The greatest trick Harry Redknapp ever pulled was convincing the world 3-5-2 could work -- and just like that, whoosh, it was gone...
Not the "Usual Suspects" script verbatim but close enough for anyone who watched QPR on Sunday afternoon. The new formation supposedly marked a new dawn, a fresh way of playing to be created and nurtured by new players and coaches.
- Redknapp: We looked a team of strangers
The switch in formation was made to get the best out of new signing Rio Ferdinand, to give the former Manchester United man the time and space to emerge from the back with the ball and begin patterns of play. To assist the Rangers revolution spearheaded by Rio, Glenn Hoddle was brought in. Rangers played 3-5-2 on their preseason tour of Germany and in the friendlies back in England, all in preparation for their assault on the top flight.
Although the opening day performance against Hull received positive reviews, they were excessive -- Rangers lost at home against a defensive side that was well drilled and finely tuned but certainly not threatening.
Defeat, in all honesty, was expected to Tottenham. But the capitulation was instant and after just 135 minutes of football, Rangers were back with a flat 4-4-2. The deep-laid system alteration that took a summer to implement suddenly looked like a half-baked pseudo-philosophy as Redknapp gave up the thankless task of forcing square pegs in round holes after 45 minutes and three goals.
Richard Dunne is not a left-sided centre-half, Loic Remy is not a target man and Armand Traore did not look like a left-wing back. After 45 minutes, suddenly all the best laid plans were ripped up. Dunne, a titan at times last season, was made to look disposable as he was hauled off and Nedum Onuoha was forced to play 45 minutes in the right-back spot he dreads as Rangers played damage limitation for the second period.
Rob Green joined Redknapp in defending the new system in their postmatch interviews and their sentiment was correct: "Play that badly in any formation and you'll get beat," but the fact is the formation allowed Spurs midfielders time and space to pick apart a flapping and flustered Rangers side.
Hull City proved at Loftus Road in their 1-0 win on the opening day that 3-5-2 can work but Steve Bruce has bought players that are perfect for the role. Bruce had a formation in mind and then made the signings to implement it. Redknapp built a team around individual players last season and he is now trying to shoehorn them in to a formation they are unfamiliar with.
The Rangers boss keeps reminding detractors he played the formation at Portsmouth and West Ham and that is all well and good. But Ferdinand didn't play it in a decade at Manchester United, Dunne doesn't recall playing it much at Aston Villa or Manchester City and Steven Caulker played in a back-four when he caught Redknapp's eye at Cardiff.
Going back to Hull, they suffered the odd bad result last season but when they went behind they stuck with their plan. The 3-5-2 was their most popular formation last term and when it was deviated from it was due to injury or suspension.
Rangers, however, folded at the first sign of pressure and abandoned their beliefs at the first sign of trouble. All their plans were laid to waste. Redknapp says they'll line up in 3-5-2 at home against Sunderland but what If Connor Wickham grabs an early brace and the players start looking around for excuses again -- will we see another switch?
Rio needs to play in a back-three, Hoddle is a master of the formation and Redknapp has been desperate to play it for donkey's years -- but maybe, just maybe, no one else inside Loftus Road is in on the act.