Saturday, August 18, 2012

Queens Park Rangers vs. Swansea City preview

After last season's lucky escape from relegation, Tony Fernandes will be expecting Mark Hughes to deliver a season of successful consolidation at Queens Park Rangers. Hughes has been backed in the transfer market, and he has signed players who fit into the mould that he envisions for the team.

If Djibril Cisse manages to repeat last seasons form without the red cards he accumulated, he will ensure that QPR won't lack for goals. Bobby Zamora, Andrew Johnson and Jamie Mackie will also be expected to chip in with their fair share of goals as forwards. In attacking midfield, Hughes might not suffer the inconsistency of Adel Taarabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips generously this season. The reason for this is the acquisition for Junior Hoillet. The young Canadian was Blackburn's best player last season, and his direct running at defenders and mazy dribbling should ensure that he becomes the focal point of attack between the midfield and forwards.

A great relationship with Sir Alex Ferguson has ensured that Hughes has landed two quality signings from Manchester United. Fabio's loan move will boost a defence that was caught off guard one too many times last season. It is the signing of Park Ji-Sung though, that QPR stand to benefit the most from. The Korean will bring experience and poise to a midfield that lacked composure on several occasions in a tough campaign last season. Park also provides a genuine goal threat from midfield.

Rob Green is a substantial upgrade over Paddy Kenny in goal, and the addition of the aforementioned Fabio and Jose Bosingwa instills a much-needed winning mentality to the side. Furthermore, Samba Diakite, Shaun Derry and Alejandro Faurlin will be expected to perform well as the defensive screen of the midfield. The centre-backs are still an area of concern however, with Anton Ferdinand and Ryan Nelson not exactly inspiring confidence as a first-choice partnership.

Swansea became the second team of every premier league fan last season, with their style extremely pleasing on the eye. With an emphasis on possession and quick ball retention, Swansea proved that tiki-taka could work even on the smallest budgets, irrespective of the quality of players involved. Their style won plaudits for manager Brendan Rodgers, subsequently leading him to the top job at Anfield.

Credit must be given to Huw Jenkins, first and foremost for finding a replacement quickly, and secondly for not selecting a manager from the friends club of British managers who seem to fill every vacancy without merit. In hiring Michael Laudrup, Jenkins showed wisdom rarely seen in football chairmen, by finding a manager who will continue and improve upon the successful philosophy of last season.

Laudrup might just have pulled the coup of the summer in luring Michu to South Wales. The diminutive attacking midfielder was considered by many in Spain to be the best player alongside Santi Cazorla and Jordi Alba to not play for Real Madrid or Barcelona last season. With his eye for goal, Michu adds an important element to a midfield that while comfortable in possession, sometimes lacks a credible goalscoring threat. Another great addition from La Liga is Jonathan de Guzman from Villareal. Michu and de Guzman will be expected to deliver the assists for last seasons top scorer Danny Graham.

Behind the front three, everybody from defence right through to midfield will be expected to retain possession of the ball, relentlessly press opponents off the ball, and interchange positions consistently throughout matches. In that regard, Ashley Williams, Garry Monk, Neil Taylor, Alan Tate, Angel Rangel, Leon Britton, Mark Gower and Kemy Agustein will fit perfectly into Laudrup's ethos. 

Prediction: Both teams can expect to have stable if somewhat unspectacular seasons. Swansea might have the more fluid and creative style, but Queens Park Rangers will want to lay down a marker to establish Loftus Road as a fortress this season. The Hoops to prevail in a close yet enthrallingly open game.