Opta Editor and QPR fan Jack Supple chronicles the rise of the R's midfield maestros at Loftus Road.
On the face of it, QPR’s start to the Championship season has not been anything out of the ordinary. They’ve started well at Loftus Road but are winless on the road, they’ve scored as many goals as they’ve conceded and they’ve won as many Championship fixtures as they’ve lost. However, they have undoubtedly had an extraordinary amount of injuries at the heart of the defence and there is certainly nothing ordinary about the midfield trio of Luke Freeman, Massimo Luongo and Josh Scowen.
When QPR have been at their best this season it has largely been down to the midfield engine room of Freeman, Luongo and Scowen, whom together have an exciting mix of skill, tenacity and athleticism, which can dominate matches when on song. So far we’ve seen the three players gel extremely quickly, sharing a trust and confidence in each other’s abilities on the pitch. It’s been a long time since a QPR central midfield has demonstrated such work-rate and intelligence on the field.
The natural playmaker of the three is Luke Freeman. Since making his QPR debut last February after joining from Bristol City for a small fee, Freeman has provided eight assists, no Championship player has made more. His delivery from crosses and dead-ball situations is a real weapon for Ian Holloway and a dream for the likes of Matt Smith, who has been assisted four times by Freeman already. There’s certainly shades of Lee Cook in Freeman’s left foot delivery.
In the same period (since the start of February), the former Arsenal man has recorded more successful take-ons than any other player in the division, with Freeman successfully dribbling past an opposition player on 68 occasions. His ability to ghost past players in tight spots has launched many counter attacks this year and provides a real spark to the team.
After the departure of Tjaronn Chery, QPR were in need of a player to carry to the creative mantle and Freeman has done so with aplomb in 2017. He has been directly involved in more league goals than any other QPR player in this calendar year (12 – 4 goals, 8 assists).
The driving force of the three is Massimo Luongo. Luongo looks fitter, stronger and more confident this season and his ability to not only link the midfield and attack, but also win the ball back and was sorely missed in the 0-0 draw at home to Burton.
Since the start of last season, Luongo has made more tackles than any other Championship player (158). The Australian box-to-box midfielder has also won more 50-50 contests in the Championship this season than any other QPR player (85). Naturally, Luongo is closely followed in this category by his fellow midfield maestros Josh Scowen (75) and Luke Freeman (68).
Luongo, who scored in his last home appearance versus Millwall as the R’s came back to rescue a point, attempted eight shots in that match; twice as many as he ever managed in any other Championship game and the most by a QPR player since Charlie Austin had nine attempts and two goals versus Brighton in his final appearance for the club.
There’s a grittiness to Luongo’s displays this season and if he adds more goals to his game then arguably he will be one of the most well-rounded midfielders in the Championship.
The backbone (or the little rat) of the three is Josh Scowen. Scowen, a free transfer from Barnsley in the summer, has been a revelation in midfield. His natural ability to read the play, protect the defence and keep possession ticking over has not been seen in a QPR shirt since Shaun Derry. It’s an under appreciated role but due to QPR’s lack of a midfield enforcer over the years, Scowen’s performances stand out like an Akos Buzsaky wonder strike.
Unsurprisingly, as he’s in the heart of the midfield, Scowen has completed more passes than any other QPR player this season (353) and is also the most fouled QPR player in 2017-18 (25) – Millwall at home stands out as a game in which Scowen received a lot of opposition attention. Impressively, Scowen has a way of keeping his aggression in check and has been booked just once in nine league apps so far. Scowen, who has plugged a hole in QPR’s midfield, has been a model of consistency since joining the club and long may it continue.