Transfer verdict: Unfinished business for QPR boss Warnock
Wright-Phillips and Ferdinand arrive, but hunt for striker is frustrated
As Neil Warnock surveys his new-look squad today after an exhausting transfer deadline day at Loftus Road, the Rs manager may well do so with mixed emotions.
Warnock was as good as his word; having promised five new players when Tony Fernandes completed his takeover of the club exactly two weeks ago, that is precisely what he has delivered.
After Newcastle’s Joey Barton arrived to bolster the midfield on Friday, defenders Luke Young and Armand Traore have followed, and, on Wednesday night, the manager finally landed the winger he craved as Manchester City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips signed on the dotted line at the final hour.
Throw in another defensive recruit, centre-back Anton Ferdinand from Sunderland, and suddenly a squad which just days ago looked dead certs for relegation now stands more than half a chance of securing their stay in the Premier League, more than many could have dreamed a few months ago.
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However, as is so often the case for managers on transfer deadline day, Warnock’s biggest concerns this season were highlighted not in the players he signed, but on the ones he failed to sign.
Warnock spent much of the day trying to bolster his attacking options, but the two targets he identified - Manchester City’s Craig Bellamy and Peter Crouch at Tottenham – ended up elsewhere, with Bellamy opting instead to rejoin his former side Liverpool and Crouch heading to Stoke City.
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That was a blow for Warnock, who, having seen his side score just one goal in their opening three games of the season – Tommy Smith’s strike at Everton - feels his forward line needs reinforcing.
The problem was highlighted in the 2-0 defeat at Wigan on Saturday, with Warnock choosing to rest Bothroyd, opting instead for Patrick Agyemang up front, a move which failed to pay off as QPR’s biggest threat came from Adel Taarabt in midfield and they drew a black.
It was a glimpse of a potentially big problem for the Rs this season, and it prompted Warnock to act.
Should injury or suspension sideline Jay Bothroyd for any length of time only DJ Campbell carries the same threat as the England man up front.
Warnock’s other options come from Agyemang and Heidar Helguson, neither of whom will be fancied to break into double figures this season, and Jamie Mackie, still working his way back to full fitness as he recovers from the broken leg he sustained last season.
Wright-Phillips’ arrival in midfield does at least offer a partial answer to that problem. Able to operate on either wing, he could potentially free Campbell, who since his arrival has operated mainly on the right of Rangers’ three-man attack, to take up his more favoured central role, the position from where he was so prolific in the Premier League for Blackpool last season.
Warnock implied upon Campbell’s arrival at the club that his intention is to rotate between Campbell and Bothroyd up front, and Wright-Phillips’ arrival now makes that option a possibility.
It could prove crucial. With Taarabt finding life in the Premier League altogether different to that in the Championship, goals look in far shorter supply than they did last season for QPR.
When Warnock’s side line up against Newcastle in 11 days time, they will do so with a vastly changed side, certainly a different defence, with Young, Ferdinand and Traore all likely to feature.
Barton adds steel to midfield, while Wright-Phillips’ pace adds another dimension to the side which they have lacked in the opening weeks of the new campaign.
The only headache comes in the shape of an additional goal-threat, and Warnock’s sole regret may be his failure to sign another striker.
That is a problem he may well decide to rectify in the January transfer window.
Follow Ian Cooper on Twitter @QPRTimes