If Sunderland fans are looking for comfort ahead of QPR’s visit on Saturday, it’s that the Hoops have also been licking the wounds after a poor run of form.
Without a win in five games, Rangers manager Ian Holloway was less than chirpy going into the international break leaving Rangers fans – like their Black Cats counterparts – reflecting on encouraging start to the season going to waste.
But exactly how can Sunderland add to Holloway’s pain? Here’s a scouting report on their weaknesses from our mole in the QPR camp.
1. Dirty sheets
Despite leaking goals themselves this season, Sunderland can take confidence from the fact the Rs are similarly frail.
The West London club recently shipped two goals against Millwall and Fulham, as well as three against Middlesbrough.
Losing captain and former Sunderland loan signing Nedum Onouha to a torn hamstring has not helped Holloway. But the QPR boss’s tinkering – he has used no less than eight defenders this season – also hardly lends itself to consistent clean sheets.
2 Travel sickness
Having scored just five Championship goals on their travels, Holloway’s men are unsurprisingly also without a league win away from Loftus Road so far.
Despite a spirited performance in a 3-2 defeat at Boro last month, the struggle of former defensive mainstays such as Steven Caulker for form and fitness has been damaging.
Goalkeeper Alex Smithies has also not been the calming influence he was last season after a summer in which he was linked with a Premier League move.
3 Don’t give Freeman any freedom
Luke Freeman has been in fine form, winning WhoScored.com’s Championship Player of the Month award for September, with an average rating of 7.78 out of 10.
The former Bristol City and Stevenage playmaker led the Championship in shots and key passes last month, while also ranking second-highest in dribbles.
The ability of Freeman – an ever present this season – to go past players in breaking forward from midfield reminds Rangers’ fans of Adel Taarabt terrorising the second tier in their
2010/11 promotion campaign.
Sunderland’s key task is clear: close down Freeman and stop his creativity.