In every QPR season, on the field drama ensues.
In this year’s edition, QPR managed to record the worst start to a Championship season by losing the first four games – including the humiliating 7-1 loss at West Brom – to come two points within the playoffs in December, and then win only 4 of the remaining 21 fixtures of the season.
In the end, the sacking of Steve McClaren marked another disappointing season for the West London club.
If newly pointed manager Mark Warburton hopes to be successful, these are some key pointers he must take away from the 2018/19 campaign.
Defend, defend, defend…
Since QPR’s relegation in 2015, they have struggled to improve the defence, resulting in a dramatic decline of defensive quality. Last season, QPR conceded an average of 1.5 goals per game and recorded only 4 clean sheets from 1st January, to the end of the season.
With Jake Bidwell, Joel Lynch and Alex Baptiste leaving Rangers, they will need to replace these players with improved capabilities. Rangers’ lack of defensive potency has been a key reason for why Chris Ramsey, Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink, Ian Holloway and Steve McClaren all suffered the sack at Loftus Road.
The midfield’s goal-scoring contribution
Excluding Luke Freeman, QPR’s midfield recorded only 16 league goals for the 2018/19 season. Freeman himself scored 7. QPR’s inability to supply goals from midfield has resulted in added pressure to an already weak attack – a factor Warburton needs to thwart.
With Nahki Wells and Thomas Hemed returning to their respective clubs, QPR will be left with one first-team striker, Matt Smith; but he may also leave if he does not sign a new contract. Without the necessary funds to provide a known goalscorer, and negative history of finding a shrewd signing which turns to gold, Warburton will need to find a system where takes the weight off the fragile attack.
The Matt Smith dilemma
Since his arrival in 2017, the striker has been an influential figure for QPR. He has noticeably been a determining part of QPR’s quest to survive the Championship. However, some sets of QPR fans’ have started to become restless with his play style.
The 6 ft 6 striker is largely a one-dimensional player that requires pinpoint crosses and long balls to be effective. While he does create a problem for the defending team, his presence limits QPR to launching long balls and hoping one lands in their favour. At times it was successful last season, but Smith’s need for the ball to be straight to him means he often becomes isolated.
Warburton will need to choose if he wants Smith’s long ball play style, or move in a different direction that suited the one he employed at Brentford.