In May, Neil Warnock was at the centre of another high profile third-party ownership saga, as his QPR side were being investigated for the contract details of their Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Faurlin. QPR had already been promoted a week before the verdict, and as such it was anxious times at Loftus Road: with previous captain Shaun Derry describing the atmosphere as being “like a morgue” due to fear of automatic promotion turning into a play-off position, or worse, as a result of a potential points deduction.
Faurlin's deal almost cost QPR automatic promotion
Fast-forward four months, however, and QPR are sitting 9th in the Premier League, with previous England internationals Joey Barton, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Luke Young and Jay Bothroyd in their starting line-up. Loftus Road is now being filled amid a drop in ticket prices, a decision undertaken by Tony Fernandes, the club’s new owner, while Warnock finally seems settled and secure in his job. Stranger things have of course happened; yet a transformation from that “morgue-like” atmosphere has clearly taken place.
Clearly, these events may not have been possible had the FA have come to a more damning verdict against the club. By all accounts, QPR were perhaps lucky to escape with their promotion in tact; but that is for another day. However, even with Premier League football looming, QPR fans were far from happy, with transfer activity and spending minimal, and an opening day 0-4 home loss to Bolton sparking instant fears of relegation. Only two weeks of the summer transfer window remained when Tony Fernandes came to QPR’s rescue, as he bought Bernie Ecclestone’s 66% stake in the club, immediately promising instant investment, which he has absolutely delivered on thus far. There is even talk of a potential swoop for David Beckham in January.
But perhaps we should wait before being too favourable of Fernandes. He himself has admitted that he is currently going through the ‘honeymoon period’ that many owners enjoy. He may have been the catalyst in this makeover, but there is also an epitome: the man that it all started with, Alejandro Faurlin. He was at the centre of the desolation, caught in the middle of an impending investigation he most likely had little knowledge about; but he now finds himself the unlikely, yet appropriate, midfield pivot in his side’s rise in fortunes in his third season at the club.
Four goals and six assists in 81 Championship appearances may appear average on the ignorant eye. But only has to look at Luka Modric: Chelsea were willing to pay £40m for his services, yet he only scored 3 goals and assisted twice in the league last season. Like Modric, Faurlin’s main function is not to score or create goals in the QPR system; it is instead to provide his team-mates with the ball, probing the opposition in the process. He is, however, more than capable of scoring and creating: as shown by his excellent strike against Wolves, and his perfectly lofted through-ball to Shaun Wright-Phillips in the same match. But arguably more impressive, in terms of his role and the consistency it requires, is a statistic from the match against Newcastle: he completed 66 of his attempted 79 passes, with 25 out of 30 in the final third - both of which were far more than anyone else on the pitch. He also created 3 chances, won 3 tackles and made 4 interceptions, while against Wolves he also made 3 fouls. Statistics can be misleading, but I think these clearly illustrate that he is more than a pretty passer.
Faurlin shows he can do more than pass by making it 2-0 at Molineux
Passing, though, is undoubtedly his forte: he has been the most frequent and accurate passer on the pitch in four of QPR’s five fixtures thus far, with only Ben Watson slightly bettering him in this aspect in the 2-0 loss against Wigan. Even against Bolton in the humiliating 4-0 home loss, he managed to receive the ball enough to complete passes than anyone on the pitch. However, the overall progression of his direct influence on the game against Newcastle was there for all to see; and it is no coincidence that it occurred amid five new signings entering the side. These signings have instantly improved the side’s playing style and efficiency, with Wright-Phillips in particular helping to stretch opponents. As already alluded to, Faurlin is without doubt the man able to pick him and others out from deep, with new captain Joey Barton providing a more direct link to the forwards. They should form an excellent partnership, with evergreen Shaun Derry providing insurance behind them.
SWP and Barton have already helped improve both Faurlin and QPR in general
It is strongly rumoured that he rejected a move to Inter in favour of becoming QPR’s record signing in 2009, as he opted for first-team football over the chance to work with Jose Mourinho: perhaps this is a more fitting character conclusion than any statistic could provide. Indeed, in her song ‘Alejandro’, Lady Gaga sings, “Don’t bother me, Alejandro”. One suspects that he would not let her down, with his unassuming style as QPR’s calming playmaker instead allowing the likes of Barton and Taarabt to carry out the “bothering”. Bigger tests undoubtedly await Faurlin and QPR – three matches next month against Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City in the space of 13 days, for example – and it will certainly be interesting to see how they build on a promising few weeks, both on and off the pitch. Either way, it would not be a surprise to see Alejandro’s left foot continuing to do the business.