Queens Park Rangers: Is QPR in Better Shape After January Now Than in 2012?
Queens Park Rangers' second Premier League season was supposed to be one of hope, promise and big ideas. Instead, it has turned into gloomy Saturday afternoons, turning off Match Of The Day and dreading Monday morning when taunts of QP-Ha-Ha-Ha fill the office.
It is fair to say, Tony Fernandes' big dream has not gone to plan, and QPR are set for another relegation dogfight this season.
With 15 games left and all the odds being stacked against Rangers—quite literally, as they are second favorites for relegation (via Sky Bet)—their demise is moving closer and closer with each dropped point.
But are QPR in better shape than last season? And is there still hope for Harry Redknapp's band of less-than-merry-men to climb out of the bottom three? Let's find out.
The League Position
The league table doesn't make for pretty reading for QPR fans at this present time, and this is going to be the easiest comparison between the two seasons.
They are bottom right now compared to 16th last season, so judging by the league position, no, they are not in better shape.
However, taking a closer look, there is still some hope that can be salvaged from the wreckage of the Mark Hughes era for Rangers fans.
In 2012 Wigan Athletic were bottom with 15 points, five points off safety and struggling to score goals. Sound familiar?
The good news for Rs fans is that the Latics survived to fight another Premier League day, and QPR can take solace in that fact. But they'll need to don their own fighting gloves pretty sharpish if they are to follow in Wigan's footsteps and lift themselves from rock bottom.
Are QPR in better shape in 2013? The league position says no.
The Points Required
Last season, 37 points was enough to secure safety last season, so following form—and the fact as stated in the last slide that the bottom four teams are all within five points of each other this time around too—QPR need 22 from their final 15 games.
That works out as roughly six wins, five draws and four losses (let's go for 23 points just to be safe). A tough order for a team which has won just two all season.
In comparison, Rangers needed 16 from their final third of the season last year. And the 37-point total was only reached, and considered enough to stay up, thanks to Djibril Cisse (via BBC) and Jonathan Walters for Stoke (via BBC).
Are QPR in better shape in 2013? The points required says no.
The Fixture List
In 2012, Rangers had to fight for survival against six of the top seven teams at the time: Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City. They managed to accumulate nine points from those games, and a similar run will be needed this time around.
QPR have meetings with five of the current top seven in 2013, including visits from Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal, and away trips to Everton and Liverpool.
However it is the other teams whom they have to play which are the most important to focus on. Norwich, Southampton, Aston Villa, Wigan, Reading and Newcastle are all on the upcoming fixture list, and all could be considered involved in the relegation fight.
These are six teams that QPR can take three points off, and there are the six wins I was talking about.
Are QPR in better shape in in 2013? The fixture list says yes.
Many of Mark Hughes' big signings haven't really panned out. Jose Boswinga threw a toddler-type-strop (via Daily Telegraph), Junior Hoilett and Esteban Granero have had to make do with bit-part-roles (via Soccerbase), and Fabio da Silva and Ji-Sung Park have both had injury problems (via Daily Mail).
However Stephane Mbia and now permanent midfielder Samba Diakite have received praise for their performances (via Daily Telegraph), and goalkeeper Julio Cesar has been in fine form recently, leading to a recall to the Brazil national squad (via Sky Sports).
Swapping Paddy Kenny out for Julio Cesar is already one mark chalked off for the 2013 squad, as is the inclusion of Ryan Nelsen at the back for Anton Ferdinand.
However, with the Kiwi off to Canada (via The Guardian), Redknapp needs to bring in a similar player to replace him; as Anton Ferdinand and Tal Ben Haim can't be trusted as the center-back pairing (via Evening Standard).
On paper, the current squad has a lot more potential than last season, especially with the arrival of French hotshot Loic Remy. However in terms of heart and passion, the decision is a lot murkier.
Redknapp has brought some fight back to the team; with the re-inclusion of stalwarts such as Clint Hill, Shaun Derry and Jamie Mackie in the first XI. Up until Christmas, there didn't look to be a lot of desire from the players (via Daily Mail), but 'Arry's no-nonsense managerial style has seen the morale and the work effort improve.
However is the squad as a whole any better off than this time last year? If Redknapp finds a well-balanced team with passion and skill as he has been doing in recent weeks, and if Remy can "do a Cisse" and grab vital goals in the coming games, then the players which promise so much on paper, could well produce the results on the pitch.
Are QPR in better shape in 2013? The squad says yes, just about.
If Queens Park Rangers fans had a choice of Mark Hughes or Harry Redknapp in January 2012 to replace Neil Warnock, the majority would undoubtedly have said Redknapp.
If Queens Park Rangers fans were asked today, if they would rather have Mark Hughes of Harry Redknapp manager in January 2013, every single one would say Redknapp.
There is no doubt that Redknapp is the man you want at the helm of your club if you are in a relegation fight. Granted, Hughes kept Rangers up last season, but his quite outstanding record of zero wins in the 2012-13 season (via CNN) left QPR with a bitter taste in their mouth. And the only man who could try to rid that taste was Harry Redknapp.
Are QPR in better shape in 2013? The choice of manager says yes.
Despite holding up the bottom of the table, with a less than inspiring point tally, the possibility of staying up is actually a little more logically plausible than at this stage last season.
The players who were essential to last year's escape are now back in the fold, along with some fresh new international faces, and a manager who knows how to get out of a tight situation.
Looking simply at QPR's current woes, with no glances to the future, or the fact that there are still three days left of the transfer window, then it would be easy to say that Rangers are much worse off this year.
But with the upcoming games, and the possibility of points, the great escape looks a lot more likely than had QPR had last year's fixtures.
However Rangers need to take their chances and pick up points where they shouldn't, otherwise they might as well just play MK Dons every week.
So are QPR in better shape in 2013? Marginally. And only because the future looks a little more positive than their past.