I’ve been pleased and excited by what I’ve seen in the short pre-season clips on the Official QPR website. It gives us some clues and pointers with how we’re going to play this season.
They can be seen in this clip here and the shooting training drill overseen by Les Ferdinand. These tell us a lot about how our approach play might look like and what Chris Ramsey has in mind for us this season.
In the first clip pay attention to the action on 1:17 and 1:29 and the entirety of the second.
If we put the actual finishing aside for a moment, you can see a lot of focus has been put on the type of ball being delivered into the box, which from both clips is from high and wide areas, with the type of ball in being one that’s flashed or rolled across the face of the goal.
It’s the kind of ball that suits a nippy ‘fox in the box’ type of finisher and it’s pleasing to see Ferdinand working on that type of movement across the near post on his strikers in his drill, and it’s the type of ball in that creates havoc and second spills – the type of spills a certain Jamie Mackie is excellent at pouncing on to finish or for the wide man on the opposite side to arrive late and fire home.
But what does this tell us and mean? The whole set-up looks like a potential 4-3-3 formation will be employed, because it’s usually this formation that allows for the type of deliveries and movement we’re seeing here from these clips. It encourages the wide player on the other side to join in and get into the penalty area too – it’s primarily designed to be a counter attacking set-up and reminds me of how Crystal Palace play under Alan Pardew.
Which brings me onto style of play. When I watched Palace last season, they reminded me of us back in the day – a side playing fast, direct counter attacking play that focused on their strengths in wide positions. They were a handful, and I couldn’t help but wish we played more like that, and that is much more the style we appreciate at Loftus Road.
This formation requires a strong physical striker in the central position and two versatile players on either flank, and we have options here.
Charlie Austin, Sebastian Polter, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Mackie can all play in the central role, but perhaps Polter will be the surprise starter. It’s a role for a physical player who plays for the team and it’s not one where the striker is expected to play off the shoulder all the time. It will be his job to get into the box and onto the end of deliveries, but the runners in behind tend to be the ones out wide or deep from midfield.
That sets us up nicely for the likes of Emmanuel-Thomas and Mackie in those wide positions, who I suspect will be used there, even if we do have Matt Phillips and Junior Hoilett on our books.
No matter how much we’d like them to stay – I don’t really expect to see Austin and Phillips remain at Loftus Road. They are Premier League players now and deserve to be playing their football there. So the likelihood is our front three will be a variation made up of Polter up top with Emmanuel-Thomas and Mackie supporting him on the flanks.
If the central striker is more of a hold up player in the mould of Austin or Polter, then expect the runner from midfield to join in or get beyond to be Leroy Fer, Massimo Luongo or possibly Ben Gladwin. They have the legs to do it.
The key to this system working is our ability to find the wide players with quality balls. If we can win the ball and switch play quickly to one of the wide players, we will be an obvious threat on the counter attack. Therefore the technical details matter – the passing ability of players like Luongo and Alejandro Faurlin could be crucial in making this work.
I’m excited by these possibilities – it will be obvious immediately when we come out against Charlton Athletic on what we have and haven’t worked on. As ever, even with a focus on our attack, there needs to be a plan of action for when moves break down and how we react defensively to that. That’s the key to getting the balance right, but that’s why it’s exciting to see whether Ramsey’s ability on the training pitch can pay off.
We will still need patience and time of course, but there’s lots of good potential here.