Queens Park Rangers struggles in this season’s Premier League are well documented. Despite having an expensive squad with several glittering names, the London club have been rooted at the foot of the league table for almost the entire season. Taking over from Mark Hughes with the aim of keeping QPR up, it initially seemed that Harry Redknapp had an impossible job, but the former Tottenham boss has gone about this dogfight quite pragmatically.
Since Redknapp took charge at the end of November, QPR have become much harder to beat. They’ve lost only three out of eleven in the league, despite winning only twice. They haven’t been scoring much, less than a goal per game, but it is clear where Redknapp’s priority lies.
Good teams take time to build. They need a clear vision and playing style along with several transfer windows of recruiting players suited to the playing style. Shorn of that, it is much easier for a new manager to focus on organization, defensive drills that any team can memorize. What Redknapp is doing is similar to what most international managers do before major tournaments. Without the luxury of having most of your first choice national players playing for the same side domestically, such as in Spain, it is much easier to use what little time you have to focus on solidity. When goals are scored it is usually the result of individual magic, rather than flowing team moves.
What Redknapp has done is have QPR defend very deep with two banks of four, leaving Adel Taraabt and a striker with pace (either Djibril Cisse or Loic Remy) slightly ahead of the rest to prompt counters. Flair players such as Esteban Granero and Alejandro Faurlin have been sent away or seen their minutes diminish and players comfortable defending deep such as Christopher Samba have been signed. Redknapp clearly expects his side to have to make plenty of blocks and last ditch tackles due to defending solely in their own penalty area.
What goals they will score are probably going to arise due to Taraabt playing through the lone striker or an onrushing midfielder, but the focus is obviously not on offensive fluidity. The longer Redknapp stays in the job the more expansive QPR will eventually get, but that takes time. With such a mismatched squad, being hard to beat for the rest of the season is probably the best QPR fans can hope for.
Will Rangers stay up? Probably not, they’re in quite a big hole. However with this new strategy under Redknapp they’re certainly giving a much better account of themselves.