Over the past few seasons Queens Park Rangers has become somewhat of a spectacle, drawing media attention mostly for the wrong reasons. But after a successful Championship run and a Cinderella-like playoff run that culminated in one of the most thrilling games played last season, QPR is finally on the right track to compete in the Premier League.
QPR hasn’t been as busy in the transfer window as the other promoted clubs, but the club has been smart. Many of the dead weight and high-wage earners have been moved on, namely Stephan M’Bia and Estaban Granero — who represented the last of the expensive flops bought by Mark Hughes in Rangers last disastrous Premier League campaign.
As expected, since the transfer window opened, QPR has been linked with every big name who’s been available, but owner Tony Fernandes adamantly stated he had learned from past mistakes and intended to only bring in players that were the right fit and desired to play for the club. Right away though it seemed QPR had returned to their bad habits. Thirty-five year old centerback Rio Ferdinand was brought to the club after being released by Manchester United and, at first glance, it seemed like the same old transfer policy of signing big names past their prime would continue. But with the addition of Steven Caulker from Cardiff City shortly thereafter on a four year deal, the acquisition of Ferdinand has turned into quite an intelligent move. Caulker is considered one of England’s brightest prospects and pairing him with a legend like Ferdinand at the back shows that Rangers is thinking of long term development as he will learn a great deal from the former England captain. Likewise, Jordon Mutch, Cardiff’s top scorer last season, was brought in to help strengthen the midfield and hopefully add some much needed firepower.
This pre-season has shown that Harry Redknapp is determined to line up in a 3-5-2 formation. Harry has been smart about acquiring the right pieces that will fit this new formation and found a way to use QPR’s current players more effectively within the system. Mauricio Isla was brought on loan from Juventus, whose wide role in the Chilean National team’s World Cup run was crucial, and Redknapp has found the perfect position for now veteran QPR wide man Armand Traore as a wingback. While Ranger’s pre-season tours in both Germany and Ireland have answered a few questions about how the team might fare this season, it has yet to put supporters in a position of complete comfort about their chances in the upcoming season. The biggest positives in these games have been the play of Charlie Austin and Junior Hoilett. While Austin has yet to prove himself at the Premier League level, he has been prolific at every other level of English football so far and has looked dangerous this pre-season having scored four times. Hoilett looks to have adapted to the new system especially well and may have revealed himself as the R’s true number ten, supplying three goals and finding himself in dangerous positions and at the heart of most plays. Likewise Joey Barton and Alejandro Faurlin look to be the best midfield pairing QPR has had since their return to the Premier League in 2011. Both are excellent passers of the ball and have looked solid together playing slightly deeper positions, and Barton’s newfound role of initiating attacks has seemed very Andrea Pirlo-esque.
Overall though, QPR’s pre-season has been somewhat average with three wins, two draws and two losses in — all except one — matches against lower level opponents. It is questionable whether or not their success over weaker teams in pre-season will translate into success in the Premier League. Strikers are still in short supply and Charlie Austin and thirty-three year old Bobby Zamora are so far all the club has committed to playing up front. What might actually be the most important piece of transfer business for Rangers so far has been the failure of Loic Remy to successfully pass a medical with Liverpool. Redknapp has made it clear that he wants Remy to stay and for a good reason. His fourteen goals for Newcastle last season have proven him to be a solid top flight scorer, something the club lacked in their past two Premier League seasons, but with rumors of offers for the France international still coming in, anything could happen between now and deadline day.
The last big question mark hanging over Queens Park Rangers is the fate of Adel Taarabt. Harry so far has seemed willing to bring him back into the fold if he is willing to bite the bullet and play another year with a less prestigious club, but Rangers’ fans should know better than to hold their breath when it comes to the mercurial Moroccan. Recently it has been rumored that AC Milan is considering a bid to bring him back after his successful loan spell, but his high wages and attitude are always a sticking point. While it might be best for the club and the player to part ways, sometimes what’s best never follows through. It will be interesting if he stays with QPR, but won’t surprise anyone if he is left so far at the end of the bench he’s forgotten.
Predictions this early are always hard to make but the Super Hoops look to have made the right moves in the offseason. Judging by their pre-season showings, the passing has been there, but the final third is still lacking. It wouldn’t be surprising if Rangers start slow to the season as they continue to adjust to the 3-5-2, yet finish out strong as the squad acclimates to the new players and formation. A few more additions are still needed to add depth to the squad, especially another striker or two, but if QPR can fine-tune this new system and avoid any major injuries they have a decent chance of survival. Considering their last two opening games in the Premier League ended 4-0 and 5-0, a draw on Saturday against Hull City, who have already begun European play, would been a decent result.
Strongest line up: Green, Onuoha, Ferdinand, Caulker, Traore, Faurlin, Barton, Isla, Hoilett, Remy, Austin
Final Prediction: 17th
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