In order to maximise the potential of Adel Taarabt, you have to address the duality that exists within him. Prodigiously talented, when suitably engaged he can lift a team to great heights, leading Queens Park Rangers to the Championship title last season, contributing 19 goals and 14 assists in 44 appearances. At his worst, he can be petulant, selfish and lazy, dragging the rest of the side down with him. This season has seen far more of the latter than the former.
Engulfed by even bigger personalities, Taarabt wilted. Substituted at half-time in the 6-0 demolition at Fulham, a bust up with Warnock ensued. He was again withdrawn at the break in a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur later that month. Out of the side for most of November, he departed for the African Cup of Nations in January and Warnock was dismissed in his absence. In many respects, Warnock’s man management of Taarabt was every bit as impressive as winning the title during that successful season, but a failure to replicate his Championship form put a strain on their relationship and left Warnock exposed.
Last season, Taarabt revealed to the Evening Standard: “Neil is the first manager who really knows how to treat me, he’s like a dad.” Taarabt provided a staunch defence of his manager when his job appeared under threat pre-season, but had no qualms about his eventual sacking. On international duty with Morocco, he told BBC Sport: “I think we needed that, we were in a bad position” adding: “I think if Mark Hughes was not coming in, maybe I was leaving in January.”
A burgeoning relationship with Hughes has ensued, with Hughes confessing on QPR’s official website that: “I was really impressed with Adel, his defensive work, which apparently hasn’t been the greatest in the past, was thoroughly impressive. His effort and his application, along with his ability, which he showed on numerous occasions, was outstanding.” Taarabt returned the compliment by claiming that Hughes is “A great manager” when quizzed, according to the Daily Express.
Currently 16th in the table, QPR certainly need Taarabt firing on all cylinders ahead of a must-win game on Saturday at Bolton Wanderers, two points worse off in 19th. Two points separate the bottom five and losing to a fellow struggler would almost certainly result in Rangers ending the day amongst the bottom three. Ahead of a daunting run in that includes games against every top six side, they cannot afford to allow their rivals to gain ground on them. The expected upturn in fortunes under Hughes has yet to materialise and Taarabt has failed to shed the perception that he is a flat-track bully. Both will have their reputations thoroughly examined in the coming weeks.
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