Queens Park Rangers: 5 Signs QPR Are Starting to Improve Under Mark Hughes
Looking at the table, there is not much to support the opinion that Queens Park Rangers are improving under Mark Hughes. Just four points from 10 games, win-less, and only off the bottom thanks to goal difference—on paper QPR haven't got better at all.
However in the Premier League, their performances have warranted more points than the club have actually received.
Since the mauling of Swansea City, the dour draw at Norwich City and the domination from Manchester City, QPR have looked a different team.
The turning point was against Chelsea—and since that game against their bitter rivals—Rangers have only had one really poor Premier League performance: against West Ham United.
But apart from not losing 5-0 every week, what other signs are there that QPR are improving under Mark Hughes?
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The defense has improved dramatically. And despite conceding 16 goals so far in the League, there are signs of improvement.
The 5-0 opening day defeat against Swansea proved that QPR were missing a solid center-back. Hughes immediately tried to rectify this with the signings of Michael Dawson and Ricardo Carvalho (via BBC) however these both failed.
Despite this set-back, Rangers signed Cameroonian international Stephane M'Bia from Marseille on deadline day in an attempt to shore up their shaky back four. Granted, M'Bia hasn't been the stalwart Hughes was hoping for: showing immaturity in his sending off against Arsenal. However other players have stepped up to the mark.
Ryan Nelsen in particular looked years younger as he dominated Fernando Torres vs. Chelsea in October. He has also recorded 89 clearances and 19 shots blocked throughout the season so far: the most in the entire team (via WhoScored.com).
However the biggest improvement has been seen in the goalkeeping area. Yes, Hughes did bring in an ex-Brazilian international and Champions League winner to fix the issue after the 5-0 loss. But with Cesar behind the back line, Rangers look more settled and confident: they have only conceded nine goals in six games—as opposed to nine in their first three.
Nine in six is still not a great record, especially with only one clean sheet, but it is a visible improvement.
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QPR's passing has been one of their biggest strengths, especially in midfield.
The improvement from the first few games could well be down to the purchase of Esteban Granero and the growing maturity of Samba Diakite, and here is why.
Diakite was absent for the majority of September through personal problems (via Metro). However on his return—after a small blip with two yellow cards against West Ham—he has looked like a different player.
With more than 75 percent successful passes in each of the eight League games (via FourFourTwo StatsZone App), he has been one of the biggest influences in the game. And that pass rate is even more impressive when you remember QPR have played Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal already.
With easier games still to come, Rangers—with help from the passing masterclasses from the above players—are on course to improve even further.
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The return of Alejandro Faurlin from injury was very important to Rangers fortunes and morale. His first start of the season was against Manchester City, but he excelled against Chelsea with an 88 percent pass success rate (via FourFourTwo StatsZone App).
Faurlin's long balls however is what lends him to this slide, over the passing category. With 34-out-of-45 attacking balls being played by the Argentine successful (via WhoScored.com), his vision for creating chances is sometimes overlooked.
His impact in the squad is essential, and Hughes needs to put him on the field, rather than leave him on the bench if QPR are to continue to improve.
There is one person, however, that cannot be ignored if creativity is being mentioned. And that person is Adel Taarabt.
Since Taarabt started against West Brom, QPR have created more chances (via FourFourTwo StatsZone App), scored more goals (via Soccerbase) and Taarabt himself has bagged a couple for his own personal tally.
Taarabt will take on defenders, make key passes and shoot on sight. And since the Moroccan has become a more permanent feature in the Rangers side, Hughes' men have looked more dangerous game by game.
Team Taking Responsibility
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"You can't blame Mark for the position we're in but we're a vastly more consistent team than we were...The team has got the makings of a great team and Mark can get the best out of them...Cream eventually rises to the top. I'm fully behind Mark, as are the shareholders. We haven't had luck but we have enough quality in the squad."
With Rangers fans accustomed to these swoonings and promises, the words of Fernandes may not make too much impact anymore. However, the players are starting to stand up for their manager too, and taking responsibility for the results.
Fast becoming QPR's player spokesperson, Granero told the Daily Mail: "We have a good team, a good squad, a good manager, we do not deserve to be there—but that does not matter because you have to win games."
Defender Ryan Nelsen also backs this view that it is up to the players to win the games, telling talkSPORT: "It’s got to be so frustrating for the manager. In preparing for games, he does the maximum he can with what he can control. It’s up to us players to stop throwing curve balls in the way we have been. I feel very sorry for him."
This acknowledgement from the players is something that hadn't been seen in the early weeks. With players taking the responsibility squarely on their own shoulders, it has improved the fight and determination in the squad as a whole.
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Esteban Granero has stated that he believes the club has started to become more cohesive, and that this hard work has improved their performances in recent weeks (via QPR.co.uk).
The midfielder is not the only person to acknowledge Rangers' improvement in performance and cohesion, with Hughes' tactics starting to make sense. Robbie Savage told the BBC that there were "still enough signs to show there is no need to panic at Loftus Road, despite a poor start to the campaign."
The fact that Rangers are beginning to play more like a team. Their defensive quality, impressing with their passing, creativity and taking responsibility as players are just a few ways QPR are improving. However there are still things for Hughes to work on: scoring, midfield tackling and finishing off a game to name a few.
There is unrest in the stands, and the poor results need to start reflecting their improved performances.