Few Premier League teams have put in a first-half display as abject and listless as the one Queens Park Rangers did against Liverpool in their 3-0 loss on Sunday.
That they did not concede more after going down by that scoreline within half hour was something of a small miracle, based on the way they the Hoops performed in the first-half.
Whatever Harry Redknapp said to them at half-time enlivened them sufficiently enough that they did not shame themselves any further after the interval. But, this slight improvement did not mask the poorness of what had occurred in the first 45 minutes.
Losing so lopsidedly to a Liverpool side that, for all its inconsistencies, is comprised of some terrific players is not on its own something that should shame the side—even at their best QPR may have fallen short to the Reds.
However, what should be especially dispiriting to Hoops supporters is that this poor display was only nine months removed from the match when their team launched a memorable fight-back to beat Liverpool 3-2, after having been two goals down (a result that proved crucial in their avoiding relegation).
Of course, their most recent meeting was played in different circumstances with the personnel on both sides significantly changed.
But, that March night was still not long enough ago that Redknapp’s players would be unable to recall the effort they put in to earn those three points.
Yet even amid the mediocrity shuffling around so halfheartedly at Loftus Road on Sunday, there were few Hoops players who appeared to sincerely care about the result.
Adel Taarabt is not a player one would regard as a workhorse, but he is inarguably a footballer who loves having the ball at his feet and thrives on being a central figure whenever he appears in a match. The Moroccan’s execution, however, was ultimately as lackluster as his teammates against Liverpool; even while he should be commended for at least trying to get QPR back into the match.
Another who can hold his head up high is Jamie Mackie. The Scotsman was left to lead the line on his own after Djibril Cisse was replaced with Shaun Derry at halftime to help provide QPR some semblance of solidity in the back.
It was a thankless task for him upfront with Liverpool sniffing out virtually any burgeoning attack of note. On the few forays that broke through, Mackie usually managed only a tame effort easily dealt with by Pepe Reina.
Still, the running that Mackie put in was representative of the kind of shift that QPR need to see from so many more of their expensively-assembled side.
Commitment cannot just be measured by the miles they cover though; it will be in their ability to perform even the most basic functions required of their specific on-field roles, and the players’ failure to do even that right now is where the concern must lie for Redknapp.
The recently installed manager told BBC Sport he still thought they could get out of trouble and that they “musn’t give up” in their relegation fight.
Based on the Liverpool loss, most of his players are already giving the impression they have packed it in for the season.
While one should take into consideration the accumulated tiredness of the Christmas fixture list, the way in which so many Hoops players shirked crucial responsibilities like marking their man at set-pieces or were stood ball-watching is inexcusable.
The January transfer window should offer Redknapp a chance to bring in some fresh faces and much needed quality to provide his team with a timely boost. But he cannot build an entirely new team and will have to make do with the majority of the players he inherited from Mark Hughes — which as the decent run the side enjoyed following Redknapp’s appointment (three draws and one win) showed, they are not entirely hopeless.
But getting from “abject and listless” to “not entirely hopeless” may be a difficult task in itself.
QPR are eight points from safety and await two daunting London derbies against the in-form Chelsea and Redknapp’s previous charges, Tottenham Hotspur (with West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup sandwiched in between those matches).
The 65-year-old manager has said that keeping this club in the Premier League would probably be the biggest achievement of his managerial career.
The way they are playing right now though, merely inspiring this side to put in a respectable performance against Chelsea would have to rank pretty highly on Redknapp’s objectives list.