By Richard De Winter @rgdewinter
I suppose in some respects QPR’s 1-0 defeat at home to Hull on Saturday was in fact a good result – Rangers’ last 3 opening home matches in the Premier League have finished: QPR 0-3 Wimbledon (95/96), QPR 0-4 Bolton (11/12), QPR 0-5 Swansea (12/13). Therefore anything less than a 6-0 defeat would have been a triumph. There were other positives to take too: unlike in the above matches the R’s performed pretty well. The passing was crisp, the back 3 for the most part looked assured, and good chances were created, the best of course being Charlie Austin’s penalty. Last season, back in the Championship, Rangers would have banged in one of those chances before sitting back and allowing Richard Dunne to nod away any danger, another unremarkable 1-0 victory in the bag, thank you very much.
However, this season we are in the Premier League where, as many good judges/lovers of clichés tell us, you have to put away your opportunities. QPR didn’t, Hull City Tigers did, and that’s 3 points dropped in the interminable struggle to make 40 points. Let’s be honest, this season (as with any season) there are only seven teams who are almost certainly not going to get relegated: Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Man City, Man United and Tottenham. The remaining 13 are fighting to stay up, nothing more. One or two will have a decent start, confidence will grow and they may well get to 40 points by February or March. But the summit of their ambition will be merely to avoid relegation, and will continue to be so until they get provided with an astronomical sum of money to bridge that gap. Losing to Hull at home could have catastrophic consequences come May. That said beating QPR on the opening day didn’t do Bolton much good in 2011/12.
Back to the positives – Ale Faurlin, while running out of steam before the end, was extremely impressive returning from his second cruciate ligament injury in the last 3 years (one on each knee). His passing has always been beautiful, but after his last injury he seemed reluctant to challenge for the ball aerially, as though he didn’t trust the strength in his rebuilt knee. Not so this time, which bodes well, as his ball-winning ability was always as valuable as his ball-retaining ability. Rio Ferdinand (apart from rather crucially losing out to James Chester for the only goal) was calm and authoritative at the back, while Loïc Rémy looked very sharp, making intelligent runs and generally buzzing around like a bumblebee that had fallen in some blue and white paint. QPR’s chances of survival depend on his staying beyond the transfer window.
In sharp contrast to the last time QPR were in the Premier League, Harry Redknapp seems to be making some shrewd acquisitions. Having decided to play 3-5-2 (probably because if tactical genius Louis van Gaal plays it, it must be the best formation), he’s gone out and bought players that will fit into this system. Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker are both solid ball-playing centre-backs, which will contrast nicely with the more rudimentary skills of Richard Dunne, Nedum Onuoha or Clint Hill. Mauricio Isla is (by all accounts) energetic, strong in the tackle and with a decent cross, ideal for a wing-back, and definitely more suited to the role than Danny Simpson, who is defensively superb but likes crosses as much as Dracula. Last season Rangers were a little pedestrian in midfield, but Jordon Mutch and the recently-acquired Leroy Fer will add energy and a goal threat to complement Faurlin’s range of passing. Although it has yet to be confirmed, it seems in all probability that Chilean striker Eduardo Vargas will join his compatriot Isla before the weekend on loan from Napoli, giving the R’s 3 excellent strikers and Bobby Zamora to choose from.
The slight worry is that Caulker, Mutch and Fer are all from teams that were relegated last season – we don’t want to have the next Neil Redfearn of Nigel Quashie – but the squad looks nicely balanced, with a smattering of star quality, Rémy in particular. If this squad belonged to any other team, I would tip them to stay up, but this is QPR we’re talking about, and 20+ years of supporting them has taught me there’s always another way to screw things up royally.
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