BY NICK KITUNO
Queens Park Rangers are off to an indifferent start in the Championship, but questions loom over what could be a turbulent and unpredictable season.
An opening day win over Nottingham Forest sparked early optimism, only to be followed up with a disappointing defeat at Coventry City and then a draw at home with Middlesbrough.
A win, a loss, and a draw from their opening three games see Rangers sat in 11th place in the table while needing to resolve some issues both on and off the pitch.
For one, the immediate concerns remain with their defending and those were exposed in the 3-2 defeat at Coventry where some slack rearguard action allowed the hosts to overturn a slender one-goal advantage.
After Lyndon Dykes dispatched his second goal this season from the penalty spot, Matt Godden was left unmarked at the far post to head home the equaliser before Callum O’Hare pounced on another defensive lapse to turn the tie around.
Yoann Barbet put Rangers back on level footing again with 15 minutes to go, only for Kyle McFadzean to punish them from a corner after repeated warnings went unheeded.
QPR paid the price for that and the same problem resurfaced when Chuba Akpom glanced a near-post header beyond Seny Dieng 19 minutes into their 1-1 draw with Boro. Another goal coming straight from a set-piece that Rangers did not deal with effectively enough.
“Soft” is how Mark Warburton has often described some of the goals his side has let in, including Akpom’s, but it is a defensive dilemma which continues to hound them. Only Hull City and Southend United have conceded more goals across the top four divisions than QPR since the 2018-19 season at 151, according to Sky Sports.
The second is slightly more nuanced in that Rangers must figure out how to maintain their attacking firepower despite some key departures.
Last season, QPR scored the fifth-most goals in the Championship – with the four teams ahead of them reaching the play-offs – but the exits of Ebere Eze, Jordan Hugill and Nahki Wells will undoubtedly sting. Together, the trio was responsible for 44 of Rangers’ goals across 118 appearances combined.
Now, their attack looks a little different with Bright Osayi-Samuel, Luke Amos and Ilias Chair all forming a supporting cast behind Dykes, who spearheads from the front.
Chair’s promotion to the number 10 shirt represents the next big step in his growth and development, Amos will want to prove some critics wrong after returning permanently, while Osayi-Samuel holds his future in his hands.
If this new-look QPR attack can harmonise together then Warburton could be on to something special, however, even he himself admits he would like another attacking player, particularly a wide one, before the window shuts.
The final concern revolves around how this season plays out against the backdrop of a global pandemic. QPR are not immune to the financial impact Covid-19 will have on its finances and, like every other club in the league, will have to continue operating with a substantial drop-off in its income.
Warburton made that clear after the Middlesbrough draw, stating there is “no money coming in” at present and, while players are currently not being impacted, he does not know how long that will last for.
Asked whether the situation could impact QPR’s transfer business, he added: “I’m sure it will do, because even if we had 25 per cent of the crowd, for example, by December 1, maybe 50 per cent by January, at least you have got income. This is QPR but every club is the same.”
Time will tell.
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