Strikers are key! QPR’s Harry Redknapp reveals survival secret
Harry Redknapp says Loic Remy and Bobby Zamora are making the difference in QPR's bid to beat relegation. Kieran Beckles reports
When Harry Redknapp arrived at Queens Park Rangers, he immediately identified the key reasons beyond their disastrous position at the foot of the Premier League: a lack of predatory goal-scorer.
So it was no wonder the Hoops boss was so ecstatic to land top target Loic Remy for what now looks a bargain £8m deal from Marseille in the January transfer window – albeit aided by chairman Tony Fernandes’s persuasive nature and Fifa skills.
Redknapp’s initial elation was tempered by the 26-year-old’s niggling groin injuries which forced the former l’OM man to miss almost a month after scoring on his debut against West Ham United at Upton Park.
But Remy has shaken off the problem – for now at least – and bagged goals in successive Premier League games against Southampton and Sunderland, earning a recall to Didier Deschamps’s France squad.
A bit like London buses, Redknapp also has Bobby Zamora in his first-team – despite the forward continuing to nurse an ankle injury – and the QPR boss feels the west London side now have genuine firepower to worry their opponents.
“We were short in the striker department – it was a real problem area,” he said. “What’s changed now is Remy has started scoring and Bobby has come back fit. It’s made a difference to the team.
“I still think it [the relegation battle] will be close. But definitely with Remy and Zamora, I feel we can do some damage and can be a threat.
“Before it was goalless draws hoping we could nick a goal somewhere. But now with those two, if they can stay fit together… and we’ve got people like Jamie Mackie who can come in and work his socks off and Jay Bothroyd who we brought on.”
Relegation rivals Aston Villa and Sunderland have enjoyed the luxury of relying on poachers Christian Benteke and Steven Fletcher to score the goals necessary to fire their respective sides to victory.
And Redknapp feels that a prolific front-man is simply a must-have accessory for any side looking to successfully fight off the threat of relegation and cement their top-flight status.
“Every team needs their strikers. If you took Fletcher out of Sunderland’s team this year then they would be nowhere near where they are, if you take Christian Benteke out of Villa’s team… You’re relying on your front-men really.”
With his admission that strikers are a crucial ingredient to the survival recipe, it’s no surprise Mark Hughes was always going to struggle to steer his side out of the relegation zone after a woeful start.
The Welshman recruited heavily in the summer, leading to lofty ambitions of possible European football, with many focusing on the arrival of the big trio: Julio Cesar, Park Ji-Sung and Esteban Granero.
But it proved to be his January signing Zamora and free transfer Andy Johnson who were the central characters to his downfall as the pair suffered early injuries and left QPR toothless in attack.
The Hoops managed a measly 11 goals in their opening 14 games of the season before Hughes was sacked – and Redknapp can easily pinpoint the Welshman’s downfall.
“Mark was just unlucky. The biggest problem for Mark was he lost his two strikers: Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson. If they had stayed fit, it could have been different for him. You need a bit of luck on the game and that had a big effect on them.”
The QPR manager can sympathise with his predecessor, having been in a similar position with West Ham United in the 1996-97 campaign.
The Hammers were struggling for goals and stuck in the middle of a relegation battle but Redknapp, without the harness of a set transfer windows, signed Dave Kitson and John Hartson in February and the pair fired the east London side to safety.
“I’ve been through that at West Ham. We went 1-0 down and we may as well have gone home because we had no strikers.
“It was late in the season and the first year we were close to relegation.
“I brought Kitson and Hartson in and suddenly we went on a run beating everybody. Every week one of them scored or they both scored. Suddenly we got out of trouble. You need someone who can score.”
While the QPR manager and Hoops supporters will be thrilled with their new-look strike partnership, one man who could be unenthused by Remy-Zamora is Adel Taarabt.
The Moroccan was dropped to the bench for QPR’s victories against Southampton and Sunderland – albeit carrying an injury – and was chastised by Alan Shearer on Match of the Day.
Fortunately for the midfielder, Redknapp doesn’t watch Saturday night’s round-up of top-flight action and the Hoops boss is adamant he still has a vital role to play.
“Adel did well for us when he played there but he’s not an out-and-out striker. Suddenly we’ve got two frontmen with Bobby and Remy.
“Adel is a player who likes to come in off the left or from deep having long shots or with dribbles, scoring spectacular goals.
“He’s not going to be getting tap ins. That’s where we need Remy and Zamora. Now we’ve got two targets who might goals for us.”
QPR shared a thrilling 2-2 draw with Villa on their last trip to Birmingham, and you wouldn’t count against Redknapp’s side matching that tally on Saturday afternoon with Remy firing on all cylinders.