QPR had to fight hard last season for promotion, scraping past Wigan Athletic in the play-off semi-final 2-1 on aggregate, before Bobby Zamora's eleventh hour strike saw them pip Derby County to the coveted third promotion spot, after a thrilling final.
They started last season very strongly, with an unbeaten run of 11 games from the start of the season to late October, flirting with first position, but eventually stuttered and slipped to fourth by the second half of the year. Despite a respectable 23 league victories, many were won by a single goal and their goal difference finished far below that of the top three as a result.
This being said, promotion was a necessity for Harry Redknapp's men and a return to the Premier League at the first time of asking, along with the estimated £134 million play-off revenue, stands QPR in good stead for the coming season.
QPR have a strong squad, good depth and an effective mix of young and old.
Goalkeepers Julio Cesar and Rob Green will battle it out for a starting position this year, despite suggestions that Cesar could depart the club following his lack of game time last year, before his eventual short-term loan to Toronto FC. Brazil's number one however has more than enough quality to earn a starting position in the Premier League, while ex-England international Rob Green provides a sturdy back-up.
Veteran defender and skipper Clint Hill leads the line in defence, although his advancing years could see him phased out in favour of new defensive reinforcements... Danny Simpson and Armand Traore operate effectively at right back and left back respectively and will play a key role in attack and defence this coming season, while ex-Man City defender Nedum Onuoha is experienced and versatile enough to fill in anywhere in the back-four.
In midfield, QPR retain the enigma that is Adel Taarabt. Unpredictable and utterly ineffective at worst, he has shown glimpses of his devastating flair and control and this is the season for him to step up and prove his worth to Harry Redknapp. It is unlikely he will be given another season if he does not improve this year. Joey Barton continues to provide the steel in midfield and following a fairly clean season (albeit picking up 15 yellow cards, more than double that of any other player in the squad) seems to have put a troubled past behind him for the moment. Experienced Jermaine Jenas provides a cool head and quality in the midfield, while winger Junior Hoilett and attacking midfielder Niko Kranjcar add flair and threat in the final third.
Up front last season, new arrival Charlie Austin dazzled, picking up an impressive 20 goals in all competitions and winning all four end-of-season awards. At just 25, he still has room to improve and will be a real handful for opposition defences this coming season. Loic Remy is still at the club, following a failed transfer to Liverpool and it remains to be seen whether he will opt to stay; if he does, a strike partnership of Austin and Remy could prove lethal. The experienced Bobby Zamora provides back-up.
Redknapp has been cautious in the transfer market this season, with the main aim being to clear out dead wood and reduce the wage bill, with veteran players or high earners such as Ji-Sung Park, Stephane M'Bia, Andrew Johnson, Luke Young, Esteban Granero and Yossi Benayoun all departing the club.
Manchester United veteran Rio Ferdinand has arrived in defence on a free transfer and his leadership, strength and experience will benefit QPR no end. Steven Caulker arrives from Cardiff City and will likely play a key role in a starting position this year, with QPR having seen off many interested teams to secure his services.
Also, following a good season with Cardiff, Jordan Mutch becomes the second player to join from the Welsh club and has the quality to force his way into the first team this year. Finally, Mauricio Isla arrives on loan, bringing in versatility and experience and provides back-up in midfield or defence.
There have not been many arrivals at Loftus Road this transfer window, but they have been well considered and all offer something new and different to the team.
QPR have had a mixed pre-season, having won three, drawn two and lost two. The quality of their opposition has been low and their performances have not been superb, epitomised by two draws in a row against Leyton Orient and Southend United. The talent on show in the Premier League is going to be far, far beyond that of their pre-season opponents and they certainly need to step up a notch if they aim to survive this year.
Summary and Predictions
Harry Redknapp is a tough and wily manager and has done well in cutting out high earners and dead wood who no longer offer anything to the club. His four arrivals have all added quality to the side and improved the squad depth of an already strong team.
Despite a mixed pre-season, QPR have the quality to put up a challenge this season and appear stronger that some of the sides who have remained in the Premier League the past year or two. With the players they have at their disposal, along with Redknapp at the helm, QPR will battle to finish at least 15th this season, as any lower will be viewed as a disappointment for a side of this quality...
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