QPR and a New Season

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Shamrock Rovers v Queens Park Rangers - Pre Season Friendly

It’s just a few short hours until the season starts again. In the morning I’ll go through my usual pre-match ritual. Then I’ll make my way over to Loftus Road for around 11am, and start getting my head ready for the challenge ahead.

As much as I’ll try to treat it just like any other game, somewhere inside of me the knowledge that I’m starting a new season in the most competitive league in the world will add an extra dimension to it. For me, it feel’s like I’m back where I belong, and I know that everyone at QPR believes that this is where the club’s long-term future lies. We all feel positive about the season ahead for a few different reasons.

The coaching set-up

I’ve been working with Harry, Joe and Kevin for a while now and the pre-season we’ve all had has been great. The coaches and the fitness staff have really put us through our paces, and everyone is raring to go. Then there’s the fact we’ve just added Glen Hoddle to the coaching set-up, which is fantastic. The experience he brings, the style he’s known for and the insightful way he decodes the game will be an amazing addition to the collective effort. For me, the last proper England team we had, the last one that played with any style, passion and flourish was the team Glenn managed in France 98 – the only reason that team never got further was Beckham’s petulant kick at Simeone, and the fact that we had to go to pens.

The players

The team we had in the Championship had a lot of quality and a lot of fight, and for me that team would have been good enough to survive in the Prem. I’m looking forward to seeing Charlie Austin have a pop at the top league – having started out where he started, he knows what it means to fight for a game, and I know he fancies himself against any defence in the league on his day. As you’d expect from Tony Fernandes and Harry Redknapp, the club have also made some very astute signings this summer. Signing Rio and Steven Caulker at the back will give us even more solidity back there alongside Clint Hill, Richard Dunne, and Nedum Onohua, while signing Jordan Mutch and Mauricio Isla in midfield gives of more strength in depth, more drive and more versatility in midfield.

A good pre-season

We’ve kept the good form from last season going into pre-season. There weren’t many QPR players involved heavily at the World Cup, so most people came back to pre-season on time and ready to go. Except Julio Cesar, but he seems to have recovered well! I’ve already written about my pre-season experience, so I won’t go over it all again. But I will say that the hard yards in training, the positive results in the games and the integration of the new players by travelling to Ireland and Germany with them, has given me a really positive feeling for the season ahead.

Obviously, we’ve got to be realistic and remain grounded. But I reckon with the squad we have, the managerial experience on the sideline and the fact many of us has been here before, we’re gonna give it a right good go.

Come on you R’s!

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A QPR Pre-Season Diary: Part Two

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Not sure how many of you would have seen the video diaries I did when QPR went on a preseason tour to Germany, so I thought it’d be worth posting them on here. It was an interesting few days. Lots of work on getting the team shape sorted with three at the back and integrating Rio and Steven Caulker into the team. It was an eventful few days too. Segway crashes. Two games. Danny Simpson’s embarrassing man crush. The gaffer’s posh food tastes. A bit of table tennis. And some god-awful initiation songs.

Day One

An early morning session in the UK then off to Germany.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSSBGT-VtLk&list=PLpVzke1o7tUf_ir17JpuDwl7vhFwHfnKH

Day two

Our first game against and another 1-0 thanks to Charlie Austin.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UAKHh5ht7Y&list=PLpVzke1o7tUf_ir17JpuDwl7vhFwHfnKH

Day three

Steven Caulker signs, a light day’s training and then out for dinner… and some rapping from Rio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MRNlFBwz2dE&list=PLpVzke1o7tUf_ir17JpuDwl7vhFwHfnKH

Day four

More team shape work, an afternoon of fitness work, a BBQ at the hotel because and Clint Hill’s snoring.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=du6ieJs6UiA&list=UUiegSQxYwraPK5efklvTO5w

Day five

Lots of segway crashes, an afternoon on Twitter and some really filthy language from Rio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9JHi7x2bJg&index=2&list=UUiegSQxYwraPK5efklvTO5w

Day six

Our last game in Germany ends in a 2-0 defeat. But results aren’t the main thing in pre-season. It’s about coming together as a team, getting a few minutes under your belt and getting your fitness levels up.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9JHi7x2bJg&list=UUiegSQxYwraPK5efklvTO5w

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A QPR Pre-Season Diary

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First things first, I’m knackered, so I’ll keep this blog short and sweet. Just a few thoughts on what’s been going on, and a few videos from the QPR site.

Even after all these years, I still get a buzz driving into the training ground on the first day of pre-season training. It’s always good to see all the lads and the coaching staff again after a summer away from it all. There used to be a time that you’d all have a pop at the lads who’d let themselves go a wee bit, but everyone was in decent shape this year. The only real shocks this season where how big Armand Traore’s beard had got and how many new motors were in the car park – it’s all a bit of a change from when I used to bum a lift to training at City off my dad. It’s also worth checking out where they stuck Shaun’s boots in the boot room – some would call it banter, others would call it picking on the little fella!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pf6v1ZTZFPQ

Another thing that’s changed over those dozen or so years is the level of sophistication of training and fitness tests we do. We all have full check ups including full body scans and VO2 max testing – of which you’ll be glad to know I was named team champion once again. Another thing worth watching is Armand cracking his head off the ceiling – he’s a good lad, but half that jump was down to his flat top! Here’s a video of a few of the boys being out through their paces…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwMaNgWj1ys

But for me, pre-season really starts when you’re out on the training pitches and putting in some proper hard graft. Once again there have been some changes over the years: there are more specialist fitness coaches these days, there’s more of an emphasis on tailored training for individual players and more resistance-based training. One thing never changes though and that’s the bleep test – I did all right on that one too to be fair and Esteban Granero was an absolute beast – he was still running while the rest of us were hyperventilating on the grass.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xd-roxe4sVQ

Overall it’s been a good start to pre-season for all the lads, and everyone’s looking forward to playing with Rio, and hoping that we manage to keep everyone together until the start of the season. Next up are a couple of games over in Germany, before flying back to London for games against Orient and Southend. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

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The QPR play-off push: Optimism, belief and statistics

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Despite suffering from a thigh strain over the last few weeks, I’ve been around the first team squad a lot and there’s a really positive atmosphere in the gym and on the training ground. We’re not going to make it up through automatic promotion now, but if I were a betting man, I’d back us to beat any of the teams in and around the top six.

My reasoning for that is pretty simple: we’ve been playing well, getting good possession, keeping a lot of clean sheets and we’ve got a few players coming back that could make a real difference. So I thought I’d get a few stats off our friends at Opta to see whether my view of the season so far was correct, and whether the lads’ view of the run in was based on quantifiable reality, or just blind sporting optimism.

Luck can be costly

I know it sounds very unscientific, and I do genuinely believe that we need to focus on the things we can affect in football (and in life for that matter), but luck plays a huge part in success. We’ve had fewer penalties (3) than any team except Charlton (1) and ten less than leaders Leicester! How many games could ten extra penalties have won us?

The big one for us was Charlie Austin’s injury back in January time, but there’s also been Alejandro Faurlin, Andy Johnson, Matty Phillips, Kevin Doyle: all good players who could make a difference in the final third and get us a few goals. So if I can avoid getting three more yellows in the run in, we should finally have pretty much our strongest team available for the last few games of the season – and the three play-off games!

Impressive defence

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When push comes to shove, the measure of any defence is the number of clean sheets it keeps. So we’ve got to be happy with the fact that we’ve kept 17 in 42 games – a record that only Middlesbrough can match, and three more than anyone in the play-off places. After that you have to look at the total number of goals conceded – and with just 39 we come out on top of that too. Those aren’t the only measure of defensive resilience though, we also do well in terms of interceptions (485 for the season) with only Wigan (582) doing better than us in the top half of the table. When you ally that to the fact that our distribution stats (see below) are significantly better than our play-off rivals, I think you can surmise that we’ve been intercepting more balls in defensive areas than our competitors and that has helped our good defensive form.

Awesome distribution

Dis1

As you’d probably expect of a team with established Premier League midfielders like myself, Niko Krancjar, Ravel Morrison, Jermaine Jenas, Yossi Benayoun and Gary O’Neill, we’ve got some pretty impressive distribution stats. We’ve got the best passing accuracy in the division (80%), the highest possession in the division (57.2%) and the highest passing accuracy in the opposing half (73%). Individually those stats show that we’ve been passing and moving the ball well, but when combined they show a comfort on the ball and a dominance of possession and distribution that mirrors my own experience of the vast majority of games we’ve played this season: we’ve bossed the ball and largely dominated our opponents.

Sharing attacking responsibilities

Attack

Despite missing the last few months of the season, Charlie Austin is our leading scorer by nine goals, which highlights the fact that the rest of us just haven’t been chipping in anywhere near enough. Ravel Morrison has done really well with his six goals since arriving on loan from the Boleyn Ground, but after that we’ve got Junior Hoillet on four, Yossi, Matty Phillips and Bobby on three and then a few others on two.  Despite that we aren’t far behind when it comes to average shots on goal (4.33), average total shots (10.40) and goals scored (54).

Cause for optimism

And strangely that’s what gives me cause for optimism for the rest of the season. Apart from Ravel, all the players we’d expect to be scoring goals are either coming back into form or coming back from injury. Charlie’s had a few run outs now, Bobby Zamora played well in the win against Forest, And Matty, Bobby and Yossi Benayoun all played well and got on the score sheet. So if we can keep it tight at the back, keep our possession stats up and then add a few goals, I’d have us down as shoe-in for a play-off win at Wembley!

 

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MOM highlight reel vs Reading

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Joey vs reading

The lads showed great resilience against a tough Reading side Saturday, we dug deep and grabbed a well-deserved 77th-minute leveller for a share of the points – perhaps we should’ve taken all three? Like us, Reading’s had to reassess their squad for life in the Championship, following relegation from the EPL last season. So taking a point from a team of Reading’s strength is a point we’ll cherish. Especially, as the team gave it their all – Harry included. His intent to win the game was evident, throwing on Kranjcar and even Johnson, when we lost Hoilett to injury. But it was an end-to-end game and an important point gained.

On a personal level, scoring a goal of significance is hugely rewarding. But if you didn’t catch the game at the weekend, check out who we dedicated the goal to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzjV6e1oM0g&feature=youtu.be&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DbzjV6e1oM0g%26feature%3Dyoutu.be&app=desktop

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Analysing QPR’s performances this season

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Amazingly, we’re over a quarter of the way through the season already. Within that period, I haven’t had much time to reflect on what’s been a tough, but satisfying season. So here goes.

Previous experiences

Having spent an injury-ridden season in the Championship with Newcastle back in 09-10, it was difficult to appreciate the size of the task ahead with QPR this season. Whilst I was part of the Newcastle’s promotion winning squad, I felt somewhat undeserved of the winners’ medal I received – this season gives me the opportunity to rectify that with QPR. And if we continue to further Loftus Road’s fortress-like status – having won five and drew one of the six home fixtures so far – automatic promotion could become a realistic achievement. Furthering this home form is pivotal to promotion – it was proven with Newcastle’s campaign.

Analysing performance

Without becoming too hung up on our current league position – it’s only November after all – I was keen to understand just how the expert’s deemed our season so far. In particularly, how our performances compared to the rest of the league. I spoke with friends over at Prozone; they applied their performance model, enabling a comparison between performances.

Before you take a look at their findings. It makes sense to understand how it’s calculated.

Prozone told me:

  • Prozone use shooting data to understand the underlying performance levels of teams. By accounting for the type and location of shots taken and conceded, we can understand where a team ‘should’ be in the league table.

  • Ultimately, the low-scoring nature of football means most teams deviate above/below this position in the short run. A good example of this is Hull City in 2008-09; in the early part of the season they were third, but the underlying numbers suggested that this position was unsustainable.

  • Queens Park Rangers are currently third in the Championship. Given the way they’ve created and prevented opportunities, this cannot be described as a false position.

With this in mind, feast your eyes on the table below. Is your team punching hugely above their weight or can you count yourself unlucky? QPR fans – I’d like to hear your thoughts on our season so far.

Note: the standings suggest each teams current predicted position versus actual and not end of season predictions.

Joey barton - prozone

Positive signs

In truth there are 12 teams within three places of where Prozone would expect – they told me: ‘it’s difficult to have lots of teams spot-on because little things like goal difference can separate teams in the ranking.’

QPR’s position is hugely encouraging, especially at this stage of the season. It’s a testament to the club’s continuing transformation. Naturally, I’d like to see us sitting at the top of the table, but considering the number of players that have come in and out since the turn of the season, the team is still settling in. We’ve got plenty more to give, and in fact, could count ourselves as unlucky. Particularly, as Prozone suggests on a per game basis, we’re the best-performing team in the league.

Prozone continued with:

  • Offensively, QPR aren’t significantly above leave average.

  • They have 13.7 shots per game compared to a league average of 13.5

  • Given the location and type of shots taken, they would be expected to score 9.5% of 
these attempts, compared to a league average of 9.1%.

  • This means they create roughly average-quality chances.

  • Defence has proved to be QPR’s real strength this season.

  • The average open play shot QPR concedes only has a 6.1% chance of being scored.

  • The league average from open play is 8.5%.

  • Not only are they conceding low-quality attempts, they’re not conceding many of 
them either. QPR have allowed 9.8 open play shots per game compared to a league average of 12.8.

Along with the table and the points made above, we’re currently sitting in an extremely sustainable position. We’re consistently conceding lower open play shots per game compared to the league average. This tells me our defensive prowess is fundamental to our current league position, which is also echoed by Watford’s position. Whilst Prozone predict they should be top, having scored the most league goals this season, they’ve conceded many more than the top five teams – and almost three times as many as QPR; 6 versus 15.

A work in progress

Having established our current league position as true – in accordance with Prozone’s performance report – the build up to Christmas is essential as we continue to grow as a team, because as far as I’m concerned, we’re not even out of third gear yet. We’ve created a solid base, as proven in Prozone’s defensive analysis of our season so far, but we must now gel as a team and put last weekend’s defeat to Burnley behind us. This could be easier said that done though, because whilst the data suggests we may not be in a false position now, it’ll be challenge maintaining this over the coming weeks and months. Particularly, as Prozone discussed the difficultly of these games – as monitored in their performance analysis data.

I won’t lie. I’ll be bitterly disappointed if we aren’t fighting for automatic promotion come May. But the momentum we’ve built us so far should have us firing on all cylinders in no time, as the team helps the club return to its rightful home – the Premier League.

prozone-logo-black

A special thanks to everyone over at Prozone for powering the data used in this week’s blog.

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Competition: Win a signed QPR shirt

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I’m back with another of my competitions. This time giving one winner the opportunity to win a signed QPR shirt – as ever with my competitions, entering is easy…

Simply post your suggested caption below (thought, speech or general description) in relation to the image above.

I’ll pick an overall winner from the entries below and contact you with further details. Sign in below to enter.

All entries must be submitted by 19th September.

Good luck!

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The Many Faces…Infographic

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The guys over at First 10, with a little help from Prozone too, took it upon themselves to create this infographic of me. It’s an intriguing design, giving insightful data and analysis to both my life online, and on the field. As ever, let me know your thoughts.

the-many-faces-of-joey-barton
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My official statement on the Tevez incident

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In case anyone wanted to see it, this is the official statement that I made to the UK press after my huge cock-up in the Man City game at the end of last season:

I recognise that I have tarnished the image of our national game and that I’ve been rightly been punished by the FA for both my initial reaction to Tevez and the subsequent stupidity during the sending off in the final game of the season.

I would like to apologise sincerely to everybody that I’ve let down, both my friends and colleagues at QPR, as well as the players, management, staff at Manchester City and the authorities whom I put in a very difficult position. Nothing is more punishing for me than missing football matches. Football is my life and this sanction will be a very difficult time for me personally.

I would also like to apologise for my childish comments on Twitter after the game, including the comments about Mr Shearer and Mr Lineker. This too was reactive and unprofessional of me and I am sorry for any offence caused.

I am keen to put this regrettable incident behind me, and to work hard on becoming a better person and player ready for my return.

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The role of the captain in modern day football

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It’s not what I thought it would be

I think many players actually struggle to realise how complex a job being a club captain is – until they become one themselves. I know I did and sometime continue to do so. For a number of years I was a senior figure in the dressing rooms of the clubs that I played at. Being a strong, opinionated person (to put it kindly) I would usually be asked to sit on player’s committees.

I have on occasions, when the captain has been injured or suspended, stepped in and temporally captained the side on match days. I thought it was as simple as that but full time. How wrong I was.

When I decided to join QPR I had no interest in becoming captain. Although I feel very honored to captain such a great football club as QPR, it just wasn’t my main concern. In terms of understanding the captain’s role, I had, up until that point, felt it was kind of irrelevant who the captain was and all that mattered was what happened on the pitch. Again, how wrong I was.

For me the role of captain in a modern day football club is vitally important. The captaincy brings with it enormous responsibly and an almost politicised role within a football club. It has certainly given me food for thought about what it takes to run a football club.

As captain you are the go between for the manager and the players on a daily basis. But there are times at football clubs when a captain’s role goes further. This has happened to me at QPR. There can be any number of issues that can cause board members or owners to ask a captain’s opinion. That can be anything from how to improve the club’s current training ground, sitting in with planners about new training facilities or discussing developments within the club’s academy.

It has been challenging for me at times in this new role. I had for a number of years been a good lieutenant to other captains and thought I had enough experience to handle the role comfortably. This theory was turned on its head. Mainly because most football clubs I had been at already were top-level in terms of infrastructure. This was not the case at QPR. QPR was and will continue to be for a while, a club in transition. The plans for this football club are big. But big takes a while to get right. New stadiums and new training grounds are built in a day.

But those sorts of major structural things weren’t at the top of my first list of requests to the board. What was? Six bathplugs for the player’s baths! Seriously. Up until that point the players had been bunging the plugholes with toilet paper in order to get a bath. As a direct consequence some players, Clint Hill for example, hadn’t bathed for 6 months. Dirty gits!

So how has my first year as a captain worked out? It’s been an up and down journey for me professionally and personally. No doubt for most of the QPR fans too. But I feel I’ve done justice to the role. It’s certainly a job that keeps you on your toes. Imagine trying to deal with 20 player’s egos on a daily basis and trying to give impartial feedback to the coaching staff. At times it can be like trying to herd wild horses. It’s challenging and it certainly makes life interesting. And I thoroughly enjoy it – especially now Clint Hill has started bathing again!

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Interview with Open All R’s: Prison, Bonus, Cretins

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Interview with Open All R's: Prison, Bonus, Cretins

QPR Captain Joey Barton gives Open All R’s an exclusive interview revealing what really went on at Newcastle United FC and who he considers ‘cretins’!

If you’re a fan of the game, you will enjoy this insight to the working of club football.

Hear it all at http://qprpodcast.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cl72ZAXS_MU

 

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