Is Harry Redknapp a master tactician or just lucky?

Is Harry Redknapp a master tactician or just lucky?

By Thomas Levin

Harry Redknapp is the first to admit that he is doesn’t do football tactics; calling him an intelligent tactical master will probably offend him as much as calling him a ‘Wheeler Dealer’. His view is that you should pick the best eleven players and tell them to go on the pitch and run around, an approach Rafael van der Vaart proclaims has been the secret to his good form:

“There are no long and boring speeches about tactics, like I was used to at Real Madrid. There is a clipboard in our dressing room but Harry doesn’t write anything on it.”

Redknapp doesn’t share the wisdom of his decision with his players, but does that really mean that Harry Redknapp has built a solid career in top flight football without ever really giving much attention to tactics?

Harry seems quick to distance himself from any intelligent decision making, making websites such as this one or Zonal Marking to be nothing more than futile exercises over-complicating a game with 22 men and one ball.

But Redknapp is not as stupid as he wants to make himself out to be. Of course he is tactically aware; the capture of van der Vaart demonstrates this perfectly. His frivolous spending of course could explain the Dutch playmaker’s introduction to the Premier League, but it has made them a stronger force as they look to compete in Europe on a regular basis and has transformed them into a side tipped to compete for the title.

The domination of the midfield being so important in modern football, has forced the most English of English managers to change his formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1, especially when up against the elite of Europe.

Tactics can often be explained by finding patterns of play. If left to the players themselves even the best of men will be lost without instruction or organisation. The changes at the Emirates in the London derby, putting van der Vaart on the wing, utilising his natural tendency to come inside narrowed the pitch and made it much more difficult for Arsenal to play their passing game. Spurs threw more forward to attack Arsenal and their inability to see out a lead and their dodgy defence crumbled.

What about the long balls to target man Peter Crouch who knocks it onto the deep runs of van der Vaart? Would this not be classed as a tactical decision? Utilising the players he has and giving them roles that would give synergy to their strengths and attack the weaknesses of the opposition.

To me Harry Redknapp’s “tactics don’t win you games” comments are nothing more than fitting in with a culture that is thankfully slowly dying in football, that of a fear of the educated and the intelligent in football. Long has it been feared in the game where the managers intuition has ruled. The Premier League is quickly becoming a place of in-depth analysis, crunching of numbers and close consideration of everything that happens on and off the pitch. Even Sam Alladyce can pride himself on using the information in front of him to get more out of his players.

Football isn’t won solely on tactics, but it is one part of a huge strategy that is taken into consideration by all managers when their team takes the football pitch, and just turning up with a team sheet won’t cut it.

By keeping things simple and recruiting good players, allowing them to play their natural game (Harry has rarely tried changing the way a player plays his football) Redknapp is showing his man-management skills. Not letting them worry about the bigger tactical picture, but on letting them be free to do what they enjoy.

While Harry’s tactical astuteness is as good as any top Premier League boss, he picks a squad of players that can play the system well. He can identify ready made players who will adapt to a successful way of playing football. This may be one of the reasons why he has very rarely brought through young players up the ranks.

I am not Harry’s biggest fan but I think we need to give his tactics credit, even if he refuses to acknowledge them.

You can read more fascinating pieces from Tom on his blog FM Pundit or follow him on twitter.

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7 thoughts on “Is Harry Redknapp a master tactician or just lucky?

  1. Some would say that switching between inverted/orthodox wingers from match to match is a sign of tactical understandig (Modric vs Bale, VDV vs Lennon). Likewise his instructions to his fullbacks to hit deep crosses for Crouch to knock-down to VDV/Modric.

    Personally I think he sets his team up with a certain playing style and attacking method in mind, but I don’t think he pays too much attention to the “minor” details like one-on-one duels, overloads, decoys, off the ball movement etc – things that us tactical nerds believe can swing a game in a team’s favour.

    I think his basic philosophy is that quality players (with good mental preparation and man management) will figure it out for themselves on the pitch.

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