The January transfer window

JAN outgoings

 

The January transfer window saw twelve players depart Loftus Road. Holloway has managed to trim one of the Championship’s biggest squads and cut the wage bill considerably. Although, with the club attempting to adjust to financial fair play rules as well as a lack of funds in an overpriced transfer market, not one player was brought in. Some may see this as another step in the right direction in terms of balancing the books and getting rid of deadwood. However, with the Rs only seven points above the relegation zone the hierarchy in W12 have potentially taken a big gamble. This article will go through some of the pros and cons of the Rs January transfer dealings.

PROS:

1) Keeping our best players-

I felt that losing two important players in Tjaronn Chery and Sebastian Polter last January was a blow, temporarily upsetting the chemistry of the team. However, at least this January we managed to keep the likes of Alex Smithies, Luke Freeman, Massimo Luongo and Idrissa Sylla. Whilst there was some speculation linking some of our better performers with moves away from Loftus Road, luckily nothing managed to materialise from the rumours.

2) Continuing to balance the books-

Rangers were able to shift the likes of Steven Caulker, Ariel Borysiuk and Yeni Ngbakoto out of the club, first team players that have played very little this season. Getting some of the highest earners off the wage bill is a positive move which should free up wages to continue rebuilding our squad in the summer, one which I feel has still not fully recovered since the days of overspending whilst in the Premier League.

3) Trimming the squad-

Prior to the January transfer window Rangers had one of the biggest squads in the Championship, however, with respect we were carrying a lot of deadwood. Younger players such as Brandon Comley, Reece Grego-Cox and Michael Petrasso have struggled to get minutes in the first team, spending much time on loan at league two clubs. Also, the likes of Caulker, Borysiuk and Ngbakoto have also struggled to play consistently in the first team, therefore, the decision to release seven players and sell two is best for all parties. We have managed to trim both the squad of deadwood as well as continue to cut the wage bill.

4) More game time for those in the U23s-

Sean Goss was signed from Manchester United last January. Dubbed as the next Michael Carrick this was a signing that created much excitement. Mourinho included a buy back option in the deal and United fans were largely disappointed at Goss’ departure. The midfielder arrived in W12 and took the number 10 shirt, one that comes with big responsibility considering the likes of Bowles, Marsh, Buzsáky and Taarabt that have gone before.

However, one year on and Goss has only managed to make six appearances for the Rs first team, largely playing for the U23 side whilst at QPR. After his first few games Goss has been well received by the Rangers fans so hopefully he can continue playing well. Although, the decision for him to be loaned out I feel is a questionable one, more on that later though.

Shodipo is a player who looked bright when he burst onto the scene last season. However, a long term achilles problem and the signing of Bright Osayi-Samuel has hindered Shodipo’s first team chances. If he can get playing at Colchester United it will hopefully set him up to continue his development as he is a player with potential and it would be good to see him fulfil it with us later in his career.

Joe Lumley is a goalkeeper who is apparently highly rated by the playing and coaching staff at Rangers. With Matt Ingram returning from his loan at Northampton Town it has allowed the less experienced Lumley the chance to go on loan to league one side Blackpool. Again, this should only be good for Lumley’s development. In his first two games he managed to keep two clean sheets, hopefully Lumley can continue to build on the good work so far.

CONS:

1) Defenders?

Holloway has insisted on playing five at the back this season, regularly opting for a 5-3-2 formation. However, as seen earlier in the season, if our defenders suffer injuries we have looked very light at the back. For instance, injuries saw Jack Robinson, primarily a left back, have to play centre half. Luckily he has made the position his own and has looked a lot more comfortable in a central position. Although, when James Perch, Nedum Onuoha and Grant Hall have been injured we have had to rely on Alex Baptiste and Joel Lynch staying fit. We have also had to alternate between Jordan Cousins, Pawel Wszolek and Darnell Furlong, none of which have looked too convincing at right full back.

Therefore, you can forgive fans for being aggrieved that we have not strengthened a defence that almost got us relegated last season and has again struggled to keep clean sheets this season. If the Rs manage to stay up then  defensive recruitments will be a priority in the summer as defensively we  are simply not good enough to be challenging towards the right end of the table.

2) Strikers?

So far Matt Smith is top goalscorer with six goals with Conor Washington just behind him with five. Last season’s top goalscorer Idrissa Sylla has featured less this season and is joint with Jamie Mackie on only four goals. Youngsters Aramide Oteh and Paul Smyth both have one goal to their name also. At times this season we have really struggled to break teams down, especially on the road. We still have not replaced Charlie Austin’s goals and it is clear that we have needed a goalscorer for a good few years now.

However, Les Ferdinand has said this week that the club do not have the money to spend big anymore, especially in light of financial fair play rules. In January players are also overvalued and to get a decent striker would have costed millions of pounds. Therefore, Les has said that we need to continue our current policy of developing young and hungry talent rather than buying more established attackers.

3) Sean Goss out on loan?

I think most Rs fans would agree that our midfield has at times looked our strongest and most promising area. In the early stages of the season, the combination of Freeman and Luongo’s creativity mixed with Scowen’s ability to break up the play allowed us to attack with fluidity. I even recall some fans on social media stating that we had the best midfield in the Championship. However, more recently the combination has not been working as well and our long ball style to Washington and Oteh has led to criticism that Holloway is tactically inept and has no playing style other than route one football.

Holloway has been stubborn with 5-3-2 to ensure that the midfield trio of Scowen, Luongo and Freeman is untouched. Although, in the games that Goss did play his range of passing looked impressive and he was a player that always tried to get on the ball from deep and get us playing. In my opinion it is a shame that Goss was frozen out. Holloway always talks about creating an attractive style of play at QPR and you cannot help but think that Goss would have been a good player to have around. Although he may not have been the most physical, he tried to get us playing a possession based style of football. Too often we just gift the opposition possession by going long to Washington, who very rarely competes aerially against the brutish defenders in the Championship.

With our current lack of creativity and a seemingly untouchable midfield perhaps the decision to ship Goss out on loan was a poor one. When Goss signed Holloway said that he could offer us something that no one else in the midfield could. However, Holloway’s brand of football is to outwork the opposition, considering Goss is more suited to a team that has more of the ball it has not worked out for him so far. Although, considering our league position perhaps Holloway should rethink his footballing philosophy. Instead of outworking the opposition and showing more passion, heart and desire than our opponents it would be nice to see is regularly dominate possession and get the opposition having to do the majority of the pressing.

Final words:

The January transfer window was a frustrating one, we needed to strengthen our defence and attack. However, considering the financial fair play dispute and our lack of ambition to spend it was perhaps expected, our hands are somewhat tied in what we can do at present. However, some positives is that none of our better players wanted to leave like last year and we have managed to shift some deadwood and reduce our expenses. As attention turns towards Barnsley tomorrow I would like to write a few words on the situation regarding the manager. On social media Holloway has been getting heavily criticised and from what I have seen, those who think Holloway is doing a good job are somewhat in the minority.

I believe that a good manager is one that can make tough decisions and take risks. Considering that our top goalscorer is Matt Smith and his strength lies in his physical presence and heading ability I think Holloway should switch up the formation and go for a 4-1-2-1-2. Against Barnsley I would like to see Holloway play to our strengths and get service into Smith from out wide. Below is the team that I would go for if I was in Holloway’s shoes.

Thank you for reading and come on your Rs!

By Jack da Silva.

teamvsbarnsley

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An in-depth look at QPR’s activity in the transfer window.

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Last week the summer transfer window finally slammed shut, for the next four months it is time to hopefully enjoy watching the football until the rumours and the ITKs on social media start up again.

Many QPR fans have vented their frustration that the club has failed to sign another centre-half, full-back and striker. Although the window was not perfect, there were a number of positives, with Holloway building on his decent business from the January window.

Let’s take a look at the ins and outs at Loftus Road this summer.

PLAYERS IN:

incomings

Low risk-

I would describe this window as low risk, but potentially high reward. The likes of Paul Smyth, David Wheeler and Bright Osayi-Samuel speak to QPRs history of taking players from the lower leagues on the cheap and allowing them to fulfil their potential in W12.

One of the prime examples being Les Ferdinand, a player signed from non-league Hayes and Yeading for £30,000, who made his debut for the Rs at just twenty-year-old. He would go on to score 80 goals in 163 appearances and win 17 caps for England, scoring 5 goals.

The 1994/95 was especially impressive, with Les managing to score 24 times in the Premier League, you cannot help but wonder how much he would have been worth in today’s market.

As fans we will have to be patient. However, I think I speak for most Rs fans when I say I much prefer this approach than signing big name, big money has beens. The likes of Smyth, Wheeler and Osayi-Samuel are all young and see QPR as a step up rather than down. In their interviews they all came across as good characters who genuinely want to work hard and do well.

The days of  the QPR hierarchy and players being branded as ‘clowns’ are a far cry from how things are being done at the moment. Tony Fernandes gets a lot of stick on social media from Rs fans but the club is now being run in a sensible manner and in the right way.

Whilst it may take time to get back to the Premier League, I feel that when we eventually get there we will be a lot better equip than the days of spending £12.5 million mid-season, paying £100,000 a week to an unfit centre-half.

QPR going back to its roots is an exciting prospect. Signing young players that we know little about other than they have great potential is something that all Rs fans can be optimistic about.

The average age of the squad is now 25-year-old, suggesting that for most of the players their best years are still yet to come. Much more exciting than watching Premier League and Champions League winners jog around, picking up their final lucrative pay checks.

Josh Scowen-

The signing of Josh Scowen on a free was a real coup. He is a player we have needed for years, one that epitomises the character that Olly, Les and Birch have been talking about since they arrived.

Describing himself as a ‘little rat’, Josh has grit and determination in abundance, coupled with the ability to create. He slotted in straight away and has become one of the first names on the team sheet alongside his two midfield partners Luke Freeman and Massimo Luongo.

He is particularly good at keeping it simple, although, when the chance presents itself he is very capable of skipping past a few players and with him in the side we look far more balanced.With him playing the anchorin the middle more often than not, it allows Freeman and Luongo to be slightly more forward thinking. As yet the midfield trio has been working brilliantly, so long may that continue.

To get Josh on a free transfer, especially when he had more lucrative options to move to the Premier League with Huddersfield for instance, shows how much of a coup this was for the Rs.

Credit must go to those behind the scenes at the club, signings such as Scowen and Freeman, who arrived for just £500,000 in January are perfect for us. These acquisitions have hopefully increased the fans confidence in our scouting network and it will be interesting to see what the likes of Wheeler and Osayi-Samuel will offer.

Out and out wide players-

Out of the six summer signings four were natural wide players. Whilst many Rs fans were criticising the club on social media for not investing in a goal scorer, it appears that Holloway thinks our strike force is good enough, they perhaps just lack good service. Considering that Sylla and Smith both are players that are strong in the air, it was a good move to strengthen our options from out wide.

Considering the price it would have cost to buy a goalscorer similar to Charlie Austin, perhaps Holloway’s decision to keep faith in our front men will pay off. For instance, Britt Assombalonga scored 14 times in all competitions last season, only 2 more goals in Idrissa Sylla. However, to secure his services Middlesbrough had to pay an incredible £14m to Nottingham Forest.

Freeman is currently acting as our main play maker and his service into the box to Matt Smith in particular has been excellent, with the latter scoring a number of headers. Paul Smyth will be starting his Rs career with the club’s U23 side, although, let’s hope Osayi-Samuel, Lua Lua and Wheeler can provide better service to our strikers.

Interestingly though, David Wheeler, signed from Exeter is considered a wide right midfielder. However,  last season he managed to score 21 goals and is said to be versatile. With the amount of wingers now at the club perhaps it would not be a surprise to see Wheeler playing in a two up top.

The acquisition of more wingers will also allow Holloway to be more flexible and move from a 3-5-2 with full backs to a more traditional 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 with more attack minded wide players.

Where are the defenders?-

Rs fans again questioned why we did not strengthen our most vulnerable position which is our defence. The signing of Baptiste may be good for the dressing room but after that Brentford game many are already writing him off, early days yet though.

I can only think that with Steven Caulker returning and Joel Lynch and Grant Hall nearing a return from injury that Holloway thinks we can make do with what we have. The long term injury that James Perch sustained had many calling for the Rs to sign a right back.

However, it seems that Holloway may be ready to instil his trust in Darnell Furlong, or alternatively perhaps use club captain Nedum Onouha in the position, one that he has filled in numerous times throughout his Rangers career.

However, the concern for Rs fans is that if we get hit with an injury crisis we could be in trouble. It happened last season when Grant Hall got injured towards the back end of the season. Resulting in a long losing streak that brought us one point away from relegation into League One.

Let’s hope that this season we will better luck with injuries. Two games a week when lacking depth is very difficult to sustain in this league.

Although, on the positive, Hall should be nearing a return soon and he has been our most consistent defender when fit. If he can stay injury free his return will be like a new signing coming into the heart of the Rs defence, be it a back four or five.

PLAYERS OUT:

outgoings

Keeping Alex Smithies!-

For many fans keeping our star man Alex Smithies was the best aspect of the window. He has regularly linked with what some may call a dream reunion with an impressive Huddersfield side promoted to the Premier League last season. With the start they have made it would have been difficult for any Championship player linked to Wagner’s side not to consider it.

From a selfish point of view the move never materialised and keeping Smithies is huge if we are going to do anything serious this season.

No mass exodus-

Compared to the years gone by this window has been very quiet. As QPR fans we slowly became accustomed to transfer windows bringing almost a new squad of players in each time.

Whilst last season was not the best, the players that left the club this window were not even making the match day squad regularly. Therefore, it has been a while since QPR have been able to keep all the regular members of the squad together at the club.

The performances so far this season have looked good and the players look comfortable and used to each other. As many are young perhaps they needed last season to get used to the Championship.

For the Rs it was also another season of transition, not just with the change of manager but also with Tjaronn Cherry and Sebastian Polter, two starters who suddenly departed last January.

With more stability and team chemistry this season it looks as though it has paid off and hopefully our position come the end May will reflect an improvement on recent seasons.

Opportunity for playing time-

Eze Ebere and Brandon Comley are two young players that have looked promising when called upon. However, realistically the chance of regular first team football will be greater at Wycombe Town and Colchester United respectively.

Brandon Adams is an attacker that has been doing well with the U23s. As part of the Smyth deal, he goes the other way to Linfield on loan, let’s hope that it is also a chance for another Rs youngster to get experience and playing time.

Interestingly, Matt Ingram is another player that has gone on loan in search of playing time. The 23-year-old made 140 appearances for Wycombe before joining the Rs in January 2016. However, the form of Alex Smithies has limited Ingram to only 10 appearances.

The news of Ingram signing on loan with Northampton Town is good news for both parties. For Ingram it must be difficult to train day in day out with no match to play come Tuesday or Saturday. He was a mainstay in the Wycombe side so the chance to go to the Sixfields and play games will be good for Matt.

Shifting deadwood-

With respect, players such as Michael Doughty, Nasser El Khayati and Ben Gladwin could be considered deadwood. They were players who were largely used from the bench, although often times not even making the match day squad.

Moving them on was best for all parties as the Rs could cut the wage bill down and the players now have a chance to reignite their careers elsewhere. Doughty has moved onto a new challenge at Peterborough United, Nasser at ADO Den Hag and Ben at Blackburn Rovers.

On behalf of all QPR fans we wish them every success and good luck.

A good window?

Overall, I think Rs fans can be happy with the work that has gone on over the summer in W12.

We have opted to sign young, ambitious players on low fees and wages who have character and a desire to succeed. Players who also see QPR as a step up in their careers rather than a step down.

We have also signed Baptiste, who brings a wealth of experience, a player that Holloway has described as one of the biggest characters in the game, who for sure will do no harm in a youthful, perhaps slightly inexperienced dressing room.

Considering the market, signing a goalscorer was always going to be difficult. It will be interesting to see whether Holloway will try Wheeler up front, considering he scored 21 goals last season and Pawel Wszolek has made the right midfield position his own.

Osayi-Samuel is a player that I am excited to watch,  one that resembles Matt Phillips in terms of physique and speed. The player is 19, one year younger than Mide Shodipo, although Osayi-Samuel has more experience on his side, playing 42 times last season for Blackpool. However, when Mide returns from injury I think he will be a useful player to have in and around the squad so let’s hope the young players can really push each other on.

Thank you for reading.

Let me know your thoughts.

You Rs!

 

 

Transfer Weekly (#7/8)

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Ryan Manning-

After his solid breakthrough season last term, Rs youngster Ryan Manning has extended his deal two-year deal at Loftus Road by one year, extending his stay until the summer of 2020.

His performances last year did not go unnoticed. Not long after the season had ended it was rumoured that Crystal Palace and Bournemouth were interested in Manning, although, his extension and comments about wanting to get to the Premier League with QPR suggest that he will be staying loyal to the club.

Elliott Bennett-

It is reported that Blackburn Rovers midfielder Bennett is one of Ian Holloway’s top targets. The 28-year-old was one of the standout performances in last year’s relegation season, making 30 appearances and scoring on 4 occasions.

Bennett is now entering the last year of his contract, given his experience and ability to cover a number of positions Holloway is reportedly ready to put the pressure on Blackburn and test whether they want to keep their man but let him walk for free next year or cash in on him whilst they have the chance.

Benjamin Kololli-

QPR scouts watched the Kosovan international recently as Brentford took on Swiss side Lausanne-Sport. The 25-year-old is a natural right-back but can also play in midfield. Kololli impressively netted 8 goals in 24 league starts last season in a struggling team that finished 9th out of 10 teams.

Whilst it is understood that £750,000 could be enough to secure his signature the Rs would face competition from Swiss giants Basel, who are also reportedly interested.

Alex Smithies-

After Sunderland sold Vito Mannone to Reading there has been increased speculation that Rs number 1 Alex Smithies could be on his way up north to Wearside.

Yeni Ngbakoto-

It is reported that the Rs wide man could be made available for the right price after interest coming from France in the shape of Toulouse. The 25-year-old arrived in W12 last summer from Metz, signing a three-year contract. Although it is thought that Yeni had difficulty in settling in West London following a family bereavement and long-term injury.

Last summer Yeni choose QPR despite interest from Toulouse and a number of other Ligue 1 clubs. Therefore, it is thought that at the right price, Rangers would be willing to let Yeni return to France.

Idrissa Sylla-

After being left out of the #RsinGermany tour, there have been question marks over the future of last season’s top goalscorer. It has been reported that Reading are after the Rangers striker who manage to find the net 10 times last season. Reading’s top goalscorer of last season Yann Kermorgant will be out of action for the first few months after having surgery.

Therefore, Jaap Stam has reportedly identified Sylla as the man capable of temporarily filling the void. However, the Rs remain adamant that Sylla has not travel due to work permit issues. Whilst the jury is still out on Sylla, with some questioning his relaxed work rate and style of play, selling your top goalscorer to a Championship rival I feel would not go down well, even with those who question the player.

Considering the current crop of strikers at the club, if we are looking to do well we cannot sell the only striker we have who has a knack of getting into the right positions and hitting the target.

 

Steven Caulker-

Caulker is reportedly a target for Brendan Rodger’s Celtic, with the Scottish club reportedly ready to give him a chance to reignite his career. In a recent interview Caulker revealed how he has been battling depression, gambling and drinking problems.

Caulker arrived at QPR after playing his best football at Cardiff. Following their relegation he came in and the Rs fans had high hopes and were very excited by the signing. Although, despite making a number of appearances for the Rs in the Premier League, Caulker was loaned first to Southampton and later to Premier League giants Liverpool. He returned to QPR last summer, but picked up a hip injury last October. In January a loan move to Russia looked to be on the table but Steven recently admitted that given what he was going through going to Russia all on his own did not look like the best idea.

Therefore, former Swansea manager Rodgers knows Caulker well and is reportedly helping him battle his demons and although states that Caulker is a QPR player and is only helping him off the field, you cannot help but think Rodgers would be tempted by a cut-price deal for the 25-year-old.

Transfer Weekly (#2)

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Alex Smithies:

We will soon discover whether we will have to pay £57.9 million for breaching financial fair play regulations. If we do it is looking increasingly likely that outgoings will have to fund incoming players. Unfortunately the Rangers no.1 and player of the season Alex Smithies could be set for a return to hometown club Huddersfield Town. Shay Given has said that he would be open to playing for one more year whether in the Premiership or Championship. We may very well see a battle between Given and Ingram for the no.1 spot next season.

 

Josh Bowler:

It is understood that 18 year old Bowler has rejected a new contract from QPR. After Everton had an initial bid of £1.5 million rising to £3 million rejected, this is likely to give them fresh impetus and bolster Ronald Koeman’s pursuit of the youngerster.

 

Jake Bidwell:

The 24 year old joined Rangers from local rivals Brentford last summer on a three year deal. He went on to be a mainstay at left back, making 36 appearances for the Hoops. Mark Warburton, having recently made the switch to from the Bees to Nottingham Forrest, is reportedly keen to reunite with Bidwell. A player who was part of Warburton’s Brentford side who reached the play-off semi-finals in 2015, although falling short to Middlesbrough.

 

Conor Washington:

The R’s number 9 was brought in last summer for £2.5 million as a replacement for Charlie Austin. The 25-year-old scored nine goals in 45 appearances for the R’s last season. Although it has been reported that Conor is a target of new Birmingham boss Harry Redknapp, who is looking to inject some pace into the Blue’s front line.

 

Yeni N’Gbakoto:

The Democratic Republic of Congo international signed a 3 year deal from Metz last summer. This season he made 26 appearances, scoring 4 goals, notably our goal of the season in the 4-1 win away to Birmingham. After a bright start the 25 year old had to deal with a family bereavement, a long term injury and a lack of playing time. Subsequently, Yeni is rumoured to be unsettled in the capital.

Last summer Yeni choose Rangers over Toulouse and a number of other top flight clubs in France. Although it is thought that Toulouse are interested in giving the wide man a return to France this summer. A move that Yeni’s agent this week has refused to rule out.

 

Benjamin Kololli:

Kololli is 25-years-old and a Kosovan international defender. He currently plays in Switzerland’s top flight for FC Lausanne. This season he scored 8 goals and is apparently comfortable anywhere on the right hand flank. Whilst it is thought that this signing would cost the R’s under a million, we would face much competition on this one. Benjamin is attracting interest from top flights clubs in Switzerland such as FC Basel, as well as from clubs in the Championship, Bundesliga and Ligue 1.

 

Tommie Hoban:

Rangers have been linked with 23 year old Watford defender who made 16 appearances on loan to relegated Blackburn Rovers last season. Hoban spent a long period of his loan out with injury. Whilst Hoban has ambitions to make it at Watford, another loan spell and further experience in the Championship is perhaps ideal as competition is at Watford is rife.