Harry Redknapp's men are back in the Premier League and, having already signed four proven players, will be eager to deliver a better showing than they put up last timeBy Ewan Roberts
Having sneaked back into the Premier League via the Championship play-offs, QPR will be hoping for a more prolonged stay in the top flight this time around. With an experienced squad, money to spend and a wily old manager, the Rs are better equipped than most newly promoted sides.
Goal takes a look at the state of play at Loftus Road…
With Harry Redknapp in charge, QPR’s transfer dealings were always going to be largely predictable. Unsurprisingly, the veteran boss has brought in proven, experienced Premier League players, with a decidedly British flavour to this summer’s activity.
Rio Ferdinand is the standout purchase, having joined from Manchester United on a free transfer and there will be an onus on the decorated 35-year-old to marshal a new-look back line and justify his mammoth wage packet.
The yin to Ferdinand’s yang is England international Steven Caulker, whose young legs will be needed to compensate for his ageing partner. With Richard Dunne and Clint Hill also at the club, Redknapp is looking increasingly likely to play with three at the back, especially after the arrival of Glenn Hoddle as a first-team coach.
QPR raided Cardiff City a second time with the £5 million signing of Jordon Mutch, one of the Bluebirds' shining lights in an otherwise disappointing campaign. The attacking midfielder was the club’s top scorer with seven goals, three of which came against league runners-up Liverpool.
Further hinting at a shift to 3-5-2, the Rs’ most recent recruit is wing-back-cum-winger Mauricio Isla, who joined on loan from Juventus. If the Chilean can rediscover his Udinese form he could rampage up the flank this season.
QPR have significantly trimmed a bloated squad during the off-season, with many of the high-paid flops bought under Mark Hughes having been sold or released.
Notable departures include Stephane Mbia, who spent last season on loan with Europa League winners Sevilla but has yet to find a new club, Park Ji-Sung and Yossi Benayoun – the most high-profile trio of 11 players to leave the west Londoners on free transfers this summer.
In fact, the only man for whom QPR have recouped any money is Esteban Granero, though they have taken a huge hit on the £9m that they paid Real Madrid two years ago. Adel Taarabt, meanwhile, could yet be sold, with AC Milan showing interest.
The club will also have to make do without several loan stars from their promotion push, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tom Carroll, Ravel Morrison and Niko Kranjcar all having returned to their parent clubs.
One player who had been expected to leave Loftus Road this summer was Loic Remy and, having failed a medical at Liverpool (though Redknapp argues differently), the Frenchman is now being targeted by Chelsea.
Last season, Ian Holloway complained that his Crystal Palace side – who appeared destined for relegation early on – lacked the required Premier League experience needed to survive in the division. QPR, though, will have no such problems.
Unlike many newly promoted sides, the Rs are well stocked with battle-hardened veterans who know exactly what it takes to survive in the top flight – in fact, few teams can match the combined 2698 Premier League appearances boasted by the Londoners' squad.
The spine is infused with know-how, from 34-year-old shot-stopper Robert Green to vocal centre-back Ferdinand, from controversial midfielder Joey Barton to tough-tackling destroyer Karl Henry. With that, however, comes a concern that the side are too geared towards experience, with those wizened, slowing bodies a poor fit for the frantic pace and energy-sapping tempo of the league.
Fortunately for QPR, Redknapp has several pacey options from which to choose to dovetail with his core of veterans, especially on the flanks. Much will be expected of the blisteringly fast Junior Hoilett, who has yet to show his Blackburn form for his current club.
The importance of a prolific frontman cannot be overstated, with many Championship strikers struggling to make the step up. QPR could yet call on Remy, who has scored a goal every other game in English football, with the Frenchman so far unable to find a new club.
Should he leave then the goalscoring burden will fall solely on Charlie Austin, the club’s top scorer last season despite several injuries. Whether he can be as dangerous in the Premier League is another matter, and Redknapp will be worried by the lack of goals in his side. Austin was the only current QPR player to score more than four times in the Championship last season.
In a squad full of experience and functionality, it is perhaps inevitable that a player who embodies those traits should be central to QPR’s hopes in the upcoming season.
That player is Joey Barton, whose scrapping, battling qualities will be needed to pull QPR though a campaign that is likely to be tough and gruelling. His drive and hunger, and ability to rally the troops in the face of adversity, were not on show nearly often enough when an often-meek side were relegated in 2012-13.
The perennially controversial figure has swapped off-pitch brawls for Friedrich Nietzsche in recent years and even soaked up French culture with a spell at Marseille and has become an authoritative, mature leader in the club’s engine room.
“Before I met Joey I didn’t know him and like everyone you only know what you read and hear,” mused manager Redknapp, under whom Barton had an excellent season in the Championship.
“Once you come and work with him and see what a fantastic trainer he is and how good he is on the training ground, I could not have asked for more. He was an inspiration late on [last season]. I felt he dragged us through at times … I think he will be a big inﬂuence this year.”
This season, Redknapp finds himself in the unusual position of having a summer to build a side capable of staying in the Premier League, rather than parachuting into the club mid-season as part of last-ditch rescue job.
His famous wheeler-dealer tag looks as accurate as ever – though don’t let him hear you say that – having overseen a frantic turnover of players during the off-season, signing four new faces (with more surely on the way) and raiding both home and abroad.
The 67-year-old is also one of the most experienced managers in the division; Only Arsene Wenger has taken charge of more top-flight matches but, equally, no manager has lost more Premier League games than Redknapp’s 224.
There will be a level of expectation at Loftus Road that could irritate him, however, with a growing net spend this summer and a wage bill that is higher than Borussia Dortmund’s invariably leading to suggestions that the side should stay up comfortably – just as they should have won promotion easily last term, though in the end they did it by the skin of their teeth.
£20m was spent in the first transfer window of his stay in west London, though it was not enough to keep the club up. Having averaged just 0.84 points per game in his 25 matches in charge after replacing Mark Hughes, Redknapp will need to prove that he is still cut out for top-level management.
His greatest skill comes in his handling of the media, serving up soundbites to hungry journalists, and the arrival of Hoddle suggests that Redknapp will take a backseat role in training-ground work. Despite his reputation as an old school 4-4-2 man, meanwhile, his recent purchases and public hints suggest that he will utilise the very in-vogue 3-5-2 formation this season, a structure with which Hoddle is not unfamiliar.
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The minimum and immediate requirement for QPR - and especially ambitious owner Tony Fernandes - will be to remain in the Premier League.
The Rs forfeited their position at the top table of English football after a miserable 2012-13 campaign but the British core of players that makes up the squad now suggests that they have forged a hungrier, more passionate group of players than the rabble of mercenaries brought in under Hughes.
QPR’s spending power, however, means that expectations could be just a little more than to merely survive this term, especially if Remy, a player courted by sides in the Champions League during the close-season, is retained.
Redknapp has overseen a large net spend so far, dramatically more than their bottom-of-the-table rivals, and he will need to deliver after such heavy backing.
Key to their success will be maintaining their fine form at Loftus Road. Last season they lost just twice at home, whereas the previous season in the Premier League brought nine loses in their own backyard – the most in the Premier League. Palace showed the value of an intimidating home arena and, if QPR can breed fervour rather than hostility and make a strong start to the season, then Redknapp could even eye up a cup run.