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Next

Danny Welbeck will be worth the wait

Arsenal 21 hours ago
Read
Jan 12, 2013

Creativity freezes over at Loftus Road

There were no hard feelings, said Harry Redknapp. Andre Villas-Boas was cordial towards his predecessor. An expected London derby of needle and scores to settle was played bloodlessly. Players froze as winter took a tight January grip.

Redknapp's deepest fervour was reserved for those who continued to question his feelings on Villas-Boas. According to him, there is no feud. There never has been.

"What is the problem?" he asked. "I don't even know him. He seems a nice man. I was talking about Rafa Benitez when I said you would have to be dopey not to do well with Chelsea's players, and it got twisted.

"I've never had a problem, we don't mix socially but I don't mix socially with any other managers. Next time I see him, it will be next year - hopefully."

The pair embraced warmly enough after a welcome final whistle was blown. "I told him what a good job he was doing," Redknapp said. "He didn't take my job. I didn't have a job."

A draw looked little use to either team. "QPR want salvation, we want Champions League qualification," as Villas-Boas put it. Rangers remain adrift, Tottenham's top-four position is not as copper-bottomed as it should be yet neither manager seemed too perturbed. A point was deemed acceptable.

"Drawing away from home in the Premier League is always a positive," Villas-Boas said. "It's a difficult game playing away at QPR."

Redknapp had tried to repeat the strategy that gained victory at Chelsea. "We've got to be difficult to beat first and foremost," he said. "We played 4-4-2 against Liverpool and got ripped to pieces."

Such caution meant the spectator was handed little cheer. This one of the worst matches of the season so far. Beyond Rangers' caution, they were clueless in attack. Hugo Lloris did not find himself touching the ball in open play until the 77th minute. Julio Cesar had a far busier match, but after an initial flourish that the Brazilian dealt with superbly, Spurs' attacking never convinced in its ability to force a goal.

Ryan Nelsen, one of Redknapp's last signings as Spurs boss, is a defensive mainstay he will struggle to do without at QPR. In a season of low-level performances from very well-paid players, Nelsen has shown notable professionalism. Even though he is due to begin his coaching career in Toronto, he exhibited it once more. When he actually heads to Canada remains a point of discussion and it would be understandable if his mind was drifting west, though he is a foreigner who has never exhibited the tendencies of a mercenary during his time in English football.

Michael Dawson might once have provided the solution to that Nelsen conundrum, yet in August he turned down the chance to join Rangers and bided his time at Tottenham, despite at first being given the black spot by Villas-Boas. In the first half it seemed as if Shaun Wright-Phillips must score but Dawson's late intervention meant Spurs only conceded a corner. With Clint Hill also impressing, centre halves ruled the day.

Dawson was often captain in Redknapp's days, but Villas-Boas has altered the make-up of Tottenham's team. Redknapp's team shifted on the axis of Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart where AVB can call on Moussa Dembele. Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor were rarely trusted together. Former favourite son Scott Parker only arrived on the scene after Sandro had suffered what looked a serious injury but proved only to be a slight knock. Villas-Boas prefers Gareth Bale to stick rigidly to the flank, whereas he was given a roving role in the latter days of the Redknapp regime.

On Redknapp's better days, Tottenham could beguile with the flow of their attacking. The same has often been true under Villas-Boas. This was not one of those days though it might have been different. Defoe's shot rattled off the post early on after a fine save from Julio Cesar, Emmanuel Adebayor took too much time in following up to allow Cesar time to set himself for a double save.

Villas-Boas clearly regretted that Adebayor, playing his final match before heading to South Africa to play for Togo in the African Nations Cup, had not scored.

"It's a big, big chance," he said. "It was of massive importance."

"He's a world-class goalkeeper, of that there is no doubt," said Redknapp of the excellent Cesar.

Redknapp's problems lay not in organisation but in creativity. With Shaun Derry sat in front of an equally greying central defence, Stephane Mbia was given the job of sitting on Dembele, a job that he carried out to the letter. Beyond that, his contribution to attacking was limited. He could destroy but not innovate. At one point, he broke free on the right. His pass was to no-one. Jamie Mackie, a solitary figure up front for most of the match, was not on his wavelength.

Ji-Sung Park is considered an attacking player, but was yet more hopeless in that sphere than Mbia. Adel Taarabt was even more negligible while Shaun Wright-Phillips blazed with the inconsistency of output that made his recent winning goal at Chelsea such a surprise. A late chance presented itself, yet he fell to the floor as if a weight of expectation had got to him.

Redknapp left in a rush, admitting that he was bound for Rennes, to watch Yann M'Vila play, saying he "was looking to see if there's anything to see out there" before suggesting that Jake Livermore would be joining him from his old club.

"I like Jake," he said simply, before denying any knowledge of a formal bid made for West Brom's Peter Odemwingie, though he admitted the Nigerian was "somebody we're interested in".

It was the same old Harry, but with a different club, and with a markedly different challenge to meet. Despite his stated neutrality towards Villas-Boas and the depth of his new team's plight, at least his old club had not got one over him.

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