Lessons learned from last QPR campaign in Premier League
QPR’s transfer policy could hardly be more different from this time two years ago. Tony Fernandes’ wealth is no longer being used to attract mercenaries who, when the going got tough, weren’t up for the fight.
The Hoops remain among the favourites at 7/4 in Coral’s relegation market, but there is a real sense that the Loftus Road hierarchy has wised up while Harry Redknapp has been in residence in the dugout. Granted, he will always have that ‘wheeler-dealer’ tag, evoking televised images of snatched interviews through an open car window, but his summer acquisitions should give QPR a great chance of survival.
Conventional wisdom suggests that being part of a backline that conceded 74 goals in last season’s Premier League, while captaining Cardiff City, was not at all Steven Caulker’s fault. That ultra-positive assessment is wilful blindness.
A more realistic analysis of his 2013/14 campaign would be the learning of some pretty harsh lessons, and a need for his development to continue under the wing of an experienced England international. Step forward Rio Ferdinand.
Discarded by Manchester United, as Louis van Gaal makes way for a brighter future, the former Three Lions captain has returned to London and links up with his old West Ham boss Redknapp. The opportunity to play alongside Ferdinand in the heart of the Hoops defence was obviously too good for Caulker to turn down.
Nor was he the only eye-catching Cardiff player from last term captured by QPR. Jordon Mutch, a rare ray of sunshine in a beleaguered Bluebirds midfield, has hopped down the M4 too and thrown his lot in with the Hoops. A reported £6m fee has hopefully bought Redknapp goals from this area of the field.
Chile wing back Mauricio Isla, who can also operate in the engine room, completes the four summer signings made at QPR to date, on a season-long loan from Italian champions Juventus. Exits for several 30-somethings, but particularly Aaron Hughes and Luke Young in this case, made another option for that flank of defence necessary. Danny Simpson and Nedum Onuoha will be less than delighted, though.
And that’s all the in-bound business to Shepherd’s Bush. No prima-donnas, no controversial signings that bring baggage with them, no names that strike you as not having the stomach for a scrap. There are remnants of these less desirable elements still on the Hoops’ books, however.
Maverick Moroccan midfielder Adel Taarabt may yet make a permanent switch to the San Siro, if new AC Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi was impressed with how he played on loan under predecessor Clarence Seedorf. Joey Barton, meanwhile, gets another crack at the Premier League and will battle the combative Karl Henry for a spot sitting in front of the back four.
It looks like ageing defensive pair Richard Dunne and Clint Hill, who remains club captain at QPR, will be benched behind the master and apprentice duo of Ferdinand and Caulker. Jermaine Jenas and forgotten Argentine player Alejandro Faurlin have injuries to battle back from to challenge for midfield berths.
Brazil’s World Cup keeper Julio Cesar has been recalled from a loan spell at MLS franchise Toronto, despite being frozen out under Redknapp when the Hoops were out of the top-flight. Number one Rob Green recently signed a new deal, however, so indications are there may be a battle in this position.
Completing the rearguard are forward-thinking left backs Armand Traore and Yun Suk-Young. Where QPR look a little light, then, is in attacking areas. Charlie Austin is the latest Football League scoring sensation that deserves a crack at the Premier League, while Loic Remy failing a medical at Liverpool could be a blessing in disguise.
Either up front or out wide, the France forward was a revelation at Newcastle United last season. Redknapp must be realistic about hanging onto Remy, though. If he does so, then it’s a bonus, because a permanent departure from west London has always been anticipated. Bobby Zamora, whose play-off final goal ensured the Hoops made an immediate top-flight return, is the other striking option.
Out wide, Redknapp’s choices are a little underwhelming. Shaun Wright-Phillips is now 32, so we will not be seeing him romping forward as he did in his pomp at Manchester City and Chelsea. Junior Hoilett has that consistency question mark hanging over, while the explosive pace of Matty Phillips may have been permanently hampered by a long-term ankle injury.
Iceland attacker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, currently plying his trade for Dutch champions Ajax, was linked with QPR, who are 9/2 chances for a top 10 finish; so if this deal could be done, then Redknapp would have more to work with.