Harry Redknapp was always a kidder. Not interested in tactics, just go out and play, enjoy yourselves lads. Do me a favour. He came out on top in the tactical battle at Loftus Road yesterday, his QPR team retreating deep into their own half to restrict the space and deny Spurs the room to play. Dull but effective. Confronted with this problem, our feeble solutions were as effective as a Deal Or No Deal contestant who finds themselves in an episode of Mastermind by mistake.
It began well. Cesar reached up into the top righthand corner to tip Defoe’s goalbound 20 yarder onto the post, then Adebayor was fatally tentative from the rebound and the Brazilian saved again. It was as if the team shrugged collectively, said to themselves, ‘oh well, not our day’, and went through the motions for the remainder of the 90 minutes.
Redknapp’s strikerless side smothered our passing game at source. So effective was this, we were treated as early as the 35th minute to the unedifying spectacle of Dawson shooting from 35 yards. That’s how lousy our attacking efforts were today. Buses can get closer to the target than that effort.
This past week Redknapp demonstrated once again why Spurs fans have appreciated what he’s done for the team but never taken him to our hearts. A sly dig at any Chelsea manager who couldn’t come up with goods was followed by dark hints of high-level political conspiracies to remove him as Spurs boss. Then classic Harry – in the same breath as he praises Levy for being a decent bloke and calling him to wish him luck at Rangers, he makes fun of his former chairman’s transfer policy. He may have a point but there’s no sense that anything bad is ever his responsibility, at Tottenham or elsewhere. Underneath this good ol’ Uncle ‘arry schtick lies resentment and bitterness. Other managers can sidestep these questions, Redknapp can’t resist it.
At the close his extended chat with Villas Boas was presumably to reassure him that it was nothing personal. Too late. I adored some of his football and reaching the CL quarter finals from being bottom of the league is enough to rank him as a top Spurs manager. Harry, let your achievements speak for themselves, they will always sound more eloquent than you and now you’re gone, let us get on with it.
Adebayor did not repay his manager’s faith in him. Starting up front, he offered nothing. It was easy for QPR to isolate him from Defoe and the rest of his team-mates, and he has the air of a striker who knows he is out of form, waiting for the ball instead of attacking it and wanting always to take the extra touch. When he returns, he will have to work hard to dispel the thought that when City and Ars***l fans warned us that he’s a one-season wonder, they might have been correct.
A great pity as Rangers central defence is vulnerable. However they were well protected as Redknapp threw a midfield defensive blanket over Spurs. We never once got the pass and move going. QPR made the most of their limited ambitions – to be positive it’s a compliment to our status in the game currently that they feared us to the point where players and fans alike reckon a home draw against us is a cause for celebration. However, we did precious little to unsettle them. Dembele was anonymous, while Lennon and Bale were not allowed to get up a head of steam. Only Parker provided occasional bursts into danger areas which committed defenders but we made nothing of the gaps that thus appeared.
We could have done more on the wings but never established combinations between the wide men and the full-backs, never created two against ones. This was compounded by Lennon spending much of the second half on the left, which meant that we had two right-footers out there. They turned inside where Rangers gratefully gobbled them up, rather than seeking the space by the touchlines. Also, Bale’s wandering was unpredictable for the defenders but for his team-mates too. They did not know where to find him.
Spurs have made fantastic progress in a short time under Villas Boas but we don’t have the patience, wit and invention to break down a packed, well-drilled defence. The evidence is there from Stoke, Wigan and now at Loftus Road yesterday. We have to pass, make the runs and try to draw them out. Easier said than done but the League will take notice, that this is how to play us. Launching long balls from midway through the first half onwards is raising the white flag. Back to his tactics charts for our Andre.
I kept waiting for things to improve and we perked up a bit after half-time, then gradually it dawned that we were getting nothing from this one. At least we didn’t fall for any sucker punch counter, although we were helped in that respect by Wright-Phillips ability to fall over when he’s faced with a shooting chance.
We carried on, not supporting the man on the ball, who turned into his marker and was tackled, again and again. Dempsey’s overdue arrival might have sparked something but by then, we had forgotten how to pass. At least the time passed fairly quickly to the final whistle.