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Queens Park Rangers 2 Bolton Wanderers 0: Five Things

What we learned from yet another away defeat.

Bolton Wanderers v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship
Antonee Robinson has struggled since the implementation of the 3-5-2 system
Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Wanderers have been rubbish away from home this season and were no different at Loftus Road. The travelling support deserve medals for having to put up with the consistently insipid displays away from Macron Stadium as they out sing every home support and turn up in their droves every time. Segwaying nicely onto my first point, here are my Five Things from the 2-0 loss in London.

Brilliant Away Support

I have attended more away games this term than ever before and while I always felt we had some of the best visiting support in the country, this has been proven this season. What sets us apart is the lack of reward we have got as away fans, yet we still turn up to fill allocations and sing for 90 minutes. In the aftermath of Mark Little’s sending off for 15 minutes Wanderers’ fans sang ceaselessly to get behind their stricken team. It was no surprise that this period coincided with our best spell of play at Loftus Road, showing just how the support can galvanise the team. I believe that we will be rewarded with consistency at some point, we just need to keep turning up.

What’s up with Mark Little?

His sending off was needless and cost us any chance of taking points off QPR and, personally, it was symptomatic of a player who has been struggling for form of late. It might not have been obvious, but the red card has highlighted the way Little has gone off the boil in recent weeks. He was hauled off against Fulham surprisingly early in the game and dropped completely against Cardiff because of this, something very unexpected for a player who had been my pick for the signing of the season to this point. Maybe the arrival of real competition at right-back in the form of Jon Flanagan has worried Little somewhat. For three games, at least, we will see how the former England international can fill in.

Defensive Aerial Frailty

As I have already stated in my ratings piece, our tall and muscular centre-halves, who used these attributes to become the meanest defence in the football league last season, were bullied at Loftus Road by Matt Smith. While we may eulogise Gary Madine, I have never seen the former Wanderers’ striker put in anywhere near the kind of performance that I saw from Smith. We all know the big man’s qualities, but we never expected to see Wheavers dominated in the manner they were. If they can’t cope with big strikers as well as small quick ones, what are they good for?

Who to play Up Front?

Tyler Walker was Sammy Ameobi’s partner up top for Wanderers against QPR and did quite well all things considered. Nedum Onuoha and Joel Lynch are fearsome competitors at this level and he held his own, something Zach Clough, for example, would definitely not have done. With the sale of Madine, Wanderers have an air of unpredictability up front with 3 or 4 players, if you include Connor Hall, who could claim to be the main striker. Assuming Parky is keen to keep Ameobi up there, he has to find him a consistent partner to hopefully build a partnership. While I still believe in Adam Le Fondre, I think the long term answer is Clough. I may have my reservations but he is undoubtedly one of our most skilled players and probably the only one with a footballing brain on a par with Sammy’s. They could prove a dangerous pairing if played correctly, i.e. ball to feet rather than hoof-ball, but it remains to be seen whether we have the quality to adapt to suit them.

3-5-2

Members and readers of Lion Of Vienna are well aware that I have had two meltdowns this season over the use of 3-5-2 against both Sheffield United and Bristol City. On both occasions Bolton won and I admitted I was proven wrong. Bolton’s two victories in these games were fantastic and the system seemed to be the reason we won but looking back at these matches critically what stands out is not the formation, but the performances of the players. We beat these teams through defenders putting everything on the line to keep clean sheets and the great showings of individual players won us the game. Madine won it at Bramall Lane while Ameobi did the same against Bristol. Maybe we won in spite of the formation not because of it.

In recent games we have been torn to shreds by Fulham, comfortably beaten at Cardiff and professionally put away by QPR. Only the wastefulness of these teams has kept the score lines down. At Loftus Road both Antonee Robinson and Little had two men to mark at any one time, a huge problem with 3-5-2, and I am sure they will have similar problems against Cardiff. The fact of the matter is that this system ruined our start to the season and I don’t want us to be fooled into thinking it is a long-term solution based on two great results. At Chelsea they knew 3-5-2 worked because they won 11 games on the spin with it. If we base our opinions on it on two results, then I think we are being foolish.