More than 18 months since Mark Warburton’s appointment as QPR manager, a definite trend has emerged showing short breaks are usually followed by positive results for his team.
Is this a result of Warburton’s coaching-led managerial style and something that puts the team in good stead in the post-Covid world when fixture lists return to more manageable levels?
Or is it something to cause concern ahead of another congested run of fixtures over the next month?
Rangers take on Brentford on Wednesday fresh from an 11-day lay-off since the 1-0 win over Blackburn following the postponement of Saturday’s trip to Rotherham.
Warburton’ side are unbeaten this season after international breaks, producing good performances to a draw at promotion-chasing Bournemouth in September then holding a high-flying Watford team 1-1 in November.
A recent 1-0 win at Cardiff was then chalked up in the wake of the postponed game against Wycombe and this month’s 2-1 victory over the Hornets at Vicarage Road was played nine days after QPR’s previous fixture.
Last season saw Rangers beat Luton and Hull following the early-season international breaks with the only fly in the ointment being a 2-1 defeat at Fulham in November 2019 – a game where they led through a Jordan Hugill goal before a Joe Lumley mistake allowed the Whites to seal the three points.
With a full off-season to prepare, Warburton also boasts a 100% record in season-openers – producing decent wins over Stoke and Nottingham Forest in his two years at the helm.
In contrast, when faced with a gruelling run of 11 league games in 38 days between November and December, Rangers won just once, with Warburton revealing after a turgid 0-0 draw with Stoke before Christmas that summer signings Lyndon Dykes and Macauley Bonne had yet to properly train together.
The team’s recent run of good form has not only seen them win four of their last five matches over a relatively sedate 25-day period, but has also included a vastly improved defensive look after time spent working on a switch to a 3-5-2 formation.
So does this all suggest that Warburton’s coaching style of management means time to prepare gives QPR the upper hand and that a packed fixture schedule disproportionately hampers them?
Warburton himself suggests it actually comes down to finances and the realities of having a small pool of players to choose from.
“It more comes down to the financial landscape and the size of your squad,” he says.
“I looked at some of the fixtures at the weekend and some of the players being left on the bench – it was quite staggering.
“Good luck to those clubs. They’ve got real depth in their squad.
“We have a really tight squad for all the right reasons – financially, and having youngsters on the pitch. It’s more about that.”