In one of your recent articles, you said that QPR had just been ‘chugging along’ after a really promising start to the season – can you sum up how the campaign has panned out so far?
Before the last meeting at the end of August, QPR were performing really well in the league and collecting points that, arguably, they weren’t meant to be collecting against some of the teams higher up in the league. After the international break in September, the results started to settle down a little bit and basically what’s happened since is that they’ve been very inconsistent. The main thing that’s drawing attention is the difference between the home and away form – it seems that QPR have just done enough to maintain their position in mid-table, but at the moment they do seem to be in the middle of a patch where they are struggling. There have been a number of injuries in defence, which haven’t helped things, and there’s been a little bit of tinkering with the strategy and personnel, but it doesn’t seem to be paying off at this moment.
Like you say, if you compared QPR’s home form with their results away from home, it almost beggars belief that it’s the same side – is there a definitive answer as to why that it so?
It’s hard to say, but the advantage that QPR have at Loftus Road is that they know exactly how to play there. Their game is all about pressing high and suffocating the opposition, forcing them into mistakes and being able to act quickly on the counter – that’s something that is easier to execute on a compact pitch when you’ve got your fans behind you. That works at home, but perhaps when they travel to stadiums where there are bigger pitches then it does tend to have an impact.
There’s not much to separate the majority of the teams in the division, so what’s the realistic aim for The Rs from here on in?
I think a realistic aim is to continue what they are doing at the moment, but personally I don’t think QPR have the required depth and quality to mount a sustainable push towards the Play-Offs. Ian Holloway has instilled a good team ethic which has proved effective over the first few months, so they haven’t been anywhere near the relegation zone which is definitely a positive. Last season they finished 18th and they were tipped to struggle, so as much as the form is frustrating, if you bear that in mind, they are just about on track.
Do you think Ian Holloway will be relishing the chance to try and get one over on Brentford?
A lot of QPR fans weren’t happy after the game in August and rightly so. It was a very one-sided game, Brentford deserved the victory on the night and QPR went down with something of a whimper in the end. Ian Holloway came out after the game and said something to effect of, “We’ll see what happens when we’ve got our First Team out,” which immediately puts the pressure on the QPR players to perform this time around. First Team or not, they do have a number of injuries going into it, but that’s a completely different matter.
Before that meeting, you said Josh Scowen would be the player Brentford should be most wary of. Is that still the case?
He enjoyed a really good start to the season, has formed a great partnership with Massimo Luongo and Luke Freeman in the middle of the park and is a key part of the way that QPR play. He will be crucial against Brentford but, as it transpires, the player who is needed to make QPR tick is Luongo. He very much competes in the defensive side, but is also the man to get on the ball and break on the counter-attack. I think he’s got the highest tackle success rate in the Championship and he’s integral to how they play; implementing the high-pressing game in midfield, bursting forward and looking to make things happen. When Luongo plays well, QPR play well – he’s that important.
What should Brentford expect in terms of the way Rangers set up?
That’s the killer question because it seems to change every week! You’d expect that the system he’ll go for is a 5-3-2, with the three centre-backs, two full-backs, three in the middle and two strikers. It’s all based on a high-pressing game where QPR look to make sure the opposition have no time on the ball. With Brentford, a lot of the play goes through Ryan Woods sitting deep in midfield and looking to pick out passes. They’ll look at forcing him to make backwards passes and pushing Brentford into a mistake. That’s probably how it’ll go, unless, as he has done recently, Ian Holloway looks to spring a surprise.
Dean Smith’s squad have significantly picked up their form since the summer - what are you expecting from Brentford?
Speaking to colleagues, the general consensus is that, even in the early part of the season when they weren’t picking up results, they absolutely deserved to be - they were playing good, expansive football and that seems to have proved fruitful for them. Brentford will look to get on the ball and use the pace of the attack going forward. Quite a lot of teams come to QPR and try to play them off the park, but QPR’s strength is very much preventing them from doing that.
Brentford have won four of the last five meetings between the two sides - what’s your score prediction for tonight?
It very much depends on how the first half an hour goes as the confidence in The Rs’ squad isn’t particularly high at the moment after quite a few disappointing results. You’d expect a game against Brentford is exactly the type of game they should be getting up for so I’ll go for a draw, perhaps 1-1 or 2-2.