Hidden among the high profile moves by more glamorous clubs, this summer has seen a great deal of change at Loftus Road. It is hard to argue that most of the change looks to be good, especially since the salaries and transfer fees aren't coming out of our pockets. With half a season to evaluate the players on hand and a summer to make over the team into his own image, it is hard to imagine the Rs not taking a significant step forward. Mark Hughes has been at his best when at modest clubs and forging those clubs into teams that are dangerous every week and at the end of the year end up 6th, 7th, or 8th despite a roster that leaves you scratching your head a bit as to how he did it. There is always OK talent but very rarely is there someone who ends up moving up to be a success at a bigger club.
So, what has QPR's summer make-over yielded and what does it mean for fantasy managers? Click past the jump and find out:
Quick Recap of Last Season: It was a wacky first season back in the top flight for Rangers. It started with Adel Taarabt agitating for a move and hopping a bus and it ended with Joey Barton losing his mind and Rangers on the wrong end of Manchester City's historic last day/last minute title win. In-between there was quite a cast of characters that played from Taarabt to Barton to Buzsaky to Taiwo to The Lord of the Manor of Frodshom. Keiron Dyer even stayed healthy long enough to pick up a big 0.5 fantasy points in the first match before producing his now-traditional nothing for the rest of the season. Neil Warnock gave way to Mark Hughes and somehow that goofy cast managed to stay up.
What's Changed: No one is quite sure what is going to become of Joey Barton but elsewhere on the roster there has been a great deal of definitive change. Andrew Johnson has tempted yet another club to pay him in hopes of reproducing his exceptional season for Crystal Palace which, to the best of my recollection, was about 20 years and 100 injuries ago. Out to make for AJ was the shockingly effective Heidar Helguson who shocked pretty much everyone with his strongest Premier League showing ever at age 34. Others coming in include Park Ji-Sung, Fabio (on loan), David Hoilett, Robert Green, and Ryan Nelsen. Joining Helguson headed out the Loftus Road door are Amos Buzsaky and Paddy Kenny. Throwing in January moves for Bobby Zamora, Djibril Cisse and Samba Diakate (then a loan that is now permanent) and you have quite a make-over from the team that started last season.
Real World Projection: I'm not sure how it will all work out but given the talent upgrades and the presumed loss of at least one looney toon in the form of Joey Barton (it is hard to imagine him suiting up for QPR this season after the way he ended last season) it feels like this is a top half team. I don't always enjoy watching Mark Hughes's teams but it is hard to argue with their effectiveness. It is always hard to pick the order of mid-table teams with much certainty but if forced to guess I'd put QPR at 9th (up from 17th and one point above the drop zone).
Fantasy Production: Last season, QPR wasn't a terribly productive fantasy team offering up a grand total of only 2167 points. With all of the comings and goings, QPR only offered up one player (Taarabt) who went over 200 fantasy points for the season. The points were split reasonably evenly between positions but the thing to watch is whether Mark Hughes, now that he has "his guys", starts to establish some more regular patterns - the kind that can produce fantasy consistency.
Fantasy Gold: Only Adel Taarabt topped the 200 point mark in Yahoo fantasy with a great deal of his production coming in the second half of the season which may indicate that he got his legs in the Premier League and is ready to fulfill the hopes we all had for him at this time last year. Djibril Cisse gets an honorable mention for having a strong second half - he wasn't up to the standard of the Papiss Cisse or Nikica Jelavic but despite some red card issues he was effective when he played.
- Adel Taarabt - With Barton likely gone, Taarabt's production improving over the course of the season, and better quality teammates there seem to be some indications that despite a reasonably high price of 12.5 to start the season, there's some room for upside here. I could see him making the move from 8ish point/match to the 10 to 11 range which would make his current price a bargain.
- Fabio - The bargain of the season at this point - his price is low because he didn't play much last season at United but he should get a starting spot either at left back or, even better, left midfield. Regardless, if he starts, he's a no-brainer at his current price no matter how much his body language sucks.
- David Hoilett - Another case of potential upside based on a) a young player continuing to mature; b) better teammates/service; and c) anything has to be better than the culture around Rovers last season. The only concern with Hoilett is that he doesn't tend to get phantom points - if he doesn't get a few shots on target or score, he isn't likely to return much value. That said, he could have Gabby Agbonlahor's one really good season in him.
- Djibril Cisse - One of the best values among all returning Premier League players from last season (based on current price vs. last season's production). He's crazy enough that he'll likely cause your hair to turn grey if you buy him but the numbers don't lie and he and the entire team should be more settled after a Summer with Hughes at the helm. By the end of the season he'll probably legitimately cost 13 or 14 so getting him under 10 is solid value.
- Bobby Zamora - Somehow, he gets to call himself an England International which certainly seems to diminish that title. In my recollection, he's had two really excellent runs of fantasy production over the past five or six seasons and neither have lasted more than 5 or 6 weeks. Given that you never know when they're going to start and his price is similar to Cisse's for just a little bit more than half The Lord of the Manor's production I think you can safely call Bobby Z over-priced.
- Park Ji-Sung - The potential for Park to get regular minutes will make for one of the more fascinating fantasy case studies of the season. We know his history at Manchester United - solid but not spectacular contributor when given a chance but never a frequent enough starter for fantasy managers to buy in for anything other than the odd match when they knew he was starting. Moving down a level or two within the league, you have to expect he'll be integral to QPR's engine room with the potential to make an impact that more resembles what he does for South Korea than what he was able to show at United. At 8.20 to start the season, that could be pretty interesting. It certainly isn't a stretch to see him as a 7 to 8 point/match producer which would make him great value at that price.
- Robert Green - If you buy into the premise that QPR will improve dramatically from 17th to mid-table and that Mark Hughes will instill his typical gritty defense then it is possible to look past Green's recent history and that of the man he's replacing, Paddy Kenny. Green's price will be reasonably low - and may go lower from Week 3 to Week 5 (see below) - which might make him a solid bargain come October.
First Five Weeks: Swansea, @Norwich, @City, Chelsea, @Spurs - All you can say there is OUCH. After the first two weeks of reasonable matches against their fellow PL newbies from last season QPR get to run the gauntlet of teams that will end the season in the top 5 or 6. I'd stick with Fabio through all five weeks but some of the other value plays cease being very interesting to me for that nasty stretch of matches. Taarabt is the only other one I'd really consider if he has a really impressive first two weeks.