After the Liverpool game, City reverted to type with a much more familiar looking 4-2-3-1. The experimental formation was gone and City were looking to basically flex their muscles at home and provide a convincing display.
QPR’s game plan was evident from their line up as well. A basic two banks of four. There was no surprise there, some new faces coupled with some defensive woes and it seems Hughes is opting to work on the defensive organisation of his team first.
How the game panned out
QPR set out to remain compact and narrow and limit City creating chances down the middle. They pretty much played in their own half for large portions of the game showing little to no ambition and inviting City onto them. They forced City out to the flanks – unfortunately City have good quality out wide and it was to be a trying day all round. QPR stayed in two deep banks of four and very narrow, leaving lots of spaces on the flanks and in behind the full backs.
This invited City to find a way around them. City countered this fairly easily in the opening exchanges and forced corner after corner. They spread the play and switched it when necessary, moving round the QPR midfield with ease at times.
In the last City game I covered, I highlighted two issues I thought City had. The first was their set piece delivery – absolutely appalling in every way imaginable. The second was the lack of a focal point up front for attack.
Clearly the City coaching team had taken these two factors into account. In came Dzeko allowing Tevez, Nasri and Silva to play their football while QPR’s defence were stretched the length of the pitch. The set pieces from City were of a much higher quality in this game. In as little as twenty minutes they could have been three nil up such were the chances that were fashioned. It was no surprise then to see Toure eventually put them one goal to the good from a set piece that was kept in the danger area.
Looking at the graphic we can see City managed to fashion 7 chances from set plays, with 4 of those on target and 1 leading to a goal. Dzeko, although he looked a shade below match fit made a magnificent contribution to City’s attack and retention of the ball up front. If a few layoffs had come to him earlier in the game as well (notably from Kolarov and Rodwell) he possibly would have had an hatrick.
He is able to to take the ball and then give it short to the likes of Nasri, Silva, Tevez and Toure who can weave their magic in the space he creates. As it stands a goal and an assist against QPR throws his gauntlet to Mancini.
Lack of pressure
The lack of pressure from QPR made it easy for City to retain possession and build from the back. It was no surprise then to see the pass combinations were highest amongst the defence Kompany to Lescott(21), Lescott to Kolarov(19(, Lescott to Kompany(16) with only Silva to Toure in the top four.
There were very few tackles or interceptions in the final third by QPR at all, effectively surrendering possession which made it difficult for them to get into the game.
If we take a look at where QPR put pressure on the ball we can see there’s not too much adventure in the final third, easing off there and happy for City to dictate the play.
As a result City were able to dominate possession in their own half straight away and build up concerted pressure which eventually told – backed up firstly by the almost flawless completion of passes in their own half, and then the ver high %age passing in the attack half. If QPR wanted something from this game, they didn’t put the graft in to earn it.
Throughout the time of duress in this game for QPR, Granero shone out as a beacon of quality. Not only with his creativity but also his tenacity. He did well when the ball was played in the centre and was involved in the most ground duels (12). He won 58% of them so isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty for the team. When he was in possession he also managed to retain it well and was a composed figure in there along with Ji-Sung Park. He was also amongst the most creative players for QPR rubbing shoulders with Park and Bosingwa for chances created. All in all he looks a good addition to the QPR team.
QPR final ball
One last point about QPR then was their final ball. Too many times it lets them down when they needed it the most. They had Zamora to aim for and with City’s defence looking at odds on several occasions I think there may be a sense of what if within the squad now. They lacked ambition really when counter attacking, only committing sporadically.
They had 3/18 successful crosses and only 1/3 corners. If you’re going to play the way QPR were set up then when you break you need to support the forwards. As it was everyone was withdrawn leaving Zamora up front on his own at times to battle for the ball. This is reflected in the fact he had 13 aerial duels and only managed to win 38% of them. He was isolated and therefore out-battled leaving very few second balls for QPR to seize.
It was always going to be a tough ask for QPR to go to City and get something but as QPR showed in patches they had the ability to hold onto the ball and play some nice stuff at times. Despite being dominated for the majority of the match they still managed to nab a goal and could have had more in truth.
It doesn’t get any easier for QPR over the next two games but after that I think there’s going to be a clear focus on what Mark Hughes’ ambitions are. The players ability might just outstrip them which may explain why he is a bookies favourite to be axed sooner rather than later.
For Mancini and his men, it was a case of tried and tested. They still lack a ruthless edge at the moment, which may just be early season blues and the defence is letting some cheap goals through as well. United look to have purchased the striker that can help them outscore the opposition when this happens, I’m still not 100% if City have that striker. They do have a decent spread of goals throughout their team though which again may be enough. It will be a fascinating battle either way.
- Good Read