Hell hath no fury like a chubby playmaker scorned. Adel Taarabt’s scathing assessment of Harry Redknapp in the Daily Mail has raised an uncomfortable question at Loftus Road.
It is the question on the lips of every Queens Park Rangers supporter: Is Redknapp still up for this? In the coming weeks, chairman Tony Fernandes must decide.
“He spends most of the time in his office,” fumed Taarabt, “but when he gets off the phone he comes down to watch for five or ten minutes. He never takes a session.”
Taarabt certainly has reason to be angry. Redknapp singled him out on Sunday, telling a packed press conference that his midfielder, “wasn’t fit,” and opining that, “I could have run about more than he did,” in a recent reserve game.
It was a swipe that brought to mind his famous assessment of Darren Bent’s finishing at Tottenham Hotspur in 2009. “My missus could have scored that,” he said. Bent, with an ego as robust as a stained glass window, subsequently asked to leave the club.
Taarabt was quick to refute Redknapp’s suggestion that he was three stone overweight, lifting his shirt for a photographer to snap what appeared to be a perfectly trim midriff, though it did look like he was tensing himself up for the picture.
Perhaps when the lens cap went back on, Taarabt exhaled, relaxed and three stone of hidden flab billowed out like a sail full of wind.
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But the Moroccan playmaker’s assault was compromised both by timing and content. Firstly, the very idea that Taarabt is upset because QPR don’t relentlessly press as a team is ludicrous. Taarabt is the kind of player who would use a mobility scooter to get from the dressing room to the side of the pitch if he had the chance.
He is an old school mercurial talent who believes that he is there to play the piano and not to carry it. Heat maps of his work rate reveal only a cold, dead surface, like a distant planet far from its home sun. And he’s upset because he isn’t being ordered to close down the defenders all the time? That’s like Jeremy Clarkson complaining that the producer of Top Gear won’t let him do more stories about the dangers of climate change.
Timing hasn’t helped him either. While QPR have been consistently wretched in almost every game this season, they should have beaten Liverpool on Sunday. There was abundant evidence of pressing, not to mention a clearly defined game plan, the old ‘Get It Up To Zamora, This Lot Can’t Defend’ protocol. QPR may have lost, but their character certainly couldn’t be questioned.
Taarabt’s accusations aren’t isolated. Stories of Redknapp’s ‘hands off’ approach to training are the stuff of legend in some circles. He is, by many accounts, a sort of anti-Bielsa. Redknapp would certainly never ruin a pair of wellies by mapping out parts of the foot in order to illustrate a point about the basics of kicking, nor would he stretch a press conference into its second hour because he was really desperate to talk tactics.
But he’s not an idiot either. He has repeatedly demonstrated an ability to turn dressing rooms and lift teams, at least in the short term. The only problem for Redknapp is that we are no longer in the short term.
Fernandes would be wise to put Taarabt’s complaints down as the bleatings of an out of favour footballer and ignore them. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about. This is a QPR side put together at great expense and it sits at the bottom of the Premier League with a 67 year old manager who is unlikely to find a fresh angle on the training field. Sooner or later, a decision is going to have to be made.
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