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QPR’s battle against relegation: Is there hope after all?

When all the limelight is there at the top half of the league table, to see who finishes in the top 4, there is another kind of struggle going on at the bottom of the league ? the battle against relegation. Currently, the last 6 teams lie within 7 points of each other with 10 ? Continue reading

When all the limelight is there at the top half of the league table, to see who finishes in the top 4, there is another kind of struggle going on at the bottom of the league – the battle against relegation. Currently, the last 6 teams lie within 7 points of each other with 10 matches remaining. Individual heroics, stubborn defences and managerial inspirations are what ensue in the end.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27:  Queens Park Rangers manager Harry Redknapp shows his emotions during his first game in charge during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers at the Stadium of Light on November 27, 2012, in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

QPR manager Harry Redknapp shows his emotions during his first game in charge against Sunderland on November 27, 2012, in Sunderland, England. (Getty Images)

If there is one team that has faced the most uphill struggle from this side of the table, it is Queens Park Rangers. Having been glued to the last position, any team would start to lose hope, especially given that they were 8 points adrift of the 17th place as early as November. Then came the appointment of Harry ‘Houdini’ Redknapp, the most experienced manager for this sort of situation. He has been there and knows what it takes to make the final cut, but even he cannot change anything overnight. By the end of December, they were 10 points adrift, but something was going to change, there was an air of inevitability around. Their losses were starting to turn into draws, and even the clubs from up there had started to sweat it out when playing against QPR.

After a rollercoaster ride of 3 crucial months, they find themselves at a touching distance of 4 points; it’s not that easy, but then again, what has been easy about their season so far?

Harry’s Secret Recipie

You can have all the computers in the world but your eyes have to be the judge.”- Harry Redknapp

Many pundits have already applauded Redknapp’s efforts in this battle against relegation. There has been analysis of his defensive organisation, Taarabt’s influence, his tactics, and so on and so forth. But the most important thing that people forget is the power of the individuals who make up the team. You may come up with the best training methods, the most combative tactics, but if the players are not motivated enough, nothing would ever bear fruit. After facing a nightmarish season right from the start, the players are entitled to their frustrations. There is every bit of possibility that they might just give up, not superficially but subtly inside their hearts. That is where Harry must be praised – he may not be a tactical genius but he knows how to keep his men motivated.

Old is gold

This is the era of Spanish football where possession means everything, high pressing is the norm of the modern game, and classic punts are a no-no. Of course, there are some teams that defy that, but then every rule has a few exceptions. This season, most of the teams in EPL have tried to emulate the Spanish model, be it be AVB’s pressing or Southampton’s habit of throwing as many men forward as they can.

Harry being the classic old manager that he is, made things very simple in QPR’s game play. QPR clearly do not have many technically adept players and thus thrive in a simpler format. The format is very simple. The focus is not on possession but more on urgency and intensity on and off the ball; solid, old-schooled, defending and meaningful attacks based on quick transitions.

Does Taarabt fit in?

There is absolutely no doubt that Adel Taarabt is the most technically skilled player out of the QPR lot, but their most recent double wins have come when he was not included in the team list. So, where does this leave him in the larger scheme of things to come?

Let’s have a look at what he brings to the team. He is a natural attacking play-maker who can settle down the tempo of the game and constantly keep the ball in the opposition half. For QPR, Harry had to change his game – instead of naturally keeping the ball up, he has been given license to recklessly drive into the opponent box and shoot from any position he can. Yes, that has brought some sublime moments of brilliance from him, but inhibiting his natural style has had a negative impact – for any player can play a different game for so long only, and that is especially true for a talented player like him.

Here is an illustration of a QPR with Taarabt on the counter:

A team needs as many men as possible to maximise a counter. Why then is Taarabt not running in behind the defence to take away Fletcher?

A team needs as many men as possible to maximise a counter. Why then is Taarabt not running in behind the defence to take away Fletcher?

In the quick counterattacking game play that QPR need to play, Taarabt simply acts more as an inhibitor rather than a facilitator. Harry would need to find some way to involve him, as he is too good a player to waste away like this.

For all their efforts, QPR still remain 4 points below the line of safety and still have a long way to go. But when the players are motivated, the team is in form, and everyone is going all out, anything is possible. Never say never.

Published with permission from TRP.

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