QPR 2017/18 Season Preview: Strengths, Weaknesses, Key Man and Predictions
After a long and tedious summer break, football is almost back as one of Europe's most exciting leagues kicks-off on Friday evening! The new EFL Championship season is set to be another entertaining affair with tears, joy and emotions running high throughout the campaign.
Queens Park Rangers are just one of 24 teams who'll be aiming to make their mark and forge an impression throughout the league. Here, we take a closer look at the R's setup ahead of the new campaign.
1. Last Season
A largely difficult campaign after a bright start, 2016/17 wasn't one that'll live long in the memory of QPR fans. Victories over Leeds United and Cardiff City after the first two games seemed to temporarily offer hope of a promotion push, but a sequence of draws and defeats saw the west Londoners slide down the table.
Ian Holloway was drafted in in November to replace the outgoing Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink but Rangers continued to stagnate. The R's lost six consecutive games over November & December and again in April, flirting with relegation in the process by finishing 18th.
For Holloway, it's likely that he'll need a strong start over the course of the first 5-10 games. If not, last season's flirtation with relegation could very likely prove a reality.
2. Transfers In
It's been very quiet for Rangers in respect to incoming transfers this summer. Josh Scowen joined on a free transfer from Barnsley and youngster Charlie Owens moved across London from Tottenham Hotspur.
The latter will join up with the U23's but the former will likely be making his debut against Reading on Saturday. Nonetheless, Ian Holloway, Les Ferdinand and co. will almost certainly need to add more strength in depth.
Naturally, Rangers need to exercise the loan market and try and tie down some experienced players as funds are seemingly non-existent in W12.
3. Transfers Out
Again, pretty quiet on the departures front at Loftus Road. Karl Henry was released after the end of his contract in June and Ben Gladwin made a permanent switch to Blackburn Rovers. The former Swindon man struggled throughout his two-year stint at Rangers and spent much of it out on loan.
Michael Doughty left for Peterborough United earlier this window as did youngster Josh Bowler, who was picked up by Everton. Rumours still surround the future of former England centre-back Steven Caulker with Celtic thought to be keen.
Aside from the Caulker rumours, it looks likely that Rangers won't lose any of their key players between now and the window closing. Not unless a big enough offer comes in but generally speaking, the likes of Alex Smithies, Ryan Manning, Massimo Luongo et al. should remain.
Holloway's men do have some enviable players in their ranks, in particular across the strongest XI. Alex Smithies has put in some herculean performances in between the sticks, having saved seven out of ten penalties faced. The stand-out performer from last season.
Grant Hall and Joel Lynch are gelling at the back and in midfield the likes of Luke Freeman and Mass Luongo offer plenty. Idrissa Sylla and Conor Washington notched 17 Championship goals between them up-front last term but the latter will want to hit double figures himself this season.
Ryan Manning, Darnell Furlong and Olamide Shodipo will be looking to impress again as Rangers do have some strong youngsters to call upon. Overall, it's evident QPR have enough about them to hurt the league's stronger sides on their day but the gruelling Championship campaign will test them to the core.
Defensively, Rangers were pretty inept last season shipping 66 goals, the fourth worst record in the division. The west Londoners also recorded 23 defeats, the third worst record in the 2016/17 Championship. Such stats must play on Ian Holloway's mind and the Hoops will need to shut out the opposition more frequently this campaign.
It's easier said than done, though. The amount of money that is being spent across the Championship now has seen the quality of players increase dramatically, making it tougher for the 'smaller' clubs to progress and/or sustain their Championship status.
Nonetheless, if Rangers can tempt at least another two proven defenders to Loftus Road, their 'goals against' column should improve, and Championship safety will be a given.
6. Key Man
Conor Washington. The Northern Ireland international really needs to impress the W12 faithful this term after notching seven Championship goals last season. If Ian Holloway was to utilise Washington through the middle more, surely his goal tally will increase.
The former Peterborough striker did score five of those goals in the second half of the season which will hopefully accelerate his confidence into the new season. At 25, Washington still has plenty of time to develop and enhance his game but he'll need to remain focused.
Ian Holloway won't want to rely as much on 'keeper Alex Smithies this term. The former Huddersfield stopper will be vital to QPR's season but he won't fancy bailing his side out from the spot as often! Over to you, Conor...
Potential breakout: Ryan Manning
Realistically, mid-table would be a good finish for Ian Holloway's side. Especially when you consider last season's awful plummet towards the relegation zone and the heightened spending of other clubs in the league.
The lack of new signings doesn't breed confidence amongst the fans and it's more likely that a bottom-half finish or even a relegation battle will ensue. QPR's lavish spending during their ill-fated Premier League venture seems a long time ago now as they'll need to rely on loan signings and freebies.
Holloway will need to motivate his players more than ever as the rigours and choirs of the Championship unfold.
Final position: 16th