Why QPR formation change is the key to unlocking Kranjcar potential

Niko Kranjcar

Niko Kranjcar - Credit: EMPICS Sport

Harry Redknapp entered the final hours of the transfer window on Monday evening knowing that there were three key areas of his QPR side he needed to address. After a frantic final two hours of deadline day, he will feel that he has improved them all.

Tom Carroll

Tom Carroll - Credit: EMPICS Sport

In particular, the arrivals of Niko Kranjcar and Tom Carroll have the potential to transform QPR’s ambition this season from a top-six challenge to automatic promotion.

Benoit Assou-Ekotto

Benoit Assou-Ekotto - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Rangers’ positive start to the season has relied largely on the bedrock of a sound defence and combative midfield, but has been hindered by a lack of creativity and little cutting edge.

Consecutive 1-0 wins at Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United highlighted that fact. Playing in a tight, disciplined 4-4-2 system, they defended resolutely and pinched six points thanks to the poaching instincts of Andy Johnson and an opportunistic strike from defender Clint Hill.

The problem was thrown into even sharper focus by the injury to QPR’s only effective winger – Junior Hoilett – which left only Gary O’Neil and Shaun Wright-Phillips as wide options.

So the arrival of Kranjcar may well prove to be a master-stroke by Redknapp, who signed the Croatia international for the third time in his career following spells at Portsmouth and Spurs.

Kranjcar, brought in on a season-long loan deal from Dynamo Kiev, is a player who can operate either on the wing, particularly on the left, or behind the strikers, the position which Adel Taarabt made his own during QPR’s promotion-winning 2010-11 campaign. In Redknapp’s words: “He’s always a threat. He gets at players and makes things happen.”

Most Read

He found first-team opportunities at White Hart Lane increasingly limited as Gareth Bale began his emergence as a world-class player, but nonetheless scored 11 goals in 72 games.

That came on the back of more than 80 games at Portsmouth; Kranjcar needs no introduction to English football, and at 29, he remains a player in his prime.

Twenty-one-year-old central midfielder Carroll is an equally interesting acquisition, with Redknapp revealing it was his plan for QPR to “play through” him in the middle of the park. Carroll only featured 14 times for Tottenham last season, following loan spells at Leyton Orient and Derby County, but there is every indication that he will feature heavily for QPR.

Indeed, it is interesting to note that Spurs fans were disappointed that the highly-regarded Carroll was not loaned out to a Premier League club. This is a midfielder who played in Europe for Tottenham last season, and is an England Under-21 international.

Redknapp must now decide how best to accommodate both players. The most obvious solution would appear to be a switch from his rigid 4-4-2 to a more fluid 4-2-3-1 formation.

Historically, Redknapp has favoured 4-4-2, but at Spurs suggested the formation had become out-dated, leaving teams exposed to opposition increasingly playing three in the middle.

Should he switch to 4-2-3-1, success will rest largely on the effectiveness on the midfield three, with two players sitting in front of the back four and the third more advanced.

That may be the trio of Carroll, Barton and Henry, with the latter breaking up opposition attacks, laying the foundations for either of his two team-mates to drive the side forward.

Kranjcar can also occupy the more advanced role in the centre, but would perhaps be a better option replacing the often ineffective Wright-Phillips on the left of a front three.

Kranjcar certainly favours playing on the left. In 2009-10, his first season at Tottenham, he scored nine goals from left midfield as Spurs reached the top four of the Premier League for the first time and made the FA Cup semi-final. He was also playing ahead of Assou-Ekotto.

Assou-Ekotto, the third of Redknapp’s deadline-day arrivals, also represents a step up, offering a far more secure option than Armand Traore and an alternative to Clint Hill, and a potential partnership with Kranjcar is an enticing prospect.

Certainly, QPR’s deadline-day signings promise to make an impact at Loftus Road this season, and it would be a surprise if Redknapp did not now alter his formation to accommodate all three.