A lot of what I will say may be harsh and some people will not agree, but I can’t possibly write this blog without criticism and without asking the huge questions that require addressing after our last match.
There was so much wrong with that performance.
The obvious point is that the manager got it wrong tactically and in his selection. Secondly, some individuals performance lacked heart and dare I say it, the belief to play in our team or in this philosophy. Put that together and the result is somewhat predictable, some may even say it has been coming.
It starts with the manager and his tactics but player performance is every bit as bad and worrying.
Almost instantly it was apparent we were too deep and what was also clear is, something we had spoke about before, we were so passive as a team. No one was tackling or engaging their opponent. Players were out of shape positionally and easily exploited. The pressing aggressive game we had used, under Gerrard, is almost now non existent. We seemed happy to sit back and take it all in, it was the equivalent of a boxing match where you say to your opponent ‘Here’s my chin, take a shot at it’.
Rangers sat in deeper than I’d ever care to remember at their place. Kemar Roofe was so deep that he was an attacking midfielder rather than a forward and immediately we were penned in being ultra defensive. When we don’t engage or press the ball that becomes problematic. An example would be the space given to the centre backs to play an easy ball to the wide men, who then turn and go straight at our defence which we allow to go unchallenged or without engaging, this was criminal.
We refused to engage or press the ball or even follow runners which created huge gaps which were easily found. Certain individuals were hugely culpable for that. At times players were bunched and surrounding the ball, the amount of time space was left behind them was brutal.
That meant the outcome was almost inevitable and we literally got swamped, when we did have a little possession there was zero composure to do anything on the ball. If you have such a pressing game like we faced then using the ball and showing for the ball is vital, that didn’t happen. There was zero intent and it looked like the players were almost frightened in possession or out of it. In the case of some players it seemed they were hiding in plain sight, which meant the ball came back in waves against us very quickly.
The amount of space we seemed to surrender, particularly to their wide men and space between full backs and centre backs (Borna and Bassey especially) was ridiculous. The gap and disconnect between the units of our team meant the space was so evident, between defence and midfield was startling. There was several warnings before the second goal went in which we failed to correct. The organised compact unit of before, when we were so disciplined and everyone knew their jobs and in turn knew when to press as a team (Think Arfields goal in 3-2 win against Standard Liege as an example) is now non existent.
Arguably and worryingly, the organisation and good habits of previous title winning year has been lost altogether. Was it going that way earlier in the season? Possibly, it’s definitely gone now.
It looked like we didn’t know what to do or what to expect. Now arguably you could say that trying to spring on the break was correct way to do it, but for me and this is a huge thing in my opinion, The team selection didn’t suit that outlook. That’s entirely on the manager.
It looks like, and this is something I mentioned before, is that there is a massive disconnect between the Forward players and the rest of the team, the absent link between the units of the team (Defence/midfield/attack) is now visibly apparent. Highlighted by how well Ryan Jack did his job and helped in second half because he filled the space, connecting our team.
The team to me look very easy to play against. It’s very easy to play against a Ryan Kent if you know where he is going to be all the time. Rangers are playing in flat straight lines which mean space is very easy to find, the space between defence and midfield which ultimately cost us is an example. The gaps between positions is almost schoolboy standard.
However, this is just me and what I think I am seeing. There is far more intelligent and educated people who will dissect this performance and show exactly where we went wrong. However even a supporter, like me, can see that this team is giving up space, sitting deep and no longer engaging as a unit.
￼If I can see it then surely the manager should.
Which is where I come directly to Giovanni Van Bronckhorst.
He is getting it massively wrong.
It is somewhat clear that this is not working and his philosophy isn’t suiting this group of players. Being so negative and apparently defensive is costing the team points.
He either adapts and adapts quickly or Rangers will continue to drop points and the end result will be obvious, he will lose his job. Now I’m not saying we should do that now, as above, it’s not the time to panic. But he needs to look at his own tactics and see whether it’s working and why this team can produce a performance that looked so devoid of coaching and instruction.
I don’t for one second think he set them up to be like that and God help us if he did because then it won’t ever work. However he has to see what went wrong, who he can trust in this team and rectify it quickly. If players aren’t doing their jobs and it’s evident they aren’t, then be ruthless and drop them because there is plenty of candidates.
The other problem is this set up and the clear evidence is it isn’t working which surfaced previously. Aberdeen, Hibs, Hearts and almost every ‘tricky’ away game has highlighted the issues so this isn’t a reactionary one off. But it is too early to overreact and ask for change. It is right to question if this suits our players and they are buying into it, evidence suggests they aren’t.
Any criticism or fan reaction is entirely fair. A six point lead lost in four games isn’t good enough and the ‘goodwill’ period Gio created has now gone.
The absolute truth is that Gio is under pressure and it’s not on the back of one defeat, which is what we must remember is only his first, it’s because of everything we have seen so far and recently. He is capable however of getting it right and in fairness performances at home are completely different and we were good in Lyon, for example, so we have to try not to be too reactionary to a horrible performance.
He has to adapt and that point is fair, as is questions about our performances collectively and individually. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind if we have more performances that look so disjointed and unorganised then Gio will very quickly find himself on the brink, as ridiculous as that may sound after one defeat.
He has to also very quickly realise who he can trust and who is not performing, he has to look at himself. This isn’t on the back of one performance because before Gerrard left this had been apparent also. These players need dropped and quickly.
There are players in this team underperforming massively and this urgently needs attention.
Now before I go on further this is only my opinion and ultimately we will all disagree with points and have our own views, that’s all entirely fair and part of being a supporter.
However, criticism of this group individually and collectively is not only fair but deserved.
Yes it was their second defeat in two seasons and yes they were ‘Invincible’ last year and deserve all the credit for delivering that title, but that is history and some are coasting along giving the minimum that is required.
Some players require a place on the bench and taken out of our team.
First of all the decision to play Calvin Bassey at centre back was massively wrong. He is not a CB and positionally got caught several times which caused problems. However he at least responded in the second half in his natural position at left back. He deserves to be our left back going forward and showed enough heart to deserve his place in the team.
His counterpart and our other left back Borna Barisic is entirely different however. Aside of the banter years, you have to go back a long way to find a performance as inept and cowardly as he produced on Wednesday.
That’s the biggest criticism of him, he looked cowardly. That’s completely unacceptable.
He looked frightened to engage and frightened of the environment. The defending at the third goal was unforgivable and to be almost on your knees as someone runs by you is nothing short of disgraceful. Players can play badly in games but you can never, ever, perform like that and with no heart in a game of that importance. The absolute truth is Borna Barisic deserves all the criticism he will get and should be out of the team indefinitely. He has a long way back from here and he has to show he wants it.
Then there is others who are not performing and underperforming at crucial times. James Tavernier will let you down defensively at times and consistently fails to stop a cross. He done it in Dingwall just last Saturday and his chronic switch off for that third goal was damningly poor. This is symptomatic of Tavernier but what he adds going forward means it is overlooked. Tavernier isn’t the problem or the biggest problem in this team. Allan McGregor made a lot of good saves and whilst this won’t be universally popular, he has to do better for the second goal and he is rooted to the line at the third. He was poor on Saturday and shifting six goals in two games, where minimum of four you have to do better, means questions will be asked, fairly or not.
Glen Kamara is another who to me is hiding. He hasn’t been good for weeks but there was a reason why Gerrard would never have gone with Kamara without a worker like Davis or Jack next to him. He can’t dominate or control a game and has zero presence when a battle needs to be won. The way he jogged around at half pace was evident when that second went in, that’s no where near the levels required. Joe Aribo next to him is also the wrong choice and something which hasn’t worked before. Aribo’s best games against them have come at RW because he is a luxury player, he was absolutely anonymous against them but he isn’t the issue because he has been outstanding, that apart. He simply wasn’t used correctly which goes back to my point about the managers selection and tactics. Truth is Aribo never tracked one runner all night and again had a hand in a goal as he let his marker jog away from him at ease.
Then there is Ryan Kent. I have given all the praise to him and genuinely when he is on his game he is without doubt unstoppable, but his performance at Parkhead was feeble and timid. He at least kept going, or gave his bare minimum depending how you look at it, but looked shot of confidence and looked like he either didn’t want to be there or that he didn’t believe in what we were trying to do. Either way, it was a long way short of what was required and he, along with Barisic, Kamara, Tavernier and others really need to look at themselves from Wednesday’s performance.
Whether Giovanni is brave enough to change it remains to be seen but one thing that is clear is that Ryan Jack and Aaron Ramsey will make a huge difference to that midfield. Leon Balogun instantly improves that defence and Calvin Bassey is currently, on form, a stronger option at Left Back. Fashion Sakala can also legitimately ask for a start. Not to mention the return of Alfredo up front.
If he adapts his tactics, changes the shape slightly and lets the team play then I have no doubts we will instantly see a better performance and change from there.
If he doesn’t then the writing is on the wall somewhat.
There are players that need to take a massive look at their own standards and I could have went on and picked out every single one of them but I expect more from the Kamara’s, Kent’s, Borna’s and Tavernier’s of this side, to name but a few. These are vital components in our team and individually they were a long way short of the required standard.
They have to respond and Giovanni also has to make immediate changes. Nobody’s place is safe but more importantly nothing will change unless they look at themselves.
Rangers have blown a lead and blown an opportunity, but nothing is lost by that result and that is the absolutely vital point here. They deserve every bit of criticism and every bit of questioning and opinion the fans give them, they have to take it and respond.
It’s sink or swim time for the players and the manager, we are in a title fight and we will see if they respond. Giovanni will either go on and win a run of games which will change the narrative or he is beginning the start of a run that will see him come under massive scrutiny.
It’s a reality check for everyone and a boot up the arse to the management and the players, they have to respond.
This team has the quality, it’s now time they showed it and time the manager allowed them. If they don’t then the summer will need an even bigger rebuild than we already suspected, including a new manager.