Published on August 24th, 2012 | by Isaac Leigh0
QPR may regret this mad transfer window
It is supposed that managers, chairmen and scouts spend inordinate chunks of their summers meticulously crafting intentions for the new season, targeting players to fulfil these intentions and working tirelessly to ensure the players are brought to the club.
The current image of QPR manager Mark Hughes, along with chairman Tony Fernandes, is not of laborious craft but of throwing darts at an eclectic array of faces on a dartboard. The result, a cluster of well-known players with big reputations unfamiliar with each other, could be catastrophic.
Watching the transfer strategies of Everton, Newcastle United and, dare we say it, Arsenal, it seems the buzzword in this fragile, forward-thinking climate is ‘sustainability’. This triumvirate of Premier League clubs in particular refuse to countenance anything that might risk their long-term future, instead attempting to facilitate steady growth both as a club and within the squad. David Moyes has assembled an impressively settled squad at Goodison Park, with a group of players who have been at the club a number of years and are somewhere near their peak. At St James’ Park, Alan Pardew has constructed a group of young, hungry players under the radar. Arsene Wenger, unable to compete with the very biggest financially, confounds logic by keeping Arsenal in the top four year after year. Compare this to QPR, and the transfer activity at Loftus Road this summer appears even more ludicrous.
The recruitment started steadily enough, with West Ham United and England goalkeeper Robert Green representing a canny free transfer: he is certainly an upgrade on Paddy Kenny, who has joined Neil Warnock at Leeds United, and has plenty to prove to those who continue to define him by his mistake at the 2010 World Cup. Other impressive signings include Junior Hoilett, who Hughes swooped to sign from Blackburn Rovers – considering Arsenal and Newcastle were reportedly sniffing around the Canadian, this represents something of a coup – and Fabio da Silva, the Manchester United loanee who should flourish at full-back if given regular football. Ji-Sung Park, recently appointed club captain, is a superb signing, and his wealth of Premier League, European and international experience should have been designed to aid some of the younger players who showed promise last year.
Having made such moves early in the transfer market, this was the point where Hughes and Fernandes should have shown some asceticism, put their wallets away and looked to integrate these players into the side. Instead, an unexpected 5-0 defeat by Swansea City precipitated a meltdown at the top, when there should have been composure and clear-headed analysis. The central-defensive axis on Saturday was Anton Ferdinand and Nedum Onuoha; both players performed steadily last year, and needed Hughes to reassure them that he trusted them, that he knew this was an anomaly. Instead, in voraciously and suddenly pursuing Tottenham Hotspur’s Michael Dawson and Real Madrid’s Ricardo Carvalho, manager and chairman are sending a poisonous message to the players. One bad game and the axe will be swift and vicious. How are the players supposed to perform with confidence knowing that they will be cast aside the moment they err? Rumours are rife that Hughes has made inquiries about former Celtic and Fiorentina goalkeeper Artur Boruc, now a free agent, after the five goals that flew past Green. Disgraceful.
The signings of Park, Fabio, Hoilett and Green are admirable in their blend of youth and experience, but the transfer policy has ostensibly lapsed into vanity. Jose Bosingwa, a free transfer from Chelsea, has been in poor form for a long time now, yet his sizeable reputation will probably necessitate a guaranteed first-team berth – never a healthy situation. The alleged pursuit of Jermain Defoe would make sense, aside from the fact that Hughes already has Djibril Cisse (excellent aside from bouts of ill-discipline), Bobby Zamora (a trusted Hughes lieutenant), Andrew Johnson (reason for signing unknown) and Jamie Mackie, an underrated, unassuming midfielder/striker who has the fabric of QPR more tightly woven into him than anybody else at the club. Add the names of Shaun Wright-Phillips, Adel Taarabt and Samba Diakite to the list and suddenly Hughes assumes the figure of the teenager whose house party plans started with a guestlist, only to end up running amok as the scale of his birthday celebration expanded to uncontrollable levels. Plus everyone at the party will fall out.
After last year’s 17th-placed finish, most QPR fans would have been content with a few targeted additions in key places, followed by a steady rise to lower mid-table. Hughes could then have repeated the exercise the next year, and growth into an established Premier League side would have been sustainable. Instead, a group of unfamiliar players will be forced to form complex understandings with an infinitesimal amount of time on their hands, resulting in inevitable teething problems. And judging by the reaction to the Swansea game, the axe will fall without hesitation. The quantity of veterans in the squad alludes to another negligible oversight by Hughes and Fernandes: only Hoilett and Mackie, at the relatively sprightly ages of 22 and 27, have any potential resale value. In other words, if this backfires, it backfires on a gargantuan level. A turnover of 40 players since Fernandes’ takeover of the club in August, a current wage turnover of 183 per cent – all the statistics can be collated to indicate an unforgivably reckless and irresponsible strategy.
Considering the success Hughes engineered at Blackburn Rovers through inculcating his values of organisation and togetherness, a messy break-up of the two spendthrifts is not out of the question. Indeed, it is likely that Fernandes himself is pulling the strings, utilising his connections to facilitate these big-name, big-money moves. Either way, it is impossible to dilute the reek of short-termism that pervades Loftus Road at the moment, and that cannot be conducive to any kind of team ethic. If Hughes can meld this bunch of strangers together to achieve the top-half finish that a superficial analysis of the squad list would suggest, it would be the biggest managerial achievement of his career. In my eyes, an almighty implosion is far more likely.