After a tumultuous return to the top flight last year, can Mark Hughes continue the club's progress?
Last Season: 17th
In: Junior Hoilett (free transfer, Blackburn), Ji-Sung Park (£2.7m, Manchester United), Fabio (loan, Manchester United), Samba Diakite (£3.5m, AS Nancy-Lorraine), Ryan Nelsen (free transfer, Tottenham Hotspur), Robert Green (free transfer, West Ham United), Andy Johnson (free transfer, Fulham FC)
Out: Peter Ramage (free transfer, Crystal Palace), Heider Helguson (undisclosed, Cardiff City), Fitz Hall (free transfer, Watford), Paddy Kenny (£440,000, Leeds United), Rowan Vince (St. Johnstone, free transfer), Danny Shittu (released), Akos Buzsaky (released), Danny Gabbidon (released)
If they were an Olympian: G4S Security. Well financed, with owners of global influence, seemingly mired in controversy, often lacking discipline,
Few teams in the world can rival QPR for unpredictability in recent years, a succession of colorful managers have come and gone and a list of attendees at the club's board meetings reads like a who's who of international billionaires. In spite of all this, QPR managed to remain a Premier League club last term and this year manager Mark Hughes must make good on the promise he made on the final day of last season when he claimed that QPR would "never again" be in danger of relegation whilst he was at the club.
Hughes has certainly been proactive this summer, releasing a number of players who served previous boss Neil Warnock well but were always unlikely to figure in his long term plans. Some of the most notable departures have been goal keeper Paddy Kenny and striker Heider Helgusson who have both dropped back down to the Championship. The signing of Robert Green is an upgrade on Kenny, whilst Andy Johnson has moved a couple of miles across London from Hughes' previous club Fulham. Whilst Johnson is a proven Premier League performer I actually feel that the Rangers may miss Helguson. Whilst a fairly limited player, the Icelandic striker is truly brilliant in the air and had a knack of unsettling teams, with his performances in games against both Chelsea and Manchester City excellent examples.
On paper one must admit that QPR have made some impressive signings. As well as Green and Johnson, Junior Hoilett has arrived from Blackburn to add pace, width and goals to the side. Hughes has also permanently signed Samba Diakite from Nancy, who was influential in QPR's survival last year, although he will have to improve a disciplinary record which saw him pick up 6 yellow cards and one red in 9 league appearances last year.
Ryan Nelson, Ji-Sung Park and Ryan Nelson have all arrived and offer vast experience and with these signings the club should have little difficulty retaining their top flight status.
The question is how far can Ranger's realistically go this year? Anything approaching mid-table must surely be considered a success and further justify owner Tony Fernandes' harsh but correct decision to remove Neil Warnock last winter.
The full back positions were a problem area for the club last year and again it is an area the Hoops could be vulnerable in. Armand Traore and Fabio are both excellent athletes and decent enough footballers but defensively they both leave a lot to be desired. Traore for his tendency to get caught high up the pitch and Fabio for his occasional recklessness and lapses in concentration. With the wingers in front of them likely to be Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adel Taarabt and Junior Hoilett, they are unlikely to receive a great deal of cover.
Up front the club has an excessive amount of strikers on the books and the fact that in the past 6 months Hughes' has signed Johnson, Bobby Zamora and Djibril Cisse surely means that Jay Bothroyd, D.J. Campbell and Tommy Smith are all free to leave.
The club should be able to welcome back Alejandro Faurlin, who was enjoying an excellent season until he damaged knee ligaments in January, and the Argentine will be a welcome addition to the squad as he possesses a far greater passing range than Shaun Derry, Diakite and Joey Barton. Barton, who has been linked with a move to Blackpool, seems unlikely to have a future with the club after showing that he still cannot be relied upon under pressure, after his appalling behavior on the last day of the season when he very nearly cost QPR everything.
Expect QPR this season to be very similar to Hughes' first season at Blackburn where first and foremost they were incredibly hard to beat and ferociously hard working. Hughes' teams are always some of the fittest in the league and after being privately shocked at the poor training standards when he arrived at the club last January, there will be a noticeable difference at Loftus Road this year.
QPR's home form by the end of last season was the key to them surviving. Victories over Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham proved that and if they are able to replicate that throughout the season then a top 10 finish is certainly not beyond them.
Predicted Finish: 10th
Key Man: Adel Taarabt. Taarabt is one of the most colorful individuals in English football, whether he is curling in stunning free kicks or sulking out of grounds and jumping on buses, the Moroccan is pure box-office. On his day he is as technically gifted and exciting a player as the Premier League has to offer. The problem is consistency and whether he will buy into Mark Hughes' work ethic.
Whilst Warnock was able to get the best out of the Moroccan in the Championship, he is alleged to have told his team that they could only pass to Taarabt when he was in the opposition half, neither he nor Hughes were totally trusting of him last season. If Hughes can get the best out of Taarabt he is one of the few players in the league who can conjure a match winning moment out of nothing.
Underrated: Shaun Derry. Possibly the most unglamorous player in the league but Derry proved his worth last season starting more league games than any other outfield player at the club. Whilst the legs are on their way, Derry is still a valuable part of the side and despite the fears of many, did not look out of place against much bigger and better opponents last season. An excellent reader of the game, Derry relies on his anticipation to nick the ball off players and does not over complicate his passing. Whether Hughes' can coax another season out of the 34 year old remains to be seen.
Watch out for: Joey Barton. He's nasty. Especially if you are an Argentinian striker, playing for Manchester City.
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