- Thinking Ahead: No Mark Hughes in the 2013 QPR Calendar
- Reminder FA CUP Third Round Draw on Sunday
- QPR Disciplinary Record this Season really NOT that Bad - Midtable in the Fair Play League
- "Open All R's" Podcast With Rodney Marsh
QPR AT SUNDERLAND
Tony Fernandes @tonyfernandes - Something to build on. Our first clean sheet away from home. Need to take our chances though.
Independent/Simon Johnson - Harry relaxes with his 'blue and white army' - until he sees the troops on the pitch
Tactical adjustments tighten team's defence but cannot dispel the nervous momentsThere are some managers who may show a touch of nerves as they are about to embark on what they confess to be the toughest job in their career, but for Harry Redknapp this is familiar territory and it showed.
Redknapp has had just six months to wait to be back in charge of a Premier League game following his dismissal from Tottenham and the confident manner in which he strode down the players’ tunnel just before kick-off spoke volumes.
This was a man who has been involved in relegation battles with Portsmouth, Southampton and Spurs in the past decade and his body language was the epitome of calm before he even went to take his seat in the away dugout at the Stadium of Light.
The photographers waited expectantly for that first glimpse of the 65-year-old, but he let his players take centre stage and run out on to the pitch first. Meanwhile, he took the opportunity to put his arm round opposite number, Martin O’Neill, and exchange a few pleasantries.
O’Neill is under pressure himself with Sunderland just above the relegation zone and it was almost as if Redknapp was providing the Northern Irishman with some words of comfort, rather than the other way around, before the two teams commenced battle.
Just to emphasise his aura of coolness, he ignored the glare of the cameras before the whistle blew to sign an autograph for an eager Sunderland fan.
Of course, Redknapp is not the first new manager to be put in charge of a west London club in the past few days, but there is no doubt he is set for a happier marriage at QPR than Rafael Benitez is facing at Chelsea.
Only 350 QPR fans braved the floods in the North-east to make the trip and they certainly made their voice heard from the outset just as Chelsea supporters did on Sunday. But whereas Benitez was greeted with a chorus of boos and hostile banners demanding his instant departure, QPR’s small travelling support couldn’t have made him feel more welcome.
There was certainly no sign of any regret that Mark Hughes had been replaced after collecting a measly tally of four points from their first 12 games this season.
Indeed, they instantly christened their team “Harry Redknapp’s blue and white army” and it was evident optimism had replaced the despondency that has been almost ever-present in their throats since August.
Still it was one thing being happy to see him in the flesh, it was what impact he could make on the side that they really wanted to see. It was not as if he had much time to make a difference, having seen QPR lose at Manchester United on the same day he was officially appointed on Saturday.
Since then he has taken one light session with the players who weren’t involved at Old Trafford on the Sunday, before giving the squad a full workout after meeting the press yesterday.
That didn’t stop him from making changes, with Jose Bosingwa, Esteban Granero and Samba Diakité replacing Alejandro Faurlin, Kieron Dyer and Shaun Derry.
More importantly, though, was the tactical shape of the side and while Redknapp is best known most for his attacking instincts, it was clear he made defensive organisation key on his debut.
Only Southampton have conceded more goals in the top flight this season and perhaps it helped that they were facing a Sunderland side who had amassed just 12 goals this term.
Employing a 4-5-1 formation when Sunderland had the ball, which switched to a 4-3-3 when they won possession, ensured they were in control for most of the game.
All the players seemed to be sharper in closing their opponents down and strong in the tackle, with Redknapp’s words that they should be embarrassed over their points tally providing an instant incentive. Even Adel Taarabt, a luxury player whom Redknapp sold to QPR when Tottenham manager, earned a round of applause from his coach after fouling Jack Colback – because of the desire on show.
But as the game wore on, Redknapp found his seat increasingly uncomfortable and regularly patrolled the touchline, urging his players on despite the return of torrential rain. His angst was particularly noticeable at set-pieces, which was not surprising as it was arguably the biggest weakness during Hughes’ reign and they looked vulnerable every time Sunderland had a corner or free-kick around the box.
There was also the inconvenience of having to replace keeper Julio Cesar with forgotten man Robert Green at half-time, but even that didn’t disturb the visitors’ rhythm.
O’Neill appeared to be the manager who is in charge of a group of players adrift at the bottom of the table, rather than Redknapp, and QPR fans, who saw one great escape last season, can start dreaming of achieving the impossible once again.
Harry Redknapp sees rare reasons to hope on opening night with QPR
QPR showed a bit more spirit but their Sunderland opponents looked even worse for the troubled manager, Martin O'NeillHarry Redknapp clocked on for a first night shift in charge of his latest club and ambled down the tunnel with an arm draped companionably around Martin O'Neill.
Since the last time they met he had lost the Tottenham Hotspur job, won a court case and been jilted by England, so it was perhaps no surprise that QPR's new manager remained locked deep in conversation with his fellow warhorse until they adjourned to adjacent technical areas.
While the track-suited O'Neill cut a relentlessly hyperactive touchline figure, the way Redknapp continually dug his hands into the pockets of his new QPR club anorak suggested he had made a tactical error in not opting for the full-length maximum-tog duvet coat.
They say that the winter winds which hit the North Sea coast at Sunderland blow in all the way from the Russian Steppes and during a raw, wet evening's chillier moments Rednapp must have wondered if he had not somehow ended up coaching in Ukraine after all.
He turned down that national job for a west London club harbouring reputedly the most divided, discordant dressing room in the Premier League but a combination of "new-manager syndrome" and Harry's galvanising charm seemed to have QPR playing with definite spirit if not exactly stellar sharpness.
Their cause was helped by palpable home nervousness exacerbated by an increasingly edgy crowd. O'Neill's side were on a dispiriting run featuring two Premier League wins in 20 games and almost immediately were forced to regroup when Lee Cattermole limped off with knee trouble. Sunderland's captain and key midfielder had hobbled off in similar distress with the other knee during Saturday's defeat to West Bromwich Albion and it was perhaps a measure of the manager's desperation that O'Neill took the gamble of starting him.
Although the Saturday night rumours that spread like wildfire across Twitter suggesting the Northern Irishman had resigned were entirely erroneous and Ellis Short, Sunderland's chairman, was swift to offer the manager reassuring support, these are unexpectedly uncomfortable times for O'Neill. The last thing he needed was Redknapp to succeed where Mark Hughes had spent 11 months failing, and win an away game.
Winning any sort of league match has proved beyond QPR this season but they held their own here, even if Sunderland's left-back Danny Rose looked the best player on the pitch and Júlio César had to excel to beat away Steven Fletcher's left-foot shot following a deceptively clever reverse pass from his subsequently withdrawn team-mate Adam Johnson.
Only a few months ago it seemed one of the items in Redknapp's in-tray would be unlocking Johnson's mislaid talents ahead of the next World Cup in Brazil. Yet instead of wearing Three Lions on his shirt the man who might have been England manager was sitting alongside Anton Ferdinand and the rest of the QPR substitutes taking shelter from the second half's driving rain.
This time last year, of course, Redknapp was in charge of an exhilaratingly high-flying, title-challenging Spurs side starring Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart. Precisely how, he could have been forgiven for wondering, had it come to this?
At least he could take heart from the statistic that Sunderland's last three league wins – against Fulham and Wigan this season and Hughes's QPR last term – have come against teams reduced to 10 men. Then there was the knowledge that in 18 previous meetings with assorted clubs, O'Neill had beaten him only once.
Further reasons for cautious optimism began emerging. He may not exactly be Modric, but Adel Taarabt, QPR's outstanding individual, was showing off some promising touches. Similarly while replacing César – who tore a groin denying Fletcher – with Rob Green may not have been the first substitution Redknapp had envisaged making, the goalkeeper discarded by Hughes did well, impressing when cutting out Craig Gardner's dangerous cross and then saving a Fletcher header.
Redknapp has never been afraid to make bold switches and sensing Taarabt was tiring, he replaced the Moroccan – treated to a diplomatically avuncular pat on the back and little word in the ear – with Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Despite a bright cameo, that substitution failed to inspire a debut victory but while Redknapp will be happy enough with a point in the Wearside rain, the wholesale boos which greeted the final whistle served as a reminder that O'Neill is badly in need of an arm round the shoulder right now.
How much longer Short will continue to provide it remains to be seen
Harry Redknapp starts QPR reign with goalless draw at Sunderland
Daniel Taylor at the Stadium of Light
Harry Redknapp's first game as Queens Park Rangers manager will at least bring a measure of encouragement even if it was a match of few highlights. They will head into December as the only club in England's four divisions still looking for a first league victory but there were flickers of improvement and, on the balance of play, they might have made it even more galling for the Sunderland fans who booed their team off the pitch.
It was a scruffy match, lacking any real tempo and not helped by the unremitting rain, but whereas Redknapp got started with an away point, Martin O'Neill must be alarmed about his team's inability to exert any sense of superiority against the Premier League's bottom side. His team, flirting heavily with the relegation places, have now won only two of their past 21 league matches going back to last season.
QPR's record is even less distinguished but they did end their six-match losing sequence on the road. It was the first time in 24 away matches they have kept a clean sheet, and Redknapp might be disappointed they did not build on a promising start. With a touch more ambition, Sunderland were vulnerable enough for Redknapp's team to give him a winning start.
The plus points for Redknapp were that his team played with structure and organisation and the kind of solidity that has rarely been seen so far this season. "I feel more optimistic than I did on Saturday," he said. "Certainly there's a lot to work on, but there are real positives. The confidence has to be a bit shot but I'll keep telling them they're good players and hopefully they will believe it. I can't pluck anyone out of thin air but I thought we looked decent. We kept Martin quiet. He wasn't jumping around too much tonight."
This is certainly a worrying time for O'Neill, who described it as a "frustrating evening" and indicated that some of his players might have been affected by the crowd's exasperation. Sunderland began the game slowly, as might be expected of a team that have had their own confidence issues, but the more worrying aspect for O'Neill was that they never really changed gear. They struggled for cohesion, lacking any form of penetration, and lost their captain, Lee Cattermole, to a knee injury after only six minutes.
The home side missed his drive but O'Neill made the point that other qualities were missing as well. It was a sterile performance from a team struggling to remember how O'Neill invigorated them when he took over almost a year ago. They fashioned one good chance just before half-time when Danny Rose and Adam Johnson combined to set up Steven Fletcher but it was a moment of rare clarity. Rob Green, brought on at half-time because Júlio César had torn a groin, saved Fletcher's header from a second-half corner, and that was pretty much it.
For that, Redknapp deserves credit. The man taking charge of his fifth Premier League club had resisted the opportunity to make wholesale changes but there were some key alternations, with José Bosingwa brought into defence and Samba Diakité and Esteban Granero added to midfield. Shaun Derry dropped to the bench and there was no place at all for Kieron Dyer and Alejandro Faurlín. The idea, Redknapp later explained, was that he wanted a stronger, more athletic midfield, with Diakité alongside Stéphane Mbia. And the ploy worked.
"They had a renewed spirit about them," O'Neill said of Redknapp's side. If anything, it was Sunderland more conspicuously lacking in self-belief. "I knew it was going to be a difficult game but we needed to play with a wee bit more confidence," O'Neill continued. "The crowd gets edgy and it's a question of character as much as anything else. The players have to play the ball they choose, not the ball the crowd chooses."
Sunderland's supporters had been provoked to the point of restlessness. Early in the second half, with Redknapp's players playing keep-ball, the crowd found their voice to express displeasure about the absence of anything resembling a tackle. Later there was more anger when the ball was returned to the goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet, too many times for the spectators' liking.
QPR were more positive. They passed the ball at times with a confidence that belied their position in the league. Djibril Cissé drove an early effort wide but their best chance arrived in the 38th minute. Mignolet saved the first attempt at the feet of Jamie Mackie and when the rebound fell to Adel Taarabt his follow-up effort ricocheted off Phil Bardsley to safety.
The visitors might have won it in the final exchanges, too, only for the substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips to aim a shot straight at Mignolet. By then, however, a goal would have represented a genuine shock. As the rain teemed down, it felt like the two teams could play for a month of Sundays without finding the ingenuity that was needed.
Dave McINtyre/West London Sport - Optimistic Redknapp hails midfield trioHarry Redknapp hailed his midfield trio after QPR began his reign as manager with a 0-0 draw at Sunderland.
With Stephane Mbia sitting in front of the back four and Samba Diakite and Esteban Granero imposing themselves, Rangers looked comfortable for most of the game and picked up only their second clean sheet in the league this season.
It vindicated the decision to leave out Alejandro Faurlin and Shaun Derry, who played against Manchester United at the weekend.
Rangers made an encouraging start under the new manager, leaving Redknapp feeling optimistic about their chances of climbing away from the bottom of the table.
“I liked the look of us. The three lads in midfield looked strong and we look like we have plenty of ability,” he said.
“I’m more optimistic than I was on Saturday, that’s for sure. We well deserved a draw and I was pleased with the performance.
“I went for power in midfield with the two African boys. You wouldn’t want to play against those two.
“Diakite came off after he was booked but looks like he could be a really good player for us. Mbia did well too and Granero can play, so there were good positives.
“It’s going to be tough. We must not kid ourselves. When you look at the position we’re in it’s very difficult, but I can see there are some decent players here.
Dave McIntyre/West London Sport - Cesar injury a concern for RangersQPR are assessing a groin injury Julio Cesar suffered during the goalless draw at Sunderland.
The Brazil goalkeeper was replaced by Rob Green at half-time after leaving the pitch in some discomfort.
“It’s a torn groin,” confirmed manager Harry Redknapp, whose team made a solid start to his reign as manager.
“He [Cesar] is a good pro. I’ve been impressed with him as a fella and you can see why he’s done what he has in the game.
“Rob came on and made a good save, so I’m lucky to have two good keepers
HARRY HAPPY WITH A POINT
Redknapp pleased to get up and running ...
If everybody works hard, you can’t ask for anything more. The players did that tonight.""
NEW R’S boss Harry Redknapp was full of praise for his side, as Rangers gained a creditable point against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Redknapp’s revitalised charges were arguably the better side over the course of the 90 minutes, with Jamie Mackie and Shaun Wright-Phillips both going close to breaking the deadlock.
Speaking exclusively to www.qpr.co.uk at the full-time whistle, Redknapp said: “I was pleased with that tonight.
“The players showed a great attitude and there’s a real spirit in the dressing room.
“They enjoyed getting a clean sheet and realise they got a reward for their hard work.
“All I can do over the coming weeks is do the best with what I’ve got and I felt I did that tonight.”
He added: “It was a good point for us.
“I thought the players worked their socks off for us.
“They put in a performance and that was important, especially for those unbelievable fans who made the long trip up here.
“I think the stats prove we’ve been outplayed by every team bar one this season and you can’t win football matches if you get out-worked by the opposition.
“Tonight we put a shift in and that's the first thing you ask for.
“If everybody works hard, you can’t ask for anything more. The players did that tonight and that’s encouraging for the future.”
Rangers lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation in the North East, with Stephane Mbia playing in a deep-lying midfield role behind Esteban Granero and Samba Diakite.
Redknapp added: “It was a midfield you wouldn't want to play against.
“The two lads (Mbia and Diakite) are powerful and strong. They’re great athletes and I was very impressed with what I saw.
“Granero, the Spanish lad, is a very good footballer as he showed tonight.
“It was a nice blend.” http://www.qpr.co.uk/news/article/271112-redknapp-sunderland-513296.aspx
Harry should try to harness Taarabt talent
The pair never saw eye-to-eye when they were at Tottenham together, with Taarabt's chances limited more or less exclusively to cup games, despite Redknapp publicly saying he had seen fewer players as talented as the Moroccan.
The then Spurs manager had stated that he had never seen a player do some of the things Taarabt managed on the training ground, and that he could well go on to achieve big things in his career.
But Redknapp did not back up his sentiments in his team selection. Arguably Taarabt's finest moment in the league for Tottenham came in March 2007 in an extremely brief appearance against West Ham at Upton Park with Martin Jol as manager, when he came off the bench with his side 3-2 down with three minutes left.
After Dimitar Berbatov had equalised, Taarabt played his part in a Spurs counter attack to win the match at the death. Many fans had expected him to push on from there and break into the first team on a more regular basis, but in came Juande Ramos, and then Harry - and it was not to be.
After a successful loan spell in the Championship with QPR, Taarabt made the move permanent in the summer of 2010 and helped the Hoops back into the Premier League en route to winning the Championship Player of the Year award. Taarabt stoked the fire with Redknapp, stating that he had made a mistake going to Spurs, where the manager had not given him the chances that he would have got under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal.
Now, with the two reunited at Loftus Road, the tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon to report that Taarabt is on his way out. We have seen moments of magic from the Moroccan in his time in England and Redknapp might know better than getting shot of a player with the potential to change a game in an instant.
Taarabt's 2011/12 season was very much a settling-in period for him in the top flight, and he has already matched his goalscoring tally from last term this time around. He started 24 league games last season and only managed two goals, while he has already netted twice this term in only eight starts.
Given the ambitious nature of his play, many of his attempts on goal come from outside the penalty area, and his shooting from distance is largely justified by the fact that he troubles the keeper so often. Since the start of last season, only Wayne Rooney (38) has had more shots on target from outside the penalty area in the Premier League than Taarabt (35). The two have similar shooting accuracy from distance, with Rooney hitting the target 54.3% of the time, while Taarabt does so with 53.0% of his long rangers. Rooney, though, leads the charts for goals from outside the box, with five, while no fewer than 22 players have scored more such goals than Taarabt's two.
He so often infuriates fans with his flamboyant play, but he is clearly learning that he cannot be the main man every week as he was in the second tier. When QPR were promoted, the midfielder would frequently try things from outrageous positions, and Redknapp will be one to try and curb that part of his game.
He seems to have become a little more unselfish in his play already this season, having created more chances this season (2.7 per game) compared to last (2.2). Only seven Premier League players can boast a better key pass rate than Taarabt this season (as can be seen on WhoScored.com's Premier League statistics page), and most of those rely on set pieces to lay on those chances. In fact, only Everton's Steven Pienaar (2.5) and Liverpool's Luis Suarez (2.46) create more chances in open play on average than the Moroccan (2.33); an astounding statistic for a player at a team that has scored only 10 league goals and are bottom of the table.
Taarabt has his tricky dribbling skills to call on when he needs to create space to put balls into the box, and his success rate when it comes to taking on opponents (61.4%) ranks him amongst the best in Europe's top five leagues, ahead of the likes of Lionel Messi (59.5%) and Franck Ribery (48.6%). Messi attempts 5.9 dribbles per game, compared to Taarabt's 4.9, so it is not as if the Argentine simply tries to dribble past many more players.
That is not, of course, to say that Taarabt is anywhere near Messi's level. The end product is very much missing from the QPR youngster's game, though his dribbling skills are there for all to see.
As pointed out in this WhoScored Team Focus article by Michael Cox, the Hoops have struggled massively in front of goal, and it is difficult to look past their misfiring strikers to find their problem. Taarabt's tally of two goals from 36 shots hardly helps matters, but scoring the goals is more of an issue for the strikers.
Redknapp will be almost certainly dipping into the transfer market in January, and it might well have crossed his mind to replace the injured Bobby Zamora up front. Though Taarabt will probably not be off to Old Trafford, reports that he could be on his way out of the club may not be too far off the mark given his history with Redknapp.
However, the new Hoops manager might think better of it. Taarabt is an unquestionable talent with a fiery and determined attitude to succeed that could come into great use in what is undeniably already a relegation battle for Queens Park Rangers. Teamtalk