Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Swansea vs QPR: Pre-match musings

With 'Arry's big-money squad in town, what do the Swans need to do to get the three points?

At the final whistle on Saturday against Crystal Palace I was left with mixed emotions. On the one hand, a point is a point and Crystal Palace are no pushovers. On the other, our performance up to scoring led me to believe that had we performed for even close to ninety minutes, then we would have been good enough for the win.

It would be all too easy to just simply say "let's forget about it and move on to QPR", but there are lessons to be learned from every match - indeed every training session - and I'm sure Monk is far more aware of that than I am. One of the biggest problems against Palace was a lack of a coherent midfield after our opener. Jonjo seemed to spend a lot of his time out of position, and this was only exacerbated after their equaliser from the penalty spot. It was as if Jonjo was (understandably) trying to make up for having given away the penalty, when in fact he'd have been better served looking to calm things down and get his foot on the ball.

There were a few examples of this. While his chance at the end of the first half should have been converted, why is one of our supposedly defensive minded midfielders latching onto a cross at the back post? That's where our wingers should be, surely? I also noticed in the second half that for long periods of the half Ki was running around trying to cover spaces created by a disjointed midfield, while Gylfi was visibly exhausted at the final whistle for the same reason. 

With that in mind it says how well Ki played that he looked cool throughout, and in particular his dominance in the air was very interesting to see. I can't say I've ever noticed he's particularly good aerially before, but I'd wager Monk has been giving him one on one tuition as I don't think he missed a header all game. 

Quite simply, we lost control of the game. We had it, and we gave it away. Yes, Palace made changes and they deserve credit for that, but they were never in as much control of proceedings as we were for the first fifteen minutes or so. They couldn't live with us, and we could (and should) have scored at least twice in that period. Once again not taking chances has cost us points. 

If memory serves correct, we've now scored first in nine games, and while we have let some points slip it's not that much of a cause for concern. Ok, giving away leads to Palace & Newcastle at home is frustrating, but the others were Chelsea & Man City so let's be realistic; at this juncture we're doing ok. What's more, we've scored first in nine of thirteen games. That, to me, is incredible. I'd much rather start every game with a goal head-start, and that's essentially the case if you're scoring first in 69% of games. Scoring first is crucial, and harnessing this - as Monk has so often spoken about, game management is key - will be key in determining how we fare this season.

And so to tonight. QPR visit, and you can take your pick of the statistics which say "Swansea should win". QPR have lost their last seven away from home, have failed to score in seven of their last nine away, and have conceded at least twice in eight of their last ten. If you were a QPR fan, you'd be understandably concerned at such statistics. 

In my opinion though, they will come good. They simply have too many good players to be relegated. Again. Steven Caulker (boooo), Charlie Austin, Joey Barton (boooo), Niko Kranjcar, Sandro, Ale Faurlin, Loic Remy, Adel Taarabt... there is simply no way that squad should be even close to relegation, and murmer it quietly, but QPR are improving. 

Just look at their last few results. In the last seven Premiership matches they came from behind to beat Leicester, only lost 1-0 to in-form Newcastle, held Man City 2-2 & only lost by a goal in a 2-1 defeat at Chelsea. There was also a narrow 3-2 defeat to Liverpool, and when you consider all of those results have come since the 19th of October, it is - in my opinion at least - just a matter of time until they come good.

This is why we need to stamp our authority on the match. It is now clear for all to see we're scoring early goals. Let's go do it again. Crucially though - let's not let up after one. We need to go for the kill, and make sure there's no way back for a QPR side who have already had their fair share of high-scoring, end-to-end affairs this season. We can't afford to be dragged into something like this - instead we need to get a two-goal lead before ramming it home with a vintage display of possession football. Let the ball do the work, and QPR will be chasing shadows.

Before Crystal Palace I was hoping for six points from these two home games. With a point gained from Palace it's now more important to claim all three points tonight. Jonjo's performance against Palace wasn't the best, and I'd prefer to see Carroll (excellent in his last two outings, and a former QPR loanee) reinstated alongside Ki with Sigurdsson ahead. As mentioned, we need to score early and emphasise the point - I think that midfield would be able to facilitate that, and then early in the second half (all going to plan) Leon Britton could be brought on to steady the ship and close the win out.

This is a game that, despite QPR's star-studded squad we should be winning. We have our own stars now in Bony, Sigurdsson et al, and in my opinion we have a better-functioning team unit. One which will hopefully see us claim all three points.