QPR: Early season report - Hughes must do better
A comparison between the first seven matches of QPR's 2012/13 campaign and the same number from 2011/12 makes for very uncomfortable reading for Tony Fernandes and Mark Hughes.
The current Rangers squad are sitting rock bottom with just two draws to show for their efforts. At the same point in 2011/12, under Neil Warnock, the squad had two wins under their belt and two draws. Eight points left them sitting nicely in mid-table.
In both seasons QPR began with a horror show at home. Last year it was a dreadful defeat to Bolton - ironically, the team that Rangers eventually consigned to the drop. This year it was a woeful collapse to Swansea City on the opening day.
Mark Hughes has made much of how his current squad are close to getting what they want from games, but the goal difference record speaks differently. So far Hughes's side have conceded 16 times and netted just six. Warnock's team had a roughly comparable 13 against and five scored.
Crucially though, under Warnock, those five goals had been maximised to deliver points from four matches compared to just two positive results under Hughes.
Of course the position after seven games only tells part of the tale. It was after a relatively bright start that Rangers season started to tail off badly, leading Fernandes to pull the plug on the manager who led the club out of the Championship. Before Hughes came in, QPR had been on a particularly bad run.
A premature decision? Well, Hughes partisans will say that relegation was avoided, so job done. Warnock apologists (and yes, some do exist) will point out that QPR squeaked home by a fine margin after Hughes had cash to spend. He only added six wins to the four achieved under Warnock.
The striking feature of the Hughes tenure is the sheer turnover of the playing staff. More than 20 players have left for various reasons - transfers, loans and players released - and 15 have come in.
This turnover has been put forward as a partial explanation of the team's poor start, but of the 14 players used against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, eight were at the club last season. The big question is how long can the excuse that the team is bedding in be used to explain the poor start?
In Mark Hughes's favour the fixture list for the seven games in 2012 has been tougher than the same sequence of matches in 2011. Warnock's squad didn't face any of the teams that had qualified for Europe while Hughes has taken on the champions Manchester City, Champions League holders Chelsea and capital rivals Tottenham already.
This fixture list is probably what has encouraged Tony Fernanades to back his current manager, but it is clear that when the team comes back from the international break results are imperative. Mark Hughes might have about six games at the most to prove that he has assembled a squad that can make progress.
Calling all QPR fans: How do you assess your start to the season? Have you lost faith in Mark Hughes? Are you confident of getting out of trouble and turning your season around? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.
For more QPR articles, click here