Adel Taarabt: 2012 Report Card for the QPR Star
The 2012 segment of this Premier League season for Adel Taarabt has been a roller-coaster.
From signing a new contract and being offered the hallowed No. 10 shirt, to being frozen out on the bench by Mark Hughes, to masterminding Queens Park Rangers' long awaited first win.
With Taarabt, it is very easy to forgive and forget every time he fires miles over the bar, takes on too many players or fails to help his team out at the back—if he scores a sublime goal the week after.
But despite the emotional push and pull he puts his supporters through, how have his 2012 performances this season gone so far?
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Don't adjust your screens, that really is a picture of Taarabt making a tackle.
The 2012-13 season seems to be the year the Moroccan finally realizes football is not just played in the opposition's half. Through watching QPR's games, it is clear to see he is tracking back a lot more this season and helping out the defense.
But those who think he is suddenly up there with the best should take off their blue-and-white tinted glasses.
So far, he has only made 11 tackles: that is less than 0.8 per game (via WhoScored.com). Yes, he is on course to beat last season's total, and yes, he has improved immensely in his cover at the back. But Taarabt's defensive qualities still need a lot of work.
As shown in an EPL Index comparison, the 23-year-old is somewhat flaky when it comes to 50-50 challenges. Against Wigan, for example, he attempted just 10 of these challenges, and won none. But against Fulham, he won 57 percent of his 14 attempts—a huge contrast.
As in every aspect of his game, consistency is key. So despite his improvements, he needs to show his newfound defensive mindset regularly for an improved score.
But he is trying, and that is all that Rangers fans can ask for in their current predicament. Especially with the majority of the squad not understanding the term "hard work" (via Evening Standard).
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Despite some commenting on Taarabt's newfound maturity, statistically his disciplinary record looks to have, in fact, worsened.
Let's look at the figures: Last season he only picked up three yellows and a red, but this year he has found himself in the referee's book four times since Swansea (via Soccerbase).
Add to that the fact he only committed 19 fouls throughout 2011-12, compared to 11 already in 2012-13 (via WhoScored), and he is looking odds-on to pick up a few more cards before the season is out.
This could well be a combination of being given more playing time than last season and playing more defensively when it is required of him. The logical assumption then is that this will ultimately result in Taarabt committing more fouls, and therefore receiving more bookings.
He needs to continue to improve his timing, and not react when scythed down. But thanks to Taarabt's new willingness to defend, and the lack of childish arm-throwing in the air, his performances on the pitch look much more disciplined and mature compared to 12 months ago.
Despite what the stats may say.
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Although his discipline on the pitch seems to have been tamed a little, the difference off the pitch is perhaps the biggest improvement.
There was no Bosingwa-like strop when he was left on the bench in the early season. There has been no waiting at bus stops when he is taken off by the manager. And even Harry Redknapp, who once branded Adel a "fruitcake" has noticed the Moroccan has changed his ways (via Daily Telegraph).
His attitude has also improved in the media as well. When Sky Sports asked if he was going to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations, he was truthfully torn, debating whether to let down the fans of his club, or his country. Rather than simply choosing the easiest route.
He told the QPR official website:
It’s time for us to stand up and be counted. That’s what I’m trying to do. I know I have the ability to help the team get our first win. I’m going to try and do that and be a leader.
A far cry from the "world's greatest" comments he used to make. His arrogance will always be there, but his attitude has definitely improved, at least, in how he portrays himself.
It's not a completely transformed Adel, however, as 'Arry did admit he had to have a little chat with him after he was substituted during the Wigan game (via The Guardian). And these recent AC Milan talks are starting to echo the Taarabt of old (via Sky Sports).
But nobody's perfect. And Adel has always dreamed big.
Firstly, those who have watched Queens Park Rangers this season compared to last, will have seen how much Taarabt's passing has improved.
Second only to Alejandro Faurlin in the QPR squad, Adel averages just over 45 passes per game. (via WhoScored).
Last season, he only averaged 37 passes per game, albeit with a similar success rate to this season. But his most impressive improvement is in the number of long balls he plays. In 2011-12 he pinged 79 balls forward, 59 of which were successful (via WhoScored).
Compare that to this season, and he has nearly matched it (58/75)—and we're not even half way through yet.
Of course, statistics aren't everything, so watch Taarabt vs. Fulham in the video above to see his passing for yourself.
Goals Scored: A
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For every 13 shots that disappear into the stands, there is one that is an absolute peach.
Goals against West Ham, West Brom and Fulham this season have shown exactly what Adel is capable of, and he is currently Rangers' top scorer.
However, he has already had 52 shots this season with only a 2 percent conversion rate (via WhoScored).
Not the greatest goal-to-shot ratio of all time.
But his goals are sensational, and as such, he never goes for the easy shot. Something that can frustrate manager and fans alike. Nobody can argue that his finishes are top class, but Taarabt needs to work on scoring more than once every 13 attempts to be classed as one of the best finishers in the Premier League.
If I were comparing the number of chances to number of goals, then Taarabt would barely qualify for a grading. However, judging by the quality of those that hit the back of the net, Adel is no doubt an A.
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Adel Taarabt has been described as "mercurial but inconsistent" by BBC columnist Paul Fletcher, whereas former manager Neil Warncok opted for "talented, exciting and frustrating" (via BBC).
Anybody who watched the midfielder regularly will have the exact same opinion of the man.
One week, he can be unplayable, the next, he looks like he has forgotten to turn up at all.
Consistency is Taarabt's biggest downfall. If he can work on performing to a high standard regularly, he will have an enormous impact on the Premier League.
Martin Jol's opinion on Taarabt's erratic performances seem to be how most people view the midfielder (via Daily Telegraph):
He is a wizard—sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way. Wizards are more or less egocentric and selfish.
However Harry Redknapp, who has more experience with the 23-year-old than Jol, sums up working with the troubled genius in the Mirror Football:
He’s hard work. He was a complete fruitcake at Tottenham and he can still be a bit of a nut. But his heart’s in the right place, he wants to do well.
QPR fans will be hoping Redknapp can transform "wanting to do well" into "performing well" on a regular basis.
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Despite not being the complete all-round player his potential offers, Adel Taarabt is a game changer.
It was tempting to give Adel a higher overall grade, but his inconsistency called for a more sombre marking. At his best, he is an easy A. At his worst, a C, sometimes even a D.
His defensive and disciplinary skills need work (although showing a marked improvement on last season), but when he can score goals like he can (if he does so more regularly) then you know you have a gem in your team.
Frustrating, and cause for fans to either pull their hair out or jump for joy. Taarabt has undoubtedly been one of the stars of a very lackluster squad.
His trickery, his audacity and his willingness to try and make a difference is something that cannot be fairly graded, and if they could, he would be top of the class. The biggest sign of how much impact he has on the QPR team will come when he leaves for the Africa Cup of Nations.
His creativity and flair will be missed. The question is, just how much? And how much will the lack of Adel cost 'Arry and his Rangers?