside Palace seem to rely on the exuberance of youth, and this policy of throwing youngsters into the fray has been met with mixed results. Nevertheless Wilfried Zaha seems to be a lively player and it certainly makes you question the motives of John Bostock for leaving a club that could have developed him into a fine talent.
7) Are you expecting a different challenge now Freedman is at the helm?
Earlier in the season I thought Palace were good in spells but inconsistent. Getting caught out by the Helguson goal at the end was something I have seen in my side – it’s all too familiar when you’re at the wrong end of the table. Despite moments of real nervousness it would have been two points dropped from my perspective had Helguson not struck.
I expect the players to be suitably motivated, expressive and playing with the effervescence that the Eagles youth policy has produced. Watford had very much the same mantra and won comfortably in W12, so matters are far from a formality and QPR will have to guard against any form of complacency.
8) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
Last season without question I would have said Julian Speroni – but with Paddy Kenny between the sticks we too have a formidable ‘keeper at this level. Nathaniel Clyne and Anthony Gardener are useful defenders at this level but I would certainly take the former over the latter.
Clyne offers fantastic pace going forward and looks a seasoned pro already despite his tender age. He appears to belie his years with some vintage performances to catch the eye of the top flight and he will not only be a man to beat, but also to stop this weekend.
9) Who do you see as our main threat?
While Clyne offers something going forward and at the back I think the experience Steffen Iversen will be vital, along with the pace of Zaha who tormented Hill at times in the reverse fixture at Selhurst Park. Should the tactics be appropriate these two will take some stopping.
A player such as Iversen is always a gamble considering his age, but his pedigree does not lie and combine that with the various talented attributes in the Palace set-up, Rangers need to remain consistent if they are to take the maximum this weekend.
10) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?
Almost one of your biggest positives could also be construed as a negative – exuberance turns naivety on occasions and the youngsters of the side showed inexperience at Selhurst Park in letting a resilient QPR side back into the game in the latter stages.
A side with a soft underbelly, Palace will have to protect a fragile back four from the attacking ambition that the R’s front-four can provide. If Rangers can get in behind the likes of Danns, Dorman, Ambrose and get at the central defenders it could be a long afternoon for the visitors.
11) Finally, a prediction please…
I think and hope it will be a home victory – I will punt for 2-0, a goal either side of half time. Buzsáky seems to enjoy scoring against the Eagles while you can never count out Taarabt for getting on the scoresheet. That said Palace have a fairly decent record in W12 and the R’s will have to be at their best to achieve this.
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