Queens Park Rangers: Which Defenders Should Start for QPR Against Tottenham?
Queens Park Rangers' new Sports Science Team is doing well then...
Anton Ferdinand, Fabio da Silva, Stephane M'bia and Armand Traore are all out injured for the game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday. With both Ferdinand and Fabio as regular starters this season, and M'bia with the potential to step straight into the first team once fit, these are big losses for QPR.
Let's face it, the Rangers' defense of late hasn't been that great; in fact, up until last weekend, there were fewer holes in a sieve. Add in to the mix that White Hart Lane isn't the easiest place to visit with a patchwork back four, and Mark Hughes has a selection headache ahead of him.
Luckily the decision of who to play at the back isn't yours or mine, but what options does Hughes actually have?
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Nelson's strength and aerial threat kept Torres at bay last weekend, and he looked comfortable against Manchester City. Even though Rangers ended up losing the game, he defended admirably.
However Nelsen's experience from playing at the top level since 2005, including at opposition Spurs, plus his recent performances surely make him a certain center back starter on Sunday.
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Nedum Onuoha has been used as a substitute by Mark Hughes this season, apart from the game against Swansea, where in all honesty, he looked poor.
Not closing down Michu for the first goal, and sending a stray ball directly into the Spaniard's path for him to set up Scott Sinclair for the fifth, may have cost him his place in the team.
Since then, however, his performances off the bench have been more convincing, and his flexibility to be able to play anywhere across the back should mean Onuoha gets a start, either at center back or left back, where his pace will be an asset.
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Clint Hill was one the Queens Park Rangers' heroes last season, and was justifiably awarded the Players' Player and Supporters' Player of the Season; however this year tells a slightly different story.
Hill couldn't cope with Swansea's pace in the first game of the season and was replaced midway through the second half. Hill, looking increasingly frustrated, also took an early bath against Norwich, as Mark Hughes substituted him before he got himself a red card. Since then, Hill has not made an appearance for the club.
As Tottenham play a similar style of football to Swansea, a team Hill visibly struggled against, Hughes may not want to take that risk of playing him on Sunday. However his strength and height could be an advantage should Emmanuel Adebayor or Clint Dempsey start for Tottenham.
In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hill start in the center with Nelsen, but I wouldn't put money on it, as I think Hughes may pull something different out from his sleeve.
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Classing Jose Bosingwa as a defender has always been ironic, as he would rather spend more time in the opposition's penalty box than his own. However, when Bosingwa does remember his place on the pitch, he can be strong, fast and cover a lot of ground.
The ex-Chelsea man will definitely start, but where is another question. Although naturally suited to playing on the right, Hughes may switch Jose over to the left for this game, a position he has played before; he seems to thrive from playing out of position.
With Bosingwa on the left, Nelsen and either Onuoha or Hill in the center, this leaves room for somebody to come in to play at right back. And I think this solution may well be one which surprises many, but the element of surprise is sometimes a good thing.
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And that element of surprise? Michael Harriman, the new defensive prodigy of Queens Park Rangers.
He has already impressed in preseason, and made his League debut as a substitute against Wigan last season. A relative unknown, Harriman could prove to be the key the Rangers' defense.
Andre Villas-Boas would have been preparing all week to have Gareth Bale face off against the renegade Jose Bosingwa, with Bale giving the Portuguese some slack, letting him run up field and then hitting Rangers on the break.
Stick Michael Harriman into the mix, however, and Hughes could throw AVB off track. Move Jose on the left to mark the slightly less threatening Aaron Lennon, and Rangers may well be able to steal something from the game.
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But what about the forgotten man? Step forward Kieron Dyer (without falling over and injuring yourself, please).
I know, the men in white coats are being sent out as we speak, but let me share my reasoning with you for just a minute: Kieron Dyer is a naturally right-footed player, he is strong in the tackle and Mark Hughes seems to rate him—which I think we all would if we could remember how he played.
His attacking mindset, tied in with his defensive qualities, could lend him well to the right back position. However, match fitness will be an issue, and with Gareth Bale as the opposition, perhaps the Dyer experiment should wait for another day.
The Final Four
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So who will be the final four? Julio Cesar needs adequate cover from his back line, as although he is the best keeper the West London side have seen since David Seaman, he is not superman.
Mark Hughes needs to think seriously about which players will give the Brazilian the most assistance against a Spurs team who are looking to make it two wins in a row.
Who will Hughes play on Sunday? More than likely it will be Bosingwa, Nelsen, Hill and Onuoha, since all these are seasoned defenders and are the obvious choice.
But who should Hughes play? I honestly believe Harriman, Nelsen, Onuoha and Bosingwa would provide a bigger challenge for the Spurs attack and could be the platform required for Rangers to spring a surprise.