We’re back to the Premier League campaign after advancing in the FA Cup and next up is the biggest game of Harry Redknapp’s season, as it’s QPR vs Spurs.
Andre Villas-Boas has us in the midst of a six game unbeaten run and playing some good football at both ends. So much so, that the Portuguese was named December’s manager of the month, whilst Hugo Lloris was also in contention for the player trophy that was scooped by Robin van Persie.
After losing to his former employers 4-2 at the Lane back in October, Andre Villas-Boas won’t want to let ‘Arry also get one over on him. So, what should we expect at Loftus Road and what should be the Tottenham tactics for QPR vs Spurs?
A much-changed opponent
Things sure have changed since we met QPR back in September, when AVB made a bad decision, then a good one as we ran out 2-1 winners.
That day, the boss started Gareth Bale at left back, with Clint Dempsey ahead of him and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the centre. With us trailing 1-0 at half time, he moved Jan Vertonghen over to full back, advanced the Welshman to his usual wide position and moved Dempsey inside to play off Jermain Defoe.
The personnel shift worked and we were quickly 2-1 ahead, but much as changed since then.
Mark Hughes was relieved of his duties with QPR at the foot of the table and Harry has come in to try and emulate his success here after taking over from Juande Ramos.
Eight Premier League games in and he still finds the side at the bottom of the pile. Redknapp also has a number of problems that the Tottenham tactics could, and should, expose on Saturday.
QPR’s slow centre backs
Prior to the match at the Lane, we looked in the 5 keys to Spurs vs QPR at how they were conceding chances through their inside left channel. Teams were having success here for two reasons.
Firstly, the lack of pace of the ageing Ryan Nelsen. Secondly, his left back pushing on to overlap Ji-Sung Park, who was cutting inside from the left wing, didn’t help him either.
The manager may have changed, but the problem of QPR having their centre backs exposed remains. Harry Redknapp seems to prefer the pairing of Nelsen alongside Clint Hill and whilst both are good in the air, both can be beaten across the turf.
In their last two Premier League home matches, West Brom and Liverpool have taken advantage of this and both have taken the three points, albeit with slightly different tactics. The Baggies hit them with through balls slid through the defence, whereas the Reds opted to dribble past them and play cutbacks.
Spurs have been trying to play more slide rule passes recently, as we look to spring Jermain Defoe. We also have been attempting to play the ball through the defence for Aaron Lennon to cut it back for others to score; both Tottenham tactics should work here.
QPR in central midfield
Mark Hughes was very much a fan of Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero anchoring the centre of his 4-4-1-1 formation.
Harry Redknapp has opted more often than not to combine more defensive players in Stephane Mbia, Samba Diakite or Shaun Derry at the base of his 4-2-3-1 in order to give his centre backs more protection. This has meant a couple of issues that have improved the Hoops, but also limit them.
QPR play through the middle
Alejandro Faurlin and Esteban Granero are both able to play through balls and the former’s pass set up Bobby Zamora for the opener in the match at the Lane. Granero got a rare start last week away to Chelsea and was looking to play in Adel Taarabt, as Harry used the former Spurs man as a false nine.
QPR have tried to play more through balls under Redknapp due to the fact that without Bobby Zamora, his remaining crop of attackers are stronger with the ball to feet than in the air. In the seven Premier League matches that Redknapp has been in charge, only Fulham and Aston Villa have attempted fewer crosses than the men from Loftus Road.
In their new-look midfield, it is Stephane Mbia who is the most likely to provide the through ball, as Harry looks to combine defensive presence with attacking intent.
It’ll be interesting to see if Harry plays with Taarabt as a false nine again, or if he re-installs him behind Djibril Cisse.
QPR struggle for goals
Harry has tried to make QPR more difficult to beat and they have kept two clean sheets in his eight Premier League matches in charge. This has been at the expense of scoring goals though, with his side finding the net just 7 times, only West Brom (6) have scored fewer goals in the same period.
This hasn’t been because they aren’t creating chances, QPR are ranked tenth in the Premier League with a chance created every 7.2 minutes during Redknapp’s reign. They are also eleventh in shots taken in his time in charge, so the chances have been there, it’s just the ability of players to put them away.
On the flip side, Spurs have been flying, ranking second in both minutes per chance created (4.8) and shots taken during this eight game period. May it continue on Saturday…
QPR vs Spurs outlook
QPR will be buoyant after beating Chelsea last weekend and Harry will have them fired up as he looks to settle his own personal score.
Andre Villas-Boas believes that Redknapp’s past with Spurs will give him a big advantage.
“I think it’s a big advantage. In the end when you manage a club you know your football players very well – you get to know their qualities and I think Harry can take advantage of that.”
In away encounters we’ve seen Spurs look to make a fast start and hit teams quickly in transition from turnovers and I think that AVB will try to do that here. Putting QPR quickly behind could knock their confidence and lead to more opportunities, especially with a vulnerable centre back pairing.
Aaron Lennon could be a key player with his pace to get beyond centre backs and to pick up passes played through the defence, then squaring them for Defoe and Adebayor.
We’ve played in the early Saturday kick-off match three times this season. The first two saw us lose 4-2 to Chelsea and 5-2 to Arsenal, here’s hoping the last victory against Sunderland is replicated.