The transfer window was slammed shut late Friday night which concluded in Queens Park Rangers signing a dozen new players since it had opened on June 1st.
In the last two weeks of the window, the R’s were linked with moves for Tottenham defender Michael Dawson and Real Madrid veteran Ricardo Carvalho but neither deal materialised.
The signings made before the season started certainly made the Rangers team look impressive on paper in most positions with South Korean international Ji-Sung Park from Manchester United being the most impressive.
However, there were still concerns in the centre of defence among fans which was then highlighted extensively following the 5-0 opening day defeat to Swansea City.
Ryan Nelsen was the only addition to that part of the pitch and although the Kiwi brings experience, his best days were left behind at Ewood Park when Hughes was his manager years ago at Blackburn.
Since that Swansea game, the R’s have made 5 signings; Jose Bosingwa came in on a free transfer to fill the void at Right-Back left by an ostracised Luke Young. Midfielder Esteban Granero signed from Real Madrid, young defender Sam Magri from Portsmouth and the late deal of Stephane Mbia from Marseillie (which saw Joey Barton go the other way on loan, hooray).
The surprise of them all was the capture of Brazilian keeper Julio Cesar from Inter Milan. Manager Mark Hughes said he always wanted to sign two goalkeepers for the season, and that ‘you can’t turn down the chance to sign a quality player if it arises’.
He’s also said he would not stand in the way of Rob Green, leaving the club if he wanted to come January. Of course Green, who only signed in the summer on a free transfer, took the blame for one of the goals conceded in that 5-0 thrashing.
At Norwich, he was lucky to get away with a handball outside of his area but kept a clean sheet in goal during the League Cup win over Walsall.
There’s logic in having two decent goalkeepers competing for the number one jersey. I think that’s what Hughes wanted with Green and Paddy Kenny, only for Kenny to choose to drop a division for regular first-team football.
I was surprised that neither the Dawson or Carvalho deal was concluded but Hughes has to work with what he has got, until January at least but what exactly is his game plan, what is his football philosophy and what identity does he have for this Queens Park Rangers team this season?
The first game of the season saw the R’s line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Green in goal behind a back four of Onuoha, Ferdinand, Hill and Fabio. Followed by, Park and Diakite in the middle with Mackie and Hoilett on the wings, Taarabt in the hole and Cisse up front.
It is a similar system to what Neil Warnock had used in our Championship winning season in 2010/2011 and it is the best system to get the most out of Adel Taarabt.
The Morrocan has since been dropped for the following League games away to Norwich City (1-1) and the 3-1 defeat at champions Manchester City at the weekend.
Hughes explained that Adel had been dropped to the bench for tactical reasons at Norwich whilst at City he wasn’t even named among the subs.
For both away games we played 4-4-2 which is always a safe tactic used by managers who either do not know any better or are trying to get the best out of a bad situation. I believe Hughes opted for this formation for fear of defeat.
We all know Adel Taarabt has immense quality and a tactic that allows him to do what he does best is necessary but it’s not going to be used every game, and sometimes Adel will find himself left out of the team when we need to change our shape.
Here is what I’m calling the Adel Taarabt formation as it is a system to use him. The team in our home kit is our 1st team whilst the team in our classic away colours are the changed XI. It’s pretty clear over the 3 following formations that we have a bigger strength in depth this season. Also, I have listed M’bia as a Central Defender although I am aware he can also play in the Midfield.
Alternatively it’s the 4-4-2 that Hughes has mostly used during his career. Whilst it may not be the tactic for Adel, it is certainly the best tactic for our strikers Andy Johnson and Djibril Cisse who can both feed off Bobby Zamora. It also has two banks of four behind them which is ‘supposed’ to be hard to break down, although Norwich and Man City both exploited us too easily.
A plan C would be a 4-3-3 that would play into the hands of our midfield talent and wingers. With ball playing midfielders like Granero and Faurlin, along with a Diakite or Derry destroying the play of the opposition behind them, I can see this being a great formation. However, I do worry about only having Bobby Zamora as our only lone striking option, although on the wings either side of him you can pick and choose from Hoilett, SWP, Mackie, Cisse and Johnson.
I believe Hughes wants this team to become more controlling and dominating in games, especially with the signing of Granero who like Faurlin, seems to be good at controlling the midfield and dictating the pace of the game with his range of passing.
However, Hughes has got a terrible away record since joining as manager in January and I think he sets his teams up too negative away from home, especially in the 1st half.
Our next 6 Away fixtures are Spurs, West Brom, Arsenal, Stoke Manchester United and Sunderland, I can only see us winning two of those, one of which is not West Brom, but Tottenham with their dodgy new manager and Stoke City, although all we be equally tough.
It’s hard to judge Hughes’ playing style from the first 3 games but I hope it’s not going to be a negative and rigid approach that tries not to lose rather than trying a fluid and attacking approach that score more than the opposition.
I do like Hughes as a manager, he’s got a good track record at other clubs, he’s been successful with buying players in the past and getting the best out of them, so I hope it can come true at Rangers. I know we may need patience as this new squad blends in with their new team-mates.
Fellow R’s fans say that this International break will be good for the players to get to know each other more on the training ground, I hope they are right and I hope it is drilled into them, how big of a game the visit of Chelsea is in 2 weeks time.