Question 1: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is caught up in the Telegraph corruption scandal. How much will this distraction hurt the team?
This is a tough nut to crack. Sometimes facing an issue like this the team can rally together and become a stronger unit. But the players are also human, if they get the sense that their manager is not going to be around, it can quickly devolve into every man for himself. You don’t really know how QPR is going to react until it happens. It’s also quite context dependent. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” We’ve seen this happen at Fulham many times when they are struggling. Falling behind quickly might just take all the energy from a side that is already feeling embattled. Conversely, coming out quick and getting a lead might just be what QPR need to circle their wagons and come together. This might make the first fifteen minutes of the match the most important fifteen minutes of their season.
Question 2: Fulham are averaging 1 PPG at home and 1.8 PPG on the road. What is causing the struggles at home?
This is an interesting question that has no good answer. Most of the statistics don’t show much of a difference between the underlying performances at home and away. There is a slight difference in the number of shots conceded and taken (more given up and less taken at home) but it looks to be more noise than anything. The shot types given up are the same home and away.
This is all a little confusing on first glance. Shouldn’t the team be better at home? Shouldn’t there be more possession and more shots? You would think so, but there is one glaring stat that might explain much of the difference between the home and road form. Fulham have received both of their red cards in home matches. Over 13% of the minutes played at home have been down a man. That probably depresses some of the stats. A full strength Fulham squad (especially the one that played Birmingham City) probably has underlying numbers that are better at home.
The other difference between home and away is the shot type. On the road, 62% of Fulham’s shots are coming from inside the 18 yard box or closer. At home that falls to 51%. Is this a function of playing down a man? Is this a problem with a smaller pitch at Craven Cottage compressing the game and making it harder for the team to find space to operate? Or is it that teams are setting up to concede possession more when they visit the Cottage and Fulham not being able to break it down? Or is is just bad luck in a small sample? Why am I asking so many questions in what’s supposed to be the answer to a question?
Question 3: What kind of team is QPR?
On first glance, they’re a similar team who just isn’t as good. They play the same sort of formation. They try to keep possession, but they don’t do it nearly as well. They don’t shoot as much. They concede the shots in the same area (though at a slightly higher rate). They foul more and are carded more. They are a worse team on the road than at home. If Fulham had better home form, you’d think they were the favorite by far. If Fulham’s home form is more bad luck than a systemic issue, that’s probably the case. But if there is a fundamental problem with Fulham, QPR might be able to exploit it.