We’ve all seen plenty of friendlies over the years. We know that results are largely meaningless, and even performances can be misleading. Last night’s 6-0 win over Bury can’t be seen as too revealing, but there was plenty to take from it. Let’s have a look at what was most interesting from the game.
First up, the attendance and mood of the crowd. It was amazing numbers who showed up on a Friday night, at a time when you could have stayed at home and watched world class players on TV. The enthusiasm of the support throughout the match was much better than the majority of league games will be. The Gerrard Factor is about how it’s got the fans excited again. Anyone looking for evidence of that got their answer. Good feeling and excitement in a support is rarely a bad thing.
The appointment of James Tavernier as captain has generated a lot of discussion. I have my own views on that, and I’d say that’s an article in itself. I’m more than happy to wait and see how that works out overall, as I see Tavernier as a very important player in the squad.
But it was what happened on the park the fans were most interested in. Rangers lined up in what looked like a 4-3-3, but it wasn’t a typical one. The midfield 3 was very attack minded, and Windass was wide on the right. Candeias playing centrally to some extent was an interesting choice, potentially the most noteworthy of the night. It suggests that Gerrard has characteristics in mind for that role, and Candeias best fits them right now. He presses the game well and is very direct, so that may point to what sort of player we’ll be looking for in midfield.
Bury were obviously not as fit and strong as Rangers, never mind the ability gap in the players. In that respect, it’s not easy to judge the level we played at. What was clear was that the ball was to get forward quickly, Windass and Murphy were to run at players, and runners from midfield are key. We know that we won’t play that sort of system in every match, as better teams could hurt us with the gaps it leaves. It’s encouraging to see a very attacking intent in place already, though.
Defensively, Katic and Goldson looked solid. You could see that Katic needs a little bit of experience in winning headers in British football, something many foreign defenders have spoken about in the past. Goldson reads the game well. They’ll get far bigger challenges in games to come, and will need the team to support them as always.
Probably the most encouraging thing all round was how hard the team worked off the ball. In a friendly, less than a week from the first competitive game, you could have understood a somewhat reserved approach. Even more so in the second half once a few goals had already been scored. Despite the changes, the team kept a high tempo. It won’t be easy to maintain that over a season, and we obviously have loads more to learn about the ability of our team, but it showed intent. Win the ball, get forward quickly, work back if we lose it – it’s not a bad model to work towards.
Getting excited by last night was pretty easy to do. In many ways, that’s how you should be feeling. Thursday against Shkupi will be a far more difficult match, and we’ll learn more about where we are very quickly. What we can say for certain is that this management team and squad are working hard to improve things. That’s probably all we could ask for to begin with.
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