Talking Tactics | Queens Park Rangers v Swansea City

21st January 2023
First team
Ollie Cooper Sunderland

Swansea are looking to make it back-to-back away league wins for just the second time this season as they take on QPR in west London today. Ahead of this one, preview the clash, looking at what to expect from the Rs, the key battle and a key stat.

What to expect from QPR

Neil Critchley

Since Michael Beale left QPR for Rangers, things haven't quite gone according to plan for the west London side. Neil Critchley has started his tenure with a run of just one win in six, and this has seen QPR drop down to 12th.

As has been the case for much of the season, Critchley has remained loyal to the four-man defence, alternating between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 system, and there is little to suggest that will be any different for the welcome of Swansea. The former setup allows for star man Ilias Chair to maximise his attacking output and it's no coincidence he is QPR's best-rated player this season.

Chair's rating of 7.12 is better than any other Hoops star, with the Morocco international ranking third for goals (4) and first for assists (6) for Critchley's side. The latter return being top for the club isn't a shock with Chair placing first for key passes (72) in England's second tier this term.

However, it's feasible to suggest that return should be higher. QPR's profligacy has seen them develop a statistically calculated weakness of 'finishing scoring chances' and it's not a surprise given they average the fourth most shots per game (13.5) in the divison, but have scored just 30 goals. A conversion rate of just 8% is the fourth lowest in the Championship this season, and QPR are hoping the arrival of a former Swan will ease the goalscoring woes.

Jamal Lowe is expected to make his full debut for QPR this weekend against Swansea having come off the bench to provide the assist for Tyler Roberts' first goal in the Rs' 2-2 draw at Reading. Lowe spent just one full season with Swansea before moving to Bournemouth in 2021, scoring 14 league goals in the process, and his good goalscoring performances have seen him develop a statistically calculated strength of 'finishing'.

Critchley, then, is hoping that both Chair and Lowe can quickly strike up an understanding, starting with Saturday's welcome of Swansea. At the other end of the pitch, Critchley needs to work on keeping opponents out. QPR may have shipped just 33 league goals this season, a mid-table return, yet they have kept just two clean sheets in their last nine, so a sticking point in their play-off push has been a failure to stop teams from scoring.

Key battle

Ollie Cooper

Only Joel Piroe (9) has scored more goals than Oliver Cooper (5) of Swansea players in the Championship this season, with the 23-year-old in flying form of late. Indeed, Cooper has scored three goals in his last four appearances for the Swans. Having impressed on loan at Newport last term, the Welshman has become a key man in Russell Martin's side.

Able to play anywhere across the midfield, Cooper can be expected to start from the right flank against QPR, where he'll be tasked with getting the better of left-back Kenneth Paal. The 25-year-old's rating of 6.93 is the second best of all QPR players this season, while Paal has developed a statistically calculated strength of 'tackling', so his battle with the young Welshman promises to be intriguing.

Key stat

Sunderland away Harry Darling

With QPR boasting the fourth-worst conversion in the Championship, the Rs will need to be on it from the outset to improve their goal return. However, Swansea are conceding the fewest shots per game (9.1) in the division this season.