LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 11: (FILE PHOTO) Joey Barton of Queens Park Rangers with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City at Loftus Road on April 11, 2012 in London, England. Joey Barton has been punched in the face outside a nightclub in Liverpool in the early hours of Monday morning. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Queens Park Rangers have some money and some talent. Unfortunately, they don't have a defense.
Queens Park Rangers were purchased by Flavio Briatore and Bernie Ecclestone, a couple of fabulously rich people, back in 2007. At the time, rumors swirled that they would spend lavishly and become what Manchester City is now before anyone knew that people from the United Arab Emirates and Qatar were interested in spending exorbitant amounts of money on football. They were linked to Luis Figo. He never came.
The wildly speculative media reports about the spectacular future of QPR never came to fruition, but good fortune still came to the club, thanks to some smart transfer business and a solid managerial job performed by Neil Warnock. They got up into the Premier League, stayed up, and they'll have their sights set on more than just survival this season. New chairman Tony Fernandes is willing to spend, and QPR have brought in some solid players.
Unfortunately for them, this is not the Premier League of 2009-10, which featured seven teams that were more or less worthless. This is a Premier League where no one stinks, even the recently promoted sides. Southampton, Reading and West Ham all have just as much, if not more talent than the Swansea and Norwich teams that comfortably finished mid-table last year. Even with their new talent, they're going to have a lot of trouble staying up.
Queens Park Rangers did bring in plenty of new talent, by the way. They're certainly trying to get better. Junior Hoilett and Park Ji-Sung will ensure that Shawn Wright-Phillips' career* continues to go downhill. Bobby Zamora, DJ Campbell, Djibril Cisse, Andrew Johnson and Jamie Mackie make up a rotation of strikers that's juuuuuuuust good enough to not get relegated. Joey Barton's actually a decent footballer when he's not punching people in the groin. Adel Taarabt is a decent footballer too, when he's not standing still looking pissed off at his manager. Alejandro Faurlin is a good footballer all of the time. There's plenty to like here.
*He's 30 years old, by the way. I know. I can't believe it either.
And then there's that defense. Oh lord, that defense. They let in 66 goals last year, which isn't anywhere near as bad as any of the teams that got relegated. It's also the same number of goals that last-placed Portsmouth let in back in 2009-10, and eight more goals than Birmingham City let in when they went down in 2010-11. It was a relegation quality defense, for sure, especially considering that no one on their team scored more than eight goals.
They attempted to patch things up over the summer with defensive midfielder Samba Diakite, crappier twin Fabio da Silva, equally handsome and geriatric defender Ryan Nelsen and a super awesome goalkeeper who never screws up, ever, Robert Green. These players are all fringe Premier League players at best right now, which is really convenient, considering that they'll probably be playing in the Championship next year.
Oops, forgot to say "spoiler alert"! The truth is, there's not a whole lot of separation between the 10th and 20th best teams in the Premier League this year. Queens Park Rangers have one of the two or three worst defenses, and their strikers don't exactly inspire confidence. They're going to struggle unless Barton, Faurlin and Diakite can dominate games in the center.
Last year: 17th; 10W 7D 21L.
This year: 19th, relegated to the nPower Championship
Key player(s): Park Ji-Sung and Junior Hoilett -- These guys have plenty of speed and stamina, and they're okay at putting in a cross. They're also hilariously mismatched wingers, since Park is arguably the best defensive winger of his generation and Hoilett is arguably the most useless defensive player in the Premier League. In any event, they're going to need to play well for QPR to do anything.
Rangers' strikers aren't good enough to create anything on their own and all of their midfielders, while talented, aren't really goal-scorers or stunning playmakers either. They tackle, keep their position and don't give the ball away. They need Park and Hoilett to actually create the scoring opportunities.