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Queens Park Rangers 1 v 1 Middlesbrough
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 26th September 2020 Kick-off 15:00
QPR scout report - a view of Middlesbrough's opponents
Saturday, 26th Sep 2020 11:09 by Phil Spencer

Middlesbrough travel to Loftus Road this afternoon as they prepared to take on Queens Park Rangers.

After picking up one point from their opening two fixtures, attention now turns to picking up that crucial first three points of the campaign.

QPR are likely to be contesting with Middlesbrough in mid-table this term, but how are the Hoops shaping up for this one?

We spoke to LoftForWords for a rundown on the opposition.

How would you sum up last season for QPR?

Prior to the lockdown we had the division’s second best attack and second worst defence.

That drifted a little bit in the behind closed doors games but we still finished as one of the top scorers in the league and only Luton and Hull conceded more than us.

That was QPR 2019/20 in a nutshell, when they were good they were really good and when they were bad they were horrific.

We had a 6-1 win against Cardiff, a 5-1 against Swansea, 4-2s against Blackburn and Stoke, a 4-3 with Millwall. But we also let in five at Barnsley, four against Nottingham Forest, lost 3-0 at home to Sheff Wed and so on.

There was plenty of material for both the optimistic and pessimistic sides of the argument to get their teeth into.

If you take a step back and look where we were the previous summer, I think the season was a success.

We’d won only three matches in the second half of 2018/19, sold the best two players in that team, did a transfer window of 16 in and 16 out, reduced the wage bill again… the general consensus was we’d be lucky to survive and yet we finished higher in the league, won more games, won more away games, played better football, scored more goals, and developed some exciting young players, most notably Ebere Eze.

Everybody would have taken that in August whatever they say now.

Mark Warburton’s side had one of the worst defences in the Championship last season, what was that down to?

Touchy subject. We pressed him on this in an interview recently and it developed into a bit of a row.

He doesn’t take kindly to suggestions we don’t work on defending, and defending set pieces in particular, in training – which is a bit of a daft suggestion, because obviously they work on it.

He also points out that we’re working on one of the lowest budgets in the division, and sometimes we’re trying to mark a £45k a week centre forward with a £5k a week kid centre back.

And that as we want to pass the ball and play progressive football we have to sacrifice a bit of physicality in our team because if you’re 6ft 4in and strong, and you can pass the ball as well, then you’re probably a £25m Premier League footballer.

That’s his point of view and there’s a lot of truth in all of it.

Contrary to the tone of the interview I actually like and respect Warburton a lot, I think he’s very good for us.

However when you see us last week at Coventry allowing three free headers from three corners in three minutes culminating in Coventry’s winner it can wear a little thin, because Coventry’s budget is similar to ours and Kyle bloody McFadzean is not some all conquering, towering, unplayable, £45k a week Premier League footballer.

I think we lack organisation and leadership in defence. I think we play such an attacking style (particularly from full back) that it’s quite easy to expose us, particularly when we give the ball away in midfield.

I think we’ve prioritised ball playing skills in defenders over more conventional defensive attributes. I think budget restrictions mean we’re scrapping around for prospects and rough diamonds and mistakes are inevitable in their development.

We’ve got a couple of goalkeepers low on form and confidence. And I think we’re too small, weak, meek and nice as a team. It’s a young team and there’s a flimsy spine to it.

Who have QPR signed this summer and how would you rate the business?

So far we’ve added George Thomas, a powerful young midfielder who got picked up by Leicester after a big breakthrough season at Coventry but didn’t make the grade there. He’s looked pretty promising.

We’ve made Luke Amos’ loan deal permanent which got a very lukewarm (sorry) reception from fans after his first year here but Warburton really likes him and 2019/20 was his first year back after a bad ACL rupture so he may be able to improve this time around. Tom Carroll has returned, and again that didn’t set many pulses racing after a previously lacklustre loan spell but he’s actually looked very decent so far.

The market for strikers has skyrocketed (as Boro know only too well) at the same time as our finances have tightened so we’ve been relying on loan deals for forwards for several seasons now and the chance to own one permanently in Lyndon Dykes from Livingston is a big moment for us that we need to go well.

Two in two so far, both penalties. Warburton has finally got the right-sided ball-playing centre back he wants to play with Yoann Barbet in Rob Dickie, he looked good against Forest and less so against Coventry. I think/hope we’ve igned reasonably well within the restrictions we operate under.

What business do QPR still need to complete?

Two of our most influential players from last season, Ryan Manning and Bright Osayi-Samuel, are both out of contract next summer and the club has made it clear they will not just be allowed to hang around and run it down to a free transfer.

Manning has been dropped from the side and it looks like the club will take whatever they can get from wherever they can get it in the remaining transfer window, which in turn leaves us weak at left back where Lee Wallace has really struggled since moving down from Rangers.

Osayi-Samuel has been playing, having turned down a summer move to Club Brugge, and it’s starting to feel like he might stay and sign after all but a last minute departure for him would be a huge blow.

Dykes is our only recognised, senior striker so I’d expect another one of those, probably on loan, and they were keen on Scott Hogan before he went to Birmingham.

The team could do with strengthening in all areas really, and I think they will add at least another two players, but I look at all these rumour websites, Twitter accounts demanding ever more signings, people saying we’ll definitely be relegated without half a dozen additions, and wonder whether they turn the news on every now and again. Our finances and FFP situation were already borderline, the news this week that fans won’t be back in the ground any time soon should be a massive wake up call.

Nottingham Forest are obviously absolutely bloody mental, and Norwich are chock full of Premier League TV money and parachute payments, but most of the rest of the division is being frugal and that’s completely understandable.
Sure, we’d all like QPR to go out and sign five or six players to get the team into a state where it can compete for the top six, but look around you, it’s not going to happen.

How big a blow is it to lose Ebere Eze? Who will replace him as the club’s talisman?

It’s a blow to the team to lose a player of such undoubted quality. With him, Wells and Hugill all leaving we’ve lost 45 goals and a good 20 or so assists from last season’s team.
But without parachute payments, with a small ground, making losses every month, with FFP problems, the only way we get out of things from here in the right direction is by regularly selling players for the sort of money we got for Eze.

QPR have been really poor at buy-low-sell-high for years so getting a player for free and then getting the thick end of £20m for him four years later is precisely what we need to be doing.

Reinvest a bit into a few players, hopefully develop one of them or an existing squad member – maybe Ilias Chair - into next summer’s big sale and repeat. Brentford have shown where you can get through that intelligent recruitment and selling at the right time for a good price.

What are the squad’s strengths and weaknesses?

As I’ve said we tend to be good going forward when it clicks, and dreadful at the back. We’re also very short of strength in depth but given the circumstances might just have to live with that.

What are your QPR predictions for the season ahead?

We haven’t been too far away from sixteenth at any point in the last four or five years so that’s usually a good prediction.

Who are the players that Middlesbrough need to watch out for against QPR?

If Bright Osayi-Samuel finds form he’s our biggest threat. Ilias Chair, as said, we’re hoping to step up and help fill the Eze void and he looked good against Forest but weirdly kept turning back inside and passing backwards against Coventry so he needs to be more on the front foot this week.

How have QPR performed so far this season?

We beat a poor looking Wimbledon team in pre-season very comfortably, then lost 1-0 at Oxford to our now standard poor defensive goal from a corner. We were then beaten 3-2 by Plymouth in the League Cup in much the style we became accustomed to last season with plenty of style, threat and missed chances going forwards and several repetitive disasters at the back. I was surprised how good, and how solid, we looked in beating Forest 2-0 on day one, though it would seem their policy of signing a player every day while simultaneously looking to replace a manager two games into the season is causing them some problems and they did miss plenty of chances against us. At Coventry last Friday we looked great for 40 minutes, should have led by more, conceded a defensively shambolic equaliser you could pin on half a dozen individual errors, and then didn’t really turn up for a second half we deserved to lose.

How do you see the game playing out?

We’re the surest ‘both teams to score’ bet on the coupon so 2-2 is usually a good place to start guessing, and that was the score here between these two last season.

Photo: Action Images

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