The dogfight at the bottom of the Premier League table has already found 2 of its 3 victims. QPR's season has been a tale of unfulfilled promise, and a closer look is needed to see where it all went wrong.
Whilst much focus will naturally be placed on those teams in the upper echelons of their leagues, sometimes the real drama lies in the scramble at the bottom. The Premier League has had two if its relegation candidates confirmed this weekend, and while they were not surprising at this stage of the season, there were certainly higher expectations for at least one of the teams. Reading were always going to be sucked into the relegation battle, however Queens Park Rangers had high aspirations after a season which barely saw them survive on the final day of the 11/12 season despite a loss to the eventual champions, Manchester City.
A rebuilding process began in the summer, as Tony Fernandes backed the multi-pound signings of various stars from across the globe. High-profile players such as ex-Inter Milan and Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar , ex-Real Madrid midfielder Esteban Granero, as well as newly released Chelsea player Jose Bosingwa all moved to Loftus Road. Prospects and ambitions were high, as many of the players coming in had played at the highest level, and challenging for European spots certainly seemed realistic with the squad as it looked on paper.
A run of 4 points from the opening 12 games culminated in the sacking of manager Mark Hughes. There was a lack of cohesion within the team. An ever-changing lineup certainly didn’t help the stability, but overall, the players did no really seem to care. The players dug themselves a hole, and suddenly relegation fears became very real. In came Harry Redknapp and the goal by this time was simple for the escape master: avoid relegation. Backed by the millions of Fernandes, Redknapp went shopping in the January transfer market, signing the much coveted Loic Remy from Marseille as well as bringing Christopher Samba back to the premier league for a club record transfer fee.
An undefeated January which included victories over Chelsea and West Brom seemed to indicate that maybe the big money signings had paid off. An OK run followed with notable draws against both Man City and Norwich City followed by successive victories against fellow relegation candidates Southampton and Sunderland in so called “6-pointers” showed that the great escape may be on after all. However from here it went downhill, as QPR lost games against both Aston Villa and Fulham, whilst there relegation rivals picked up crucial points in their matches. The Redknapp experiment looked to have failed, as QPR were all but preparing for life in the championship at this point.
Many players in the squad have been criticized, but they have all played a role in the demise of QPR’s season. Bosingwa had a very public fallout before returning to the squad, before apparently being caught laughing following QPR’s confirmation of relegation from the Premier League. Adel Taarabt has once again blown hot and cold throughout the year, unable to capture his best form and lead his team. The striker situation has been dire, with Cisse departing for the Middle East, Johnson and Zamora both sustaining injuries, and Bothroyd and Campbell seemingly forgotten men. Remy provided some much needed quality and goals after coming in, yet it was not enough. Samba did not even look half as much as what was paid for him, and the signing of Ben-Haim to replace the outgoing Nelsen (arguably QPRs player of the year along with Julio Cesar) was never a real solution. Overall, it was a case of terrible squad management, and never finding a system which truly worked. When Mark Hughes was manager, he saw Park Ji Sung, newly signed from Manchester United, as an experienced leader and captain for the team going forward. However, Park was never able to replicate his United form, and suddenly, the leader of the team was not even in the lineup. There developed no consistency from which the team played, and throughout many games, the disorganization of the team in their shape could be seen as they shipped goal after goal. The squad never quite gelled together, as is often the case when too many new signings come in at once.
. The rebuilding process will now begin as it is unclear which stars will remain at Loftus Road next season. With many of the bigger name players on large wages, there will certainly have to be a squad overhaul to balance the books out with the loss in Premier League revenue. A few of the players have seen their stock rise as a result of the season (Cesar, Remy, and arguably Towsend in his short time) and should have no problem finding new suitors. A lot of others will be put on the chopping block as ‘Arry will look to lead them back into the Premier League at the first time of asking.
QPR’s abysmal season only shows that sometimes money cannot buy you everything. There is much more to consider than just individual player quality, but rather how the team plays as a unit. QPR were unable to find this balance, and now must pay the consequences by competing in England’s second division next season.
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