Five things Harry Redknapp needs to do to save QPR
Queens Park Rangers 1 Aston Villa 1: With his side seven points adrift of safety, the new manager must work a minor miracle
Joe Royle sent Harry Redknapp a text message saying that keeping Queen's Park Rangers in the Premier League would be a biblical miracle. Redknapp said doing it would be his greatest achievement in management. The feeding of the five thousand was one thing but turning Rangers around would be quite another. But what does Harry have to do?
1 GET THE FIRST WIN
The longer it takes the harder it is. QPR have equalled Swindon Town's Premier League record for a winless start from 1993, having now gone 15 games, more than one third of a season.
After the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Saturday Redknapp admitted there was a confidence crisis at Loftus Road. "It always creates anxiety when you are bottom of the league," he said. "Football is like life. It's about confidence. When things are going well you win games you don't know how you won. You think 'we were rubbish today' but we keep winning. Sometimes you come off and you've played well but you can't get a win. That's how it goes. We just need a win."
2 TURN LOFTUS ROAD INTO A FORTRESS
Redknapp has said QPR remind him of Portsmouth. There are similarities, in their local tight-knit fan-base but also in their ground. Loftus Road, with its steep sides and its cramped angles, is certainly reminiscent of Fratton Park. There were 17,387 people at Loftus Road on Saturday but there is a better atmosphere than at grounds with twice that number.
Last season, when Mark Hughes kept QPR in the Premier League, it was thanks to a late run of five consecutive home wins. They even beat Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs. Redknapp will need the same again this year. There is sympathy for the new regime, judging by the chants of 'Harry Redknapp's blue and white army' before the supporters even saw their new manager.
3 FIND BALANCE IN MIDFIELD
Hard work will be crucial in this fight. What Redknapp must do is find the right combination of effort and talent, especially in midfield. Despite the lack of strikers and defenders, Rangers have better midfield options than most of their relegation rivals.
Redknapp started on Saturday with Samba Diakité and Stéphane M'Bia holding and Esteban Granero ahead of them. In theory it should have worked but Villa's lower-key trio of Ashley Westwood, Brett Holman and Barry Bannan passed around them. Rangers only improved when Redknapp replaced Granero's artistry with Park Ji-sung's industry at half-time. But Granero is an excellent player and surely has a role in Rangers' best team. The same could be said of Alejandro Faurlin, a more natural midfielder than most in the top flight.
4 BRING IN A GOALSCORER
Bobby Zamora and Andrew Johnson are injured, leaving Rangers with only Djibril Cissé and Jamie Mackie as available forwards.
On Saturday Redknapp left Cissé on the bench and asked Mackie to lead the line on his own. He worked hard, holding the ball up well and scoring with a fine header in the first half. But he is not likely to fire Rangers to safety.
"It's a problem," Redknapp admitted afterwards. "We are short of goals. We relied on Jamie, you've got Adel Taarabt and Shaun Wright-Phillips, but we are not overloaded with goal-scorers at the club that's obvious."
5 PREPARE FOR JANUARY
Redknapp said that it will only be worth spending in January if Rangers' form improves but it is inconceivable that they will not. They have a desperate need for strikers, but also for centre-backs. Ryan Nelsen and Clint Hill played on Saturday, and though good professionals are 35 and 34 years old respectively. Quite a few of Redknapp's former Spurs players might be attainable. Rangers need quality and fast.
QPR: GREEN 5/10, BOSINGWA 7, NELSEN 6, HILL 6, TRAORE 5, WRIGHT-PHILLIPS 6, DIAKITE 7, GRANERO 5, MBIA 6, TAARABT 6, MACKIE 6
Aston Villa: GUZAN 7, LICHAJ 6, HERD 7, CLARK 7, BAKER 6, LOWTON 7, BANNAN 7, WESTWOOD 7, HOLMAN 7, AGBONLAHOR 6, BENTEKE 7
Goals: QPR Mackie 18. Aston Villa Holman 8. Subs: QPR Derry 5 (Mbia, 39), Park 6 (Granero, h-t), Hoilett 5 (Diakité, 69). Villa Williams 6 (Herd, 65), Delph 6 (Bannan, 67), El Ahmadi 7 (Holman, 70).
Bookings: QPR Derry. Aston Villa Baker, Lowton. Man of the match Guzan. Match rating 6/10.
Possession: QPR 50%. Aston Villa 50%.
Attempts on target: QPR 12. Aston Villa 3.
Referee H Webb (Sth Yorks). Attendance 17,387.
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