Redknapp pieces together a promotion-challenging side at QPR
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
QPR’s narrow win over Ipswich Town on Saturday provided further evidence that Harry Redknapp is building a side capable of achieving promotion this season.
Redknapp’s team against Ipswich was packed with experience, with no fewer than six of the starting XI having won promotion from the Championship with previous clubs.
That experience was telling, as Rangers dominated the game for long spells and, crucially, kept their composure even when it appeared Ipswich were set to take an unlikely point.
The likes of Clint Hill, Karl Henry and even Joey Barton produced a controlled display which gradually wore Ipswich down until substitute Tom Hitchcock stole the win which puts QPR fifth after three games – on this evidence it is hard to see them finishing outside the top six.
Redknapp rightly attracted a measure of criticism for failing to keep Rangers in the Premier League last season, and raised eyebrows again by selling Jamie Mackie to Nottingham Forest and loaning Adel Taarabt to QPR’s west London rivals Fulham.
However, as the club continue to publicise their mission to ‘sign the right sort’ of players this season, there is no doubt that the manager has stuck to his task during the summer.
Eighteen players have departed Loftus Road since last season, and although disappointingly few of them have left permanently, there is the definite air of a fresh start in west London.
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Jose Bosingwa and Taarabt were potentially disruptive influences which are absent this year, replaced by highly-regarded figures such as Richard Dunne, Gary O’Neil, the competitive midfield ‘enforcer’ Karl Henry and goal-scoring talent Charlie Austin.
And yet, as transfer deadline day inches ever closer, Redknapp finds himself with work to do. From front to back changes still need to be made, the most urgent of which comes in attack.
Taarabt’s departure on loan to Fulham was not surprising, with Redknapp unwilling to indulge the temperamental forward in the way which Mark Hughes or Neil Warnock did.
But it has left a glaring gap in QPR’s forward lines which was again in evidence against Ipswich. Minus Junior Hoilett – as Rangers will be for Saturday’s trip to Bolton Wanderers after the Canadian picked up a hamstring injury – the Rs were lacking a cutting edge.
Hoilett was a menace on the left wing before he departed, but without his presence QPR have only the eternally underwhelming Shaun Wright-Phillips to operate on the wings.
It is a glaring problem which assistant manager Kevin Bond admitted the club need to solve. Liverpool winger Oussama Assaidi has been mooted as a possible arrival; as has Andros Townsend at Tottenham, although Redknapp admits a move for Townsend is unlikely.
Ideally, Rangers need a player who is capable, similarly to Taarabt, of playing out wide or behind the strikers, creating and scoring goals to supplement their forward players.
That requirement casts question marks over Redknapp’s ongoing pursuit of central midfielder Scott Parker from Tottenham. Redknapp said last week that the two clubs have agreed terms, with the final decision now coming down to the player himself.
But do QPR need Parker? An England international yes, but one whose best days are behind him, who has disappointed at Tottenham since England’s 2012 European Championship.
Nor are QPR short in central midfield options. Henry has impressed since arriving from Wolves, while Redknapp can also call on the services of Alejandro Faurlin – a key figure in the Rs’ promotion-winning side of 2010-11 – as well as Barton, Jermaine Jenas, O’Neil and youngster Frankie Sutherland, a solid blend of experience and youth. Stephane Mbia and Samba Diakite also remain at the club, although both players are expected to move on.
The addition of a wide man would increase the service to strikers Charlie Austin, Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora. Austin, despite missing a series of chances against Ipswich, should easily reach double figures this season, but only with adequate service from midfield. Improved service would also negate the necessity for another striker, a positive given that Redknapp was forced to give up on his pursuit of Estudiantes hitman Duvan Zapata and, in all likelihood, Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe. Hitchcock, highly-rated by the coaching staff and his fellow players at QPR, would also benefit from a run in the side.
Redknapp will also almost certainly look to add to his defence, particularly in light of centre-back Anton Ferdinand’s departure and the possible transfer of left-back Armand Traore.
But the priority remains in attack, and if Redknapp can find the final piece of the jigsaw in that department, then QPR’s promotion bid will only gather momentum.