Can Adel Taarabt Finally Come Of Age?
I’ve supported QPR since the age of three. I’m too young to remember Rodney Marsh and Stan Bowles but I have been fortunate enough to witness some very talented players at Loftus Road over the years. Les Ferdinand was an unbelievable striker- he could make something out of nothing. Roy Wegerle was a supremely talented individual, scoring one of the greatest goals I’ve ever seen at Elland Road:
However, by far the most talented individual I have had the pleasure of watching is Adel Taarabt. Quite simply, the boy is a genius. During our promotion season in 2010/2011 he was the vital member of our team. Without him, we’d still be in the Championship, I’m sure of that. He had the fans on the edge of their seats. The anticipation grew every time he picked up the ball. He could produce a piece of magic when nothing looked on. Two moments in particular stand out from that season. The first came on Boxing Day at home to Swansea. The Swans were one of our rivals for promotion yet we destroyed them 4-0 that day. At 3-0 up, Adel thought it was time to start showboating. He linked up with Kyle Walker before performing an outrageous nutmeg on Joe Allen. He then smashed the ball past the keeper into the back of the net. The supporters were looking at each other in shock, not quite believing what we had just seen. A moment of class.
The second moment came at home to Coventry. He picked up on the ball on the left touchline, about halfway between the goal line and the halfway line. Nothing looked on except a simple pass back. However, Adel looked up and sent a stunning pass with the outside of his boot into the path of Wayne Routledge. Routledge took it down and slotted it past the keeper. It was the best assist I have ever seen.
16 assists and 19 goals was a fantastic personal record for Taarabt. He may not have tracked back for the team and he may have thrown the odd tantrum, but those things could be ignored as the team were so successful.
Last season was different. In the first two months of the season he was unlucky not to find the back of the net, hitting the woodwork three times. However, Adel was struggling to have the same impact in the top flight that he had in the Championship. Part of this was down to his attitude but the manager should also shoulder some of the blame. It was naive to think that he could be given the same role and responsibilities in the team. He was seeing less of the ball, his work rate was poor and you could see his team-mates beginning to get frustrated with him. The final straw came away at Spurs. He had a terrible first half, constantly losing the ball, failing to work back and getting very frustrated. He was substituted at half time and only started a very small number of games under Warnock after this point.
When Mark Hughes took over, many thought that he would struggle to get back into the team. However, Hughes recognised his talent and Taarabt played a big part in helping the team survive. He was used mainly on the left in the midfield and immediately his work rate improved. He was chasing back, tracking his full back and actually making tackles! His first goal of the season, a fine individual effort, came against Arsenal before he scored his second with a well taken free kick against Spurs.
This season will determine which path Taarabt’s career takes. I truly believe he has the ability to play at the very top level and he showed signs at the end of the last season that he also has the attitude to do well. He’s just signed a new three year contract with the club and he’s working under a manager that he respects and a manager that will be determined to get the best out of him. In pre-season he has been mainly used in a free role behind Djibril Cisse and this is where he is most effective. If he has a good season, the top clubs will come knocking on the door. However, if things go wrong then he may just drift off into football obscurity having never fulfilled his true potential.
It’s down to him now.
**Jawad runs his own QPR-themed website. You can find him and his regular musings about all things QPR over at http://loveqprlovefootball.blogspot.co.uk/**