Apart from The Gaffer waxing lyrically about Swansea, there has not been that much on the other two promoted sides here on EPL Talk. It has been quite a year for QPR and Norwich but what did 2011 mean to them and what could happen to them in 2012?
Promotion for Norwich into the Premier League came as a huge shock to a lot of people. They had only just been promoted back to the Championship after a season in League 1 that had begun with a 7-1 loss against Paul Lambert’s Colchester United. Despite being very consistent, Norwich really snuck in to promotion with much of the attention focusing on Cardiff and Nottingham Forest throughout the season. When they beat Portsmouth 1-0 at Fratton Park to seal promotion in May, you could tell from the fans’ and Paul Lambert’s reaction that they were shocked, with the Canaries boss saying at the time “It’s an absolute miracle what’s happened here.” Earlier that day Cardiff had suffered a surprising home loss to Middlesbrough and this gave Norwich the promotion chance that they took.
They have done very well in the Premier League so far this season. The team is full of a lot of relatively unknown players but their policy of buying from the Football League has paid dividends so far. Grant Holt and Steve Morison have both been superb as the big men up front with the pair scoring 13 goals between them already this season. Kevin Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan have also been impressive with Hoolahan adding something to the attack from midfield. They are always happy to play 4-4-2 and defend from the front and have not found goals too hard to come by so far.
However the Canaries will want to improve defensively, more so away from home though. You definitely think they are going to concede a few against the better teams but with Norwich you can see them getting chances with Holt being a very useful impact player for them. Some will call them this season’s Blackpool with their high amount of goals scored and conceded but they seem to have slightly more steel and the steady start may help keep down expectations and not lead to a long winless run. They do seem a little susceptible to the counter attack as seen against Tottenham and Newcastle but it has been a great first half of the season for them and a great year for the Norfolk side.
End of Season Prediction: 15th
Queens Park Rangers: QPR won the 2010/2011 Championship pretty convincingly losing only 6 times in an always competitive division. Their form did dip at the end of the season with dropped points at home to Derby, Hull and Leeds which, together with the Alejandro Faurlin saga, led to a real anti-climax in being champions. Securing the trophy on the last day of the season was met with relief rather than jubilation with the third party ownership case hanging over them until the breaking news just hours before the start of their final game of the season against Leeds that they would escape a points deduction with a £875,000 fine.
Last season Adel Taarabt was imperious, gaining a place in the 2011 PFA Championship Team of the Year with Sean Derry being inspirational from midfield after his signing from Crystal Palace. This season though Taarabt has not been played nearly as much, despite impressing recently and his most memorable moment of the season so far was going home on the bus during the 6-0 loss to Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The summer saw a huge upheaval in the ownership of the club with Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes taking over the club along with the Mittal Family from pantomime villains and F1 moguls Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore. Ecclestone and Briatore had led the club in a tumultuous period that saw no less than 7 managers between 2007 and Warnock’s appointment in 2010. Fans were particularly disgruntled with the owners due to this and home and away fans alike were highly annoyed with the huge hike in ticket prices that saw Manchester City fans charged £73 for a ticket in the away end. QPR now have the stability in place and brought in proven Premier League experience in Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton and Luke Young in a late transfer window shopping spree along with strikers Jay Bothroyd and DJ Campbell.
The Shepherds Bush outfit have done fairly well but are still in 16th with 4 wins so far. Recently supporters have got angry with Joey Barton and his performances. QPR have struggled more so at home, but are still doing well especially considering the team that they came up with that were all proven at Championship level but not in the Premier League. Winning at home to Chelsea has undoubtedly been their highlight of the season so far and probably even 2011 despite being outplayed by nine men. That was their only home win and with Bothroyd and Campbell misfiring it has been left to Heidar Helguson, who has a stunning leap, to score the goals. Home matches have often been a case of ruing missed chances like against West Brom just a few weeks ago. Faurlin has been the best player with impressive performances in midfield helping to get the team moved forward with his impressive passing range.
Additions to the squad are definitely needed in the January transfer window as it feels that this is the season, where it is very close at the bottom, for QPR to stay in and enter a period on stability both on and off the pitch in the Premier League.
End of Season Prediction: 17th
So it has been quite a year for both QPR and Norwich with the Canaries maybe being the shock of English football in 2011 and QPR finally returning to and trying their best at staying and entering a sustained period in the Premier League. Both sides can improve but it is testament to the quality of them and the top of the Championship that sides can come up and start to prove themselves better than clubs did even a few years ago.