QPR 1-2 Spurs: route one undone by the run

An important win ground out against a determined side sees it finish QPR 1-2 Spurs at Loftus Road.

“We showed big character in a stadium and on a pitch that was difficult to play,” purred a delighted Mauricio Pochettino after our latest hard fought victory. The game may have been rather agricultural, but we withstood a late onslaught for it to finish QPR 1-2 Spurs.

Route one Rangers

When Chris Ramsey was assisting Tim Sherwood at Spurs, we saw how the coaching pair liked to get the ball early to the striker in order to move play quickly forward.

Naming two defensive holding players in midfield in Sandro and Karl Henry and going with two up top here, Ramsey continued with similar tactics. Maybe saying that it was all route one might be a bit unfair, but the ball was constantly being moved over Sandro and Henry’s midfield zone, often bypassing it completely.

If only to highlight this point, strikers Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora received the ball 65 times, central midfielder duo Sandro and Karl Henry just 27 times. What’s more, a quick check of Whoscored.com saw QPR play 86 of their 287 passes long, the equivalent of 1 in 3.

These tactics were designed to get the ball quickly up to the strike pair so that QPR could work off them. They would look to either create a shooting situation from the knock down or they wanted to work the ball in to a position to cross it. QPR were getting men up quickly in to the box in support and were at it from the start. The kick-off was sent downfield, earning a throw-in. Yun put a long throw in to the box and after the loose ball was recycled and hooked back across goal, Zamora headed it off the top of the bar.

QPR’s better chances would also arrive via getting the ball up-field quickly. A long ball forward was flicked on by Zamora and then also by Charlie Austin, setting Matty Phillips free to run on to it, but an un-composed shot was lashed wide.

Later, Kyle Walker would commit an almost fatal error, the likes of which we have seen plenty of from our team in recent Weeks. Again, it came from an agricultural hoof forward as Nedum Onuoha launched the ball up in the air. Eric Dier half cleared it, but Walker’s attempted back header towards Hugo Lloris was intercepted by Austin. Fortunately, an average touch gave our French stopper the chance to steal in and punch it away.

Surprisingly, QPR’s best chance of the first half came when they actually played the ball through midfield. Steven Caulker intercepted Ryan Mason’s pass and moved the ball quickly to Matty Phillips, continuing his run forward. Caulker then screened Eric Dier as Phillips played a pass for Austin to run in to the space created by Caulker’s block off. Austin rifled his shot off the bar, when it looked easier to score.

Defensive organisation

QPR have shipped the most goals in the Premier League and it’s easy to see why with their defensive organisation. The team has chopped and changed at the back and they were getting pulled around in two ways.

The first was by being drawn towards the ball and leaving gaps for us to run in to. We can see here how Harry Kane has possession, drawing the attention of both defensive midfielders and the two centre backs, leaving acres to left back Yun. On this occasion it allowed Kyle Walker in for a shot that deflected off Ryan Mason and was saved by Robert Green.


CMFs (Sandro, Henry) and CBs (Caulker, Ferdinand) are drawn in.

Here, Kane again sucks three players in as he releases Kyle Walker once more. There are huge gaps between the back four, especially left back Yun and his centre backs.


QPR’s back four get stretched.

The second way we were puling them around was by getting in-behind and that is how our two goals arrived.

Spurs running in-behind

QPR were trying to get forward quickly and that was their undoing with a lack of pace at the back to recover.

We took the lead through a set piece, but it came after a breakdown in the play at our end, with QPR over-committing men forward.

Harry Kane was released. He tried to run in-behind with the ball, but was caught and fouled by Steven Caulker.


Caulker catches Kane trying to run in-behind.

The resulting free kick was swung in by Andros Townsend and headed home by Kane with QPR making a number of errors defensively.

The first was their extremely high line from the free kick. This left an ocean of space between the defenders and Robert Green; prime real estate for us to put a ball in to.


QPR’s line is too high.

Green wasn’t out quickly enough and QPR were slow to react as the ball came in.

Nedum Onuoha, who didn’t take charge of the situation as he covered Harry Kane, committed the second mistake. Maybe Onuoha got a shout, maybe he didn’t, but he didn’t jump nor try to clear the ball either and Kane went over the top of him to head it in.

The goal had come from a free kick, but it had been made possible by Kane running in-behind the slower QPR defence.

After taking the lead, we created some more good opportunities to double our advantage. These seemed to all come through the QPR inside right channel, an area occupied by Rio Ferdinand and one that we had looked at in the keys to QPR vs Spurs.

Jan Vertonghen rampaged forward through this corridor and with a better touch, could’ve had a glorious chance to beat Robert Green. Christian Eriksen then pinged a shot off the post from here at the start of the second half, before Harry Kane charged through this channel to make it 2-0.

QPR had made a change at half time and they came out with a much higher defensive line, as they tried to push the play up our end. Of course this runs the risk of being got at on the counter by runs in-behind, especially when your centre backs are so slow.

Ryan Mason had the ball in midfield and without any pressure on him, had time to pick out the run of Kane through the QPR inside right channel with a ball over the top.


Mason releases Kane through the QPR inside right channel.

Rio Ferdinand was extremely slow to react knowing he would never catch the Hurrikane and Steven Caulker was equally sluggish as Nacer Chadli also ran off him.

Kane darted forward and on to the pass and showed great composure to round Robert Green and slide the ball in to the back of the net.

Two goals and both from Kane running in-behind the QPR defence.

QPR crossing

QPR were trying to move the ball forward quickly by going long to their strikers or working crossing situations. It was through the latter that they gained a lifeline in a match they looked all but out of.

The passage of play started with the ball being put long and a throw-in won deep in our half. This was quickly taken up the line to Charlie Austin who had sucked in four of our defenders. We hadn’t been having a great day defensively, but here we were over-committed in the corner and needed to win or at least block the ball.


Four Spurs players get sucked in.

Austin’s fizzed-in cross went straight to Bobby Zamora who was able to lay it back to Sandro to drive home.

The goal ignited QPR’s crowd and the team’s spirit with the game now back on again. After being in control, we were suddenly under pressure as the match became extremely agricultural and Sunday League. The ball was being launched forward by QPR who were going in search of an equaliser, but also by us as we sought to clear. It spent an extra-ordinary amount of time in the air, which played right in to QPR’s hands.

With the ball being sent back and forth, Chris Ramsey, who was trying to bypass his midfield anyway, took off his two central midfielders. He replaced them with smaller, nippier goal scorers who could profit from knockdowns in Shaun Wright-Phillips and Reece Greco-Cox.

With time running out, the most controversial moment of the game arrived. It started from a long punt up-field that Bobby Zamora sought to bring down. He was fouled and QPR earned a free kick. We’d looked at how Chris Ramsey overloads the back post from set pieces in the keys to QPR vs Spurs. Rangers did that here as they got three men round the back as the ball was slung in.


QPR back post overload.

Steven Caulker headed it down and Charlie Austin was first to the loose ball. He swung his leg at it and the ball went straight in to Nabil Bentaleb’s arms, which were going up to shield his face. Referee Craig Pawson waved away any protests. It would have been a harsh penalty, but no complaint could’ve been made if it was given.

As the final whistle blew, the reaction of the players, Kane especially, was one of joy, relief and jubilation.

QPR 1-2 Spurs overall

To pull out a win on a difficult pitch in our third match in six days is testament to how far the team have come this season. The game wasn’t pretty, and at times it was very agricultural, but we ground out a result in difficult circumstances.

The key was running in-behind QPR’s defence, but we also did well to stretch it and open them up through the inside channels.

To survive the aerial bombardment of the last 15 minutes also attested to our defence’s bend but don’t break attitude. This, in spite of some of the keystone cops moments we saw in the first half.

Bobby Zamora has bullied other teams in to submission this season. Although he wasn’t fully contained here, he was controlled to a large enough degree that he wasn’t able to influence the game as much as he would’ve liked.

Final score: QPR 1-2 Spurs.

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4 Responses to QPR 1-2 Spurs: route one undone by the run

  1. Reinert 9th March 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    Great read, Mark!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th March 2015 at 10:00 am #

      Thanks for reading Reinert.

  2. AJS 9th March 2015 at 7:29 pm #

    As always, great analysis. Your site is a must-read.

    One thing that I struck me both before, and then during, the game is that this might have been a good match for Fazio. Before Dier replaced him, he had some games where he was dominant in the air. I know there is real merit to keeping a consistent back four and Fazio is definitely vulnerable to teams with pace, but it felt like this game where he might have been a good choice. Thoughts?

    Another thing that was noteworthy was that it seemed like we had far less penetration down the left with Davies in for Rose. I think this is something you’d flagged earlier in the season, but I was wondering if the analytics bore out my impression.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 10th March 2015 at 10:16 am #

      Great comment AJS. I agree this could have been a game for Fazio, especially with so many matches in a short period of time that we’ve had. I was surprised that Davies for Rose was his only change. Was also interested to see that Dembele was left out again when his physical size and presence would have benefited us here.

      Rose does seem a lot more attack minded than Ben Davies. A quick check on some stats reveals:

      Danny Rose:
      Mins per pass received: every 1.6 mins
      Final third touch: every 5.5 mins
      Pen area touch: every 63 mins
      cross: every 26 mins
      cross completion: 21.5%
      Mins chance created: every 83 mins

      Ben Davies:
      Mins pass received: every 2.4 mins
      Final third touch: every 5.6 mins
      Pen area touch: every 135 mins
      cross: every 33 mins
      completion: 12%
      Mins chance created: every 102 mins

      Davies receives a lot less of the ball, but interestingly they are very similar when comes to getting it in the final third (5.6 mins to 5.5 mins). However, the difference comes in penalty area touches (Rose: 63 mins; Davies: 135 mins) and also crossing (26 mins to 33 mins) and completion.

      These stats highlight the penetration that Rose gets. Both get up to the final third, but then Davies is less aggressive to get up higher and cross or create chances.