Barton's Style Would Have Helped QPR Fight

Queens Park Rangers may have spent significant money, but they simply limped to Premier League relegation. Would they have fared better with their enfant terrible?...

Last Updated: 01/05/13 at 13:22 Post Comment

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Few players fail to split opinion quite like Joey Barton.

While the likes of Luis Suarez and John Terry are controversial for other reasons, their ability and performances on the field mean fans of Liverpool and Chelsea forget their misdemeanours, selectively choosing to remember what they do for their team whilst forgetting their flaws.

Barton, meanwhile, is revered by few, his constant flow of opinionated outbursts on Twitter usually enough to persuade the masses that he is rarely worth taking notice of. However, one recent such verbal cry from the on-loan Marseille midfielder saw him criticise the lack of heart and commitment in the QPR squad. For once at least, Barton was right.

There are of course many other factors that contributed to their demise, but the cold hard truth of it all is that with Joey Barton leading the R's last season, they survived in the Premier League, with Barton their third highest-rated player on WhoScored.com, registering an average of 6.9 over the course of their 2011/12 campaign.

Now challenging for the Ligue 1 title in France, Barton is enjoying a break from the English media he so despises, and could be playing Champions League football next season. Whether or not Barton has the ability to improve the current crop of QPR players is one thing, but he would certainly have added bite to their midfield (though not in Suarez's definition of the word, you'd have to hope).

At Marseille, he has primarily been utilised in a defensive midfield role, lining up alongside the more attack-minded Benoit Cheyrou most often, although the Englishman has lost his place in in recent weeks, playing for only 39 minutes of his side's last five matches. His omission has coincided with a five-game unbeaten run for Elie Baup's team, who have won four of those games and not conceded a single goal, and Barton's frustration has been plain to see, as he has picked up a late yellow card in two of his last three appearances.

That side of his game has yet to be written out of his play, and while he needs to mature in that sense, one might not be all that wrong to expect a team such as QPR, scrapping to retain their Premier League status, to receive cards borne out of frustration too.

Of course, this is not to encourage unnecessary, petty bookings, of the sort Barton is master. However, as the R's limped meekly to a six-match winless streak to confirm their relegation, they surrendered all too easily all too often, and their tally of 12 yellows and a clumsy rather than passion-fuelled red for Bobby Zamora suggests that the 'maggots' that Barton described as filling the QPR squad were all too willing to give up. Whether or not he would have cared for the cause, Barton certainly would have played as if he did - and that may well have made a difference.

That is, of course, far from the reason he is playing at Marseille. He is a technically gifted footballer who has a decent range of passing and can provide a threatening cross from set pieces. One of his three assists in Ligue 1 has come from a corner, and he may well have given QPR more of a chance from corners than the inconsistent delivery of Adel Taarabt and Esteban Granero (they even resorted to the rather unpromising prospect of Jose Bosingwa at times).

The relegated side scored just four goals from corner situations this season, a tally which only Arsenal (three), Tottenham (three) and Newcastle (one) fare worse in. Compare the R's haul to their rivals in the relegation battle and a stark story is told. Wigan (10) are behind only Manchester United (14) in the whole league, while Aston Villa are not far behind, with seven. Those goals are not the only difference between those teams and Harry Redknapp's side, but with the likes of Zamora and Chris Samba packing the box, QPR should arguably have netted more times from corners.

In a defensive sense, Barton could have also helped protect the back four more efficiently than the likes of Park Ji-Sung and Shaun Derry might have. Had he made his combined average of 4.2 tackles and interceptions in the English rather than the French top flight, he would rank behind only Stephane Mbia (5.6) of QPR's vast array of central midfielders, and if they had both played, QPR would arguably have been more difficult to scythe through, as so many teams have done this term.

On the attack, though, Barton would not have added much other than the aforementioned use at set-pieces. Far too often, he looks for a killer pass that is not on, and has resultantly completed a meagre 80.4% of his passes this season, which 12 of QPR's and 12 of Marseille's squad have topped. In fact, of outfielders last season only Peter Crouch, who often has to control passes from long balls with one touch, and Maynor Figueroa, who plays a large proportion of his passes long, misplaced more passes than Barton (413). Providing just 0.5 key passes per game and one shots per game this term, from which he contributed no goals, highlights a distinct flaw in his game.
Barton is hardly worth the trouble he causes a team. Both on and off the pitch he is often a hindrance, and the fact that he has appeared less - relatively at least - in our headlines will continue to be welcomed by many.

He wouldn't have kept QPR in the Premier League, there is little doubt about that, but the passive way in which they let their top-flight status slip from their grasp might not have been quite so astounding with him in their ranks.

All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, with their live in-game data, unique player and team ratings and more...
Follow Ali Tweedale on Twitter at @alitweedale.

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