The days of ‘Plan B is doing plan A better’ are long gone.
It’s been a criticism since the days of Mark Warburton, Rangers being predictable to play against and having a very difficult time against teams who are happy to sit in and defend in the final third.
This season, that predictability is nowhere to be seen. Rangers are making very noticeable tweaks on a game by game basis, be it in shape, style of play or personnel. We have already seen multiple different approaches from both the 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 formations.
Today we’ll look at how Rangers used totally different set-ups within a 4-3-3 to dominate games against different levels of opposition.
First up we have the trip to Parkhead against a Celtic side who turned out a 3-5-2 and wanted to have possession.
For this game Rangers were happy to oblige, sitting deep until the ball crossed the halfway line before beginning to close the spaces. This saw Celtic relying on their CB’s to try to initiate play as the midfield was clogged while Tavernier and Barisic stayed deeper to invite both Celtic wingbacks to get into advanced positions which left space in behind them to exploit.
It was the story of the game, Rangers limited them to empty possession (0 shots on target and the 3 players with the most touches were the Celtic CB’s) while constantly attacking the spaces left behind both wingbacks. The first goal highlighted this after only 8 minutes as Kent burst into the space left by Laxalt which forced the CB’s to commit, the foul leading directly to Rangers opening the scoring.
As the game progressed, the spaces just became bigger. Kent and Barisic consistently exploited Frimpong’s high position leading to several good chances.
The players executed the game plan perfectly and turned in the most comfortable Old Firm victory we’ve had in a long time. The shape, movement as a unit and discipline were first class to a man.
Then we have Hamilton.
A very different type of opponent and the approach reflected it. The formation was the same on paper, but it couldn’t have been used more differently as Rangers blitzed Hamilton for 8.
Tavernier and Barisic once again took up their extremely high wide positions, Roofe and Kent were switching positions seamlessly throughout, Jack held his central position which allowed both Arfield and Aribo to run beyond the forwards. There was absolutely no answer for the attacking assault.
The return of Joe Aribo has added that extra element back in. Arfield had been the only midfielder willing to run beyond for the last two months, but Aribo looked back to full sharpness and spent the entire game making those runs in behind defenders who were being dragged out of position by the movement of Roofe and Kent.
If ever there was a moment to highlight the fluidity of the Rangers attack, it was the 10th minute when James Tavernier found himself on the left wing running onto a through pass from Borna Barisic.
20 seconds later Tavernier was back on the other side of the box as 5 Rangers players were in the Hamilton penalty area after yet another run from Aribo.
On the other side, it was also a return to the high press which resulted in not only another clean sheet but another game with 0 shots on target faced. That’s already the 8th time this season Rangers have achieved that feat.
We also saw the debut of Bongani Zungu, who wasted no time introducing himself. Within the first minute he had played a 40 yard ball over the top right onto the foot of Ryan Kent, 15 seconds later he played Kent through again with a lovely chipped one-two and when it was cleared he was there again to switch play.
He looked right at home instantly and adds further depth to a team that handed out a hammering with the likes of Morelos, Davis, Kamara, Hagi and Helander in reserve.
Over the next few weeks we’ll continue to look at the way the team are approaching different games and also focus on some individual players and the roles they are carrying out, both in and out of possession.
Thanks for reading