It’s a fact, QPR have scored the second most number of goals from ‘outside the box’ in the Premier League all season with 10, only Chelsea with 11 have more. Now that is impressive.
Yet QPR have actually only scored 29 goals all season, the fewest in the whole of the league. Not so impressive and in the context of the season as a whole, simply disastrous.
These 2 facts tell their own story and it is this lack of goals which ultimately explain why the R’s are going down.
The R’s have scored almost one-third of their goals from outside the box, whereas those towards the top of the league have quite different ratios – Man Utd (1 in 8), Chelsea (1 in 7) and Tottenham (1 in 6). This all goes to prove that a team cannot rely on the spectacular, wonder goals should be the icing on the cake. It is the routine and mundane goals that win matches and win trophies.
Furthermore, when a team’s top scorers only have 5 goals to their name all season, as is the case for the R’s right now, it is highly likely that they are going to be in trouble. It was the same story last year but Cisse came to the rescue just in time.
In this season of despair and turmoil, there have been few moments to celebrate yet some of these goals from ‘outside the box’ have been truly memorable. Let’s indulge for a moment…..Adel Taarabt has scored 4 of them, 3 against Fulham of which the mazy dribble followed by the delicate caress into the bottom corner was simply world class. His long range screamer against West Ham was even MOTD’s ‘goal of the month’ back in October. Adel does not score routine goals, his only goal from inside the box was the pirouette volley at West Brom, which was delicious too. Granero similarly struck at The Hawthorns, albeit his delicate chip was a mere consolation in the context of the match, in a very disappointing season for him. Of the others, who can forget Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas’ wonderful strikes to win the game against Sunderland as the R’s suddenly started to look as though they might stage a miraculous escape. Townsend followed up with another long range effort at Villa the following week as his confidence surged.
But the 2 that will probably stick longest in the memory will be SWP’s magnificent low strike at Stamford Bridge to beat Chelsea and, arguably the R’s goal of the season, Loic Remy’s unbelievable side-footed finish at home to Wigan. The joy around Loftus Road at that moment can only really be compared to Cisse’s winner against Stoke this time last year or Paul Furlong’s against Oldham in 2003, such was the significance and emotion of the moment. Alas this crop of Rangers did not have the nous and wherewithal to hang on and Wigan’s equaliser minutes later felt like a dagger through the heart. That moment encapsulated the season in many ways and as the net bulged following Maloney’s free kick over the wall, the death knell sounded, the R’s were going down.
In sport there is often talk about ‘winning ugly’, explaining the ability of players to win matches when they are not on form, to scrap it out and have the will and determination to put their body through pain and hurt to grind out a result. Victories of substance rather than style. A comparison can be drawn with many of the R’s players this season, who most certainly did not put themselves through the pain barrier to try and force a victory. This is particularly relevant to scoring goals, where the lack of goals from ‘inside the box’ often reflected a lack of effort and desire to make those runs into the danger areas, the areas where it might hurt, the areas where those ‘ugly’ goals might be scored. How often were the fans screaming for players to get forward?
This lack of desire or effort to get forward is reflected in that only 2 goals have been scored by tap-ins in open play from inside the 6 yard box, Mackie at Man Utd and Bothroyd at Southampton, closely followed by Zamora’s at Norwich, albeit that was a follow up to Cisse’s saved penalty, and his close range header at Man City. But these ‘poacher’ type goals have been few and far between.
Rangers’ other ‘Achilles heel’ has been the set piece. Whilst some of the goals in open play were sensational, the use of the dead ball has been incredibly poor. 3 penalties saved, no goals scored from a free kick and only one from a corner, Nelson at Wigan, which is simply not good enough at this level when defences are so tight. By way of comparison, Man Utd and Norwich have both scored 15 set piece goals.
Indeed Rangers have only scored 4 headed goals in the league all season, Zamora and Nelson as mentioned above, plus Mackie and Hoillett scoring at home against Villa and Southampton respectively. Chelsea lead the way with 17 headed goals, Everton have 14. What a difference it makes.
So as we look back and reflect on the season, we can wonder at the likes of Remy, Townsend and Taarabt, the likes of whom may not be seen at Loftus Road for many years, and how they brought such excitement and hope. Yet despite their talents and some sensational goals from ‘outside the box’ ultimately they can only be regarded as a scant consolation for it has been Rangers’ lack of spirit, desire and goals from ‘inside the box’ which has led to their downfall. The memories will fade yet the scars may linger far longer.