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Thursday, December 04, 2008

QPR's Paulo Sousa Assessed - Fascinating Profile, Interview and Analysis

Fascinating profile/preliminary assessement by Dave McIntyre of QPR's new manager.

Dave McIntyre/BBC 606 - Diamonds aren't forever
- Paulo Sousa will change his formation rather than leave Lee Cook out of his team.
- Since taking over as coach, Sousa has used his preferred ‘diamond’ formation – a system that could potentially have put Cook’s first-team place at risk.
- But when I spoke to Sousa on Thursday for the first time since his arrival at QPR, it was clear he had decided to recall Cook following his recovery from a knee problem.
- Sousa suggested after Saturday’s draw at Crystal Palace that he was open to the idea of including an out-and-out winger if he had one at his disposal.
- The ‘diamond’ system is one he favours, though. That was underlined when the likes of Mikele Leigertwood and Hogan Ephraim were asked to play in unfamiliar roles recently.
- But after having some time to assess his squad, it seems Sousa regards Cook as very much part of his plans.
- Until today, my early impressions of Sousa were based on nothing more than his three post-match press conferences and what I’ve heard about him.
- After only one proper meeting, it's impossible to know too much more.
- What I do know is that Sousa has real passion, which is easy to overlook because of his cool persona.
- It’s not the passion of someone like Ian Holloway, who at his best could convince a man they could beat a prime Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson on the same night. But there is real enthusiasm there that will come across to his players.
- The bloke means business, is fiercely ambitious for himself and QPR and despite seeming composed at all times, does confess to finding it hard to relax because work is constantly on his mind.
- On the issue of his lack of managerial experience, it’s clear that the reason the Rangers job is his first is not that he wasn’t given other opportunities.
- He did turn down other offers, mostly in his native Portugal, before taking the role at QPR.
- Incidentally, he also turned down the chance to sign for Arsenal as a player, instead joining Borussia Dortmund.
- Sousa has been a busy man, swatting up on Championship players and clubs he has little knowledge of.
- The good news for Rangers is that he has a proven record of adapting to the culture and language of different countries – and fast. Apart from his own language, he speaks English, Italian, French, Spanish and “a bit of German and some Greek.”
- He is able to throw out random facts, like Saturday’s opponents Wolves are averaging 2.2 goals a game and their three top scorers have managed 15, 12 and seven goals respectively.
- Sousa has also been trying to take in as many games as possible, and “when I see a game I don’t watch it, I read it” was a nice soundbite.
- He talked about many aspects of his job but argues that his main task is to tangibly improve the players he has. Promotion, like possible new signings, is spoken about as a side issue.
- But today Sousa was also due to meet board members to discuss transfer targets, with a replacement for the injured Akos Buzsaky a top priority.
- Sousa’s approach is very different to that of Rangers’ last overseas coach, Gigi De Canio.
- Gigi is a great coach but always gave the impression he was open to the elements; both in his relationship with his bosses and his view of English football.
- De Canio never acknowledged that the English game was radically different and his mantra was that “football is a universal language.”
- Sousa sees things differently. He very much regards English football, and the Championship in particular, as unique and embraces this. It’s a major challenge to him and part of the reason he was keen to work in England.
- He is very knowledgeable about English-style tactics and players and while he wants to play a passing game, he won’t be idealistic or na├»ve about it. He does understand the physical requirements of the game here and the risk of being overrun by the strongest sides.
- Like De Canio though, he is very careful not to say that English players are technically better or worse than on the continent. They are simply “different.”
- These are all minor observations of mine. I don't know Sousa, or whether he'll be up to the task.
- At this stage he is like a boxer who looks the part, but we’ll only find out what he’s made of when he’s hit on the chin. And Sousa will be dealt a fair few blows before long, that’s for sure.
- On first impressions though, Sousa is very confident and, it seems, pragmatic.
- It was interesting to hear Palace boss Neil Warnock suggest last weekend that Sousa may change his formation for home matches, despite Rangers’ win against Charlton.
- It turns out that Warnock was right. Sousa will look to introduce more width based on what he has seen of his team and the Championship so far, which is good news for Cook.
- And in general, expect Sousa to make the odd surprise change from time to time.
- I get the impression he’s not a massive fan of squad rotation, but will look to catch opposing teams off-guard with the occasional unexpected change.
- It could even be something he becomes known for.

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