Writer: Mike Field
Date:Friday November 30 2012
A confident Boxer from Vital QPR answers our questions ahead of this weekends match.
1) What are you expecting from the season?
Expectations have to be somewhat tempered in light of recent developments, and while I'm not necessarily expecting QPR to break clear of the impending trap door, I would hope that this is still a realistic achievement, particularly in light of the managerial change that in truth was required given our poor run of form this season.
My expectations cannot truly afford to go beyond safety, which in fairness is below my initial thoughts of mid-table for this season, but curbing these expectations and ensuring that we have a Premier League club next season is the goal that we all have to pull towards in a season of transition.
2) Were there any highlights or lowlights from your pre season?
Lots of wins, lots of clean sheets which is always positive but never truly reflective of how the season is going to pan out before you and I don't think anyone was expecting the way we started the campaign against Swansea City.
Pre-season has never been something of great excitement for me - an opportunity normally to see some new signings, but in truth with the squad heading to the far east there wasn't a great deal of scope for taking advantage of that aspect. So in that sense I went into season as unprepared as the players for Premier League football.
3) How do you feel your club did in the transfer window?
I was sufficiently happy with the club's deals in the summer, though plentiful, there was a lot of talent at our disposal. Park Ji Sung, Julio Cesar and Esteban Granero were probably the highlights - a mixture of Premier League experience, European experience and youthful exuberance, in the guise of Junior Hoilett.
In that sense the club performed well, it was the application of said players that proved the problem for Mark Hughes and his set-up and it was clear that we weren't ready for what the opening game of the season would throw at us - that has to go back to the manager.
4) Has anybody left who you think has seriously weakened the team?
Not in the slightest to my mind. Taye Taiwo was a loanee that returned to AC Milan, but judging by the form of Armand Traoré, I think the Senegalese international is more that capable of surpassing Taiwo - a man that made his QPR debut on loan against Aston Villa last season.
You will recall in the fixture last season at Loftus Road, Traoré was sent off for a silly tackle on Albrighton and was publically lambasted by then manager Neil Warnock - something I believe damaged a fragile confidence that is only now being restored in terms of using licence in getting forward and creating as well as defending.
5) Who is going to be your main dangerman when we play?
We have several - but where we have a problem seems to be in knitting those elements into the patchwork quilt, that team required to retain the Premier League status. Adel Taarabt is our enigmatic talisman - can turn a game on its head if it's screwed on correctly, and his influence will be important this weekend.
Away from that I think we have a real coup in Stephane M'Bia, who has now taken on a holding midfield role, while Junior Hoilett has the potential to be dangerous on his day - and as you will remember last season Djibril Cissé can conjour magic on his day - it's a shame that his day has been all too fleeting of late.
6) What are your weaknesses, any clues for the game will be appreciated :-)
Weaknesses also in abundance. The ability to play as a team both in terms of attack and defence seems to be a distinct problem as well as defending set-pieces at crucial times. Two key aspects that have put QPR where they are in the Premier League.
The attack is relatively toothless - Cissé the solitary forward in the absence of Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson and the support players struggle to find him, just as he struggles to find the right spaces and shooting positions - he is left all too isolated at times, and at times this is his own doing.
Defensively, the marking at set-pieces has been woeful - all too many times we have seen a free man coast through to score and it is absolutely unacceptable that this problem was not addressed by Mark Hughes as we coasted towards relegation. Harry Redknapp seems to have addressed it right away with a first clean sheet away from home since September 2011 - something Hughes was unable to do during his entire tenure.
7) Will you have anyone out who would otherwise play?
Armand Traoré played 90 minutes against Sunderland and his injury problems have been managed previously to the extent where he has been withdrawn before the end of the game - whether he plays the full fixture against Villa is open to debate.
Kieron Dyer is often looked down upon for his injury problems, but having been properly managed he seems to be playing well whenever given the opportunity, and to my mind if he wasn't so injury prone, would be playing for a bigger club. He didn't play against Sunderland which hopefully frees him up for at least the bench this weekend.
8) Thoughts on Mark Hughes, and now Harry Redknapp - right move, too early?
Right move, arguably too late. I am not in a majority when I say it was time for Neil Warnock to leave last season. To my mind he'd done a fantastic job in getting us to the Premier League, but he'd lost the dressing room and the respect of some of our bigger name players, meaning that the season was only going one way. He can say that he left us outside the bottom three, but the form was declining rapidly and had to prompt a change, albeit sadly.
Hughes' appointment was a little bit of a surprise to me, but despite a rocky start he delivered on his promise in keeping us safe - Warnock backers would argue he would have turned it around anyway and we stayed up in spite of Hughes and not necessarily because of him. To my mind, keeping us in the league deserved him a chance to kick on this season.
His famous words of 'we'll never be in that position again,' rather displayed distaste and disdain for Warnock's previous achievements, and his start to the season and his inability to organise his many signings ensured that Rangers were slipping away without a trace. The change could have happened after being held at home to Reading but they kept faith until the debacle against Southampton when Hughes had reached the point of no return.
Now with a slightly more Claret and Blue angle...
9) Are you surprised to see how Villa struggled last season and do you think we will again this time round?
I am not too surprised in truth as Paul Lambert is trying a radical reconstruction of matters at Villa Park - much like Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool and should be given time to turn away from the culture of high-spending purchases and develop a young, talented and self-sustaining squad.
It may take a little while for Lambert to turn it around after what was a poor season from Alex McLeish. McLeish was a relic of a bygone era and his tactical style did not suit the way the Villa try to play, and I think it would be fair to say that he never truly had the fans on board. Lambert's ideas are a lot more radical but forward-thinking and should get time despite the current position of the team.
10) Do you have any thoughts on Paul Lambert?
Lambert seems to have done well in the past in terms of developing young teams, taking players from youth teams and divisions below and forging a team capable of achieving expectations. His job at Norwich City was excellent - he bottomed out the club in League One and developed a side capable of back to back promotions.
Not only that, he developed a team capable of staying in the top flight following the two promotions, and achievement that cannot be snubbed by Villa fans, who have to show patience if he is to take them onto that next level or milestone.
11) What have you made of our youth promotions last/this season, anybody caught the eye for you?
I think it's been very admirable in this day and age of sizeable transfer sums, to promote youth and bring in younger more hungry players to ensure financial safety in years to come. While Christian Benteke was not purchased on the cheap, he is a good bedrock to build the team around, and his goals in the early stages have proven he can lead the line in the absence of Darren Bent.
12) Who has stood out most from our recent acquisitions for you?
It would have to be Benteke once more - a striker with spadefuls of exuberance and energy. While he may not be the finished article as yet there is a bright future ahead for this particular player and will I'm sure be a danger this weekend.
13) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
Despite the fact he won't be playing this weekend, goalscorers are a rare commodity at this level and Darren Bent would be on most shopping lists in the Premier League. We seem to get a lot of half chances in and around the area that cries out for a player like Bent to hammer home and fire us up the league - this one in fact, may not be too far from the truth as we're destined to be linked with him come January.
14) Who do you see as our main threat in the game?
I think there isn't an individual other than the aforementioned Benteke that we should be concerned about - I think as a collective is where Villa strike and we should be worried about the unit at large and not the individuals. Weimann scored an excellent goal of late but the cohesive unit that Villa seem to be putting forward is their main threat to my mind.
15) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?
Top flight inexperience without question is the weaknesses that Villa have to content with and despite this being a positive at times, it could be easy to unpick at times if they don't adopt the right attitudes in key areas.
I think we'll approach it trying to score goals and dishearten the young players in the Villa set-up - should we manage to score goals, and get under the skin of the younger players it could be a first win of the season on the cards.
16) Oh one last QPR question...are you really in for Darren Bent??
I think it's a genuine possibility, as mentioned a goalscorer in whatever guise is a good player to have in your squad. Evidently Lambert is looking to reinvest the money in the squad as per the prudent stance from Randy Lerner, but I think he would be of great benefit to us if indeed he was to rock up in West London.
17) Finally, a prediction please kind person...
I think we can finally get that first win under our belt and dare I say we'll do it well. 2-0 QPR and best of luck for the rest of the season.
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Date:Friday November 30 2012
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