Five games into the new EPL season Queens Park Rangers have performed as most R’s supporters deep down feared they would. After another weak pre-season that gave false securities Rangers are officially back into the big time suffering two heavy defeats to superior opposition. Despite this, if they can continue to pick up points against opponents of similar quality they’ll be on the right track to stay up this season. A last-gasp draw against Stoke City was an encouraging result for the club, who will look to build on that result and try to string a series of results together now.
Thus far Harry Redkanpp’s management has been up and down as he was wise to quickly drop the three at the back system, but seems content to sit back and draw pressure against the top teams which has lead to consecutive 4-0 away defeats. Even though he’s supposedly not a “wheeler and dealer” Redknapp did well to bring in some quality young players in Leroy Fer, Steven Caulker, and Jordan Mutch. Those three are complimented by the introduction of veterans with proven experience in the way of Rio Ferdinand and Niko Kranjčar. Redknapp needs to utilize these new signings to create a side that will relentlessly attack and make Loftus Road a feared ground. The two biggest worries this season will be how well the new players gel together and how they will stop the flood of away goals. While Rangers only have three goals, they have created multiple opportunities and it is only a matter of time before they begin to covert those chances into goals, though the lack of a proven Premier League scorer is still a worry.
Team strengths: Creating chances. So far we’ve seen Joey Barton create 12 goalscoring opportunities and Charlie Austin clearly has the ability needed at this level he just needs to adapt to the pace, and if he gets decent service from his teammates, then he should get 10 to 15 goals this season.
Team weaknesses: Capitalizing on those chances. Joey Barton may create a lot of scoring opportunities, but so far QPR have just three goals and a solitary victory. A lack of firepower could really hurt the side.
Star player so far this season: Joey Barton. Co-captain with Clint Hill, Barton has shown through Ranger’s first three matches that he still has the ability to be a creative force in the top-flight. He was sorely missed, due to injury, against Manchester United as QPR created almost no chances at all. Odds are he could have played but Redknapp probably saw no point in risking the backbone of his squad in a game they were likely to lose. Expect to see the outspoken footballer feature heavily throughout the season.
Best starting XI: Green, Traore, Onuoha, Caulker, Isla, Barton, Sandro, Hoilett, Fer, Phillips, Austin. 4-2-3-1. Bench: McCarty, Ferdinand, Mutch, Hill, Yun, Vargas, Kranjčar.
Injury concerns: Alejandro Faurlín is unfortunately already out for the season with another ACL injury while Barton and Mutch have both already had knocks.
I stand by my preseason prediction that QPR will continue to stutter as players get used to each other and to the pace of the top-flight. Having already defeated a decent Sunderland side, it’s encouraging to see that the Rangers are already off to a better start than they had with their last run in the Premier League. While not losing to Chelsea is ideal, the most important target for the season should be that coveted and safe 17th place.
Overall team rating (out of 5 stars): 3.5
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