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With audacious rumours surfacing on Tuesday morning linking Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson with a wholly unexpected and rather unrealistic move for QPR's Adel Taarabt in the January transfer window, yet more questions are sure to be raised as to whether new Hoops manager Harry Redknapp wants to keep Taarabt at Loftus Road.
The pair never saw eye to eye when they were at Tottenham together, with Taarabt's chances limited more or less exclusively to cup games, despite Redknapp publicly saying he had seen fewer players as talented as the Moroccan. The then Spurs manager had stated that he had never seen a player do some of the things Taarabt managed on the training ground, and that he could well go on to achieve big things in his career.
But Redknapp did not back up his sentiments in his team selection. Arguably Taarabt's finest moment in the league for Tottenham came in an extremely brief appearance at Upton Park with Martin Jol as manager, when he came off the bench with his side 3-2 down with three minutes left. After Dimitar Berbatov had equalised, Taarabt played his part in a Spurs counter-attack to win the match at the death. Many fans had expected him to push on from there and break into the first team on a more regular basis, but in came Juane Ramos, and then Harry, and it was not to be.
After a successful loan spell in the Championship with QPR, Taarabt made the move permanent in the summer of 2010 and helped the Hoops back into the Premier League en route to winning the Championship Player of the Year. Taarabt stoked the fire with Redknapp, stating that he had made a mistake going to Spurs, where the manager had not given him the chances that he would have got under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
Now, with the two reunited at Loftus Road, the tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon to report that Taarabt is on his way out. We have seen moments of magic from the Moroccan in his time in England and Redknapp might know better than getting shot of a player with the potential to change a game in an instant.
Taarabt's 2011/12 season was very much a settling-in period for him in the top flight, and he has already matched his goalscoring tally from last term this time around. He started 24 league games last season and only managed two goals, while he has already netted twice this campaign in only eight starts.
Given the ambitious nature of his play, many of his attempts on goal come from outside the penalty area, and his shooting from distance is largely justified by the fact that he troubles the keeper so often. Since the start of last season, only Wayne Rooney (38) has had more shots on target from outside the penalty area in the Premier League than Taarabt (35). The two have similar shooting accuracy from distance, with Rooney hitting the target 54.3% of the time while Taarabt does so with 53.0% of his long-rangers. Rooney, though, leads the charts for goals from outside the box with five, while no fewer than 22 players have scored more such goals than Taarabt's two.
He so often infuriates fans with his flamboyant play, but he is clearly learning that he cannot be the main man every week as he was in the second tier. When QPR were promoted, the midfielder would frequently try things from outrageous positions, and Redknapp will be one to try and curb that part of his game.
He seems to have become a little more unselfish in his play already this season, having created more chances this season (2.7 per game) compared to last (2.2). Only seven Premier League players can boast a better key pass rate than Taarabt this season (as can be seen on WhoScored.com's Premier League statistics page), and most of those rely on set-pieces to lay on those chances. In fact, only Steven Pienaar (2.5) and Luis Suarez (2.46) create more chances in open play on average than the Moroccan (2.33); an astounding statistic for a player at a team that have scored only ten league goals and are bottom of the table.
Taarabt has his tricky dribbling skills to call on when he needs to create space to put balls into the box, and his success rate when it comes to taking on opponents (61.4%) ranks him amongst the best in Europe's top five leagues, ahead of the likes of Lionel Messi (59.5%) and Franck Ribery (48.6%). Messi attempts 5.9 dribbles per game - compared to Taarabt's 4.9 - so it is not as if the Argentine simply tries to dribble past many more players.
That is not, of course, to say that Taarabt is anywhere near Messi's level. The end product is very much missing from the QPR youngster's game, though his dribbling skills are there for all to see.
As pointed out in an article by Michael Cox, the Hoops have struggled massively in front of goal, and it is difficult to look past their misfiring strikers to find their problem. Taarabt's tally of two goals from 36 shots hardly helps matters, but scoring goals is more of an issue for the strikers.
Harry Redknapp will be almost certainly to dip into the transfer market in January, and it might well have crossed his mind to replace the injured Bobby Zamora up front. Though Taarabt will probably not be off to Old Trafford, reports that he could be on his way out of the club may not be too far off the mark given his history with Redknapp, but the new Hoops manager might think better of it. Adel Taarabt is an unquestionable talent with a fiery and determined attitude to succeed that could come into great use in what is undeniably already a relegation battle for Queens Park Rangers.
All stats courtesy of www.whoscored.com
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