Celtic vs Rangers – December 2019

In this video analysis I will be examining the performance of both Neil Lennon’s Celtic and Steven Gerrard’s Rangers, taken from the recent Old Firm game on Sunday 29th December. There were a number of overlapping factors in the structure of the game, which made the contest an enjoyable watch.

Within this analysis I will provide audio coverage over each video, so please adjust your volume accordingly.

I am going to begin by analyzing where the Celtic performance broke down to help us better understand how the result got away from them.

Lennon’s game model utilized a basic 4231 structure, which morphed into a 4123 in attack using inverted wingers, high and wide positioning of the full backs and quick switches of play to weak side. Let’s start by looking at how Celtic’s defensive fragility worked to undermine their quality in attack.

Celtic Defensive Structure

With the full FB’s & CM’s positioned so aggressively, this was going to place structural pressure on the center backs and Scott Brown as the lone defensive midfielder, given the size of space they would have to cover in transition. Here we look at where and when the disconnect occurs

Overall Defensive Shape

In this next phase I examine how Celtic’s basic pressure with the rest defending shape caused bigger structural issues when preventing Rangers attacks.

Celtic Defensive Breakdown during Rangers goal

As play shifts across to the left hand side Celtic have recovered their shape & structure, however it is the confusion of roles and responsibilities which opens the space for Ryan Kent to receive the ball and strike while unopposed.

Celtic Attack Play

In this section I take a deeper look at how Celtic started attacks, who were involved in the creation of overloads in wide areas, but more importantly why their attacks often broke down against Rangers defensive shape.

Celtic Attack Play CONTINUED

There were positive parts of Celtic’s attack play that began to cause problems for Rangers, however a mixture of too many turn overs and poor positioning led to lower frequency of attacks than the staff would have felt was acceptable.

Celtic Threat from Corner Kicks

Throughout the match Christopher Jullien carried a very evident attacking threat from corners, using his anticipation & the physical attributes to fashion multiple chances on goal.

Final Thoughts

While Celtic’s attacking intent was evident, they weren’t able to marry their ball movement with a solid defensive structure which left them vulnerable to counter attacks. They also lacked consistent penetration from their build up play, often leaving their strikers stranded and cut off from the overall group play.

Next up I am going to analyze Rangers performance and illustrate why Gerrard’s strategy was so effective. The elements that were evident from his game model were a patient build up style that progressively built play forward, operating a strong defensive connectivity within a narrow 433 shape and a key use of narrow attackers to create quick attacking counter attacks as well as counter pressure in defensive transition.

Rangers Defensive Connectivity

A growing feature of Rangers defensive strategy has been their ability to connect multiple players to hunt in packs and prevent the opponent from making quick combinations. Here we breakdown how this came to be.

Rangers Defending Players Between the Lines

A large part of Celtic’s attacking threat came from Edouard dropping between the lines to link play, Rangers dealt with this threat well, especially as Celtic began varying the angle of entry passes.

Rangers Build Up Play

Rangers patience in build up encouraged an aggressive press from Celtic, during which time their ability to consistently find the spare man afforded the attackers more time to get into position.

Attacking Transitions

This continues to be a key feature under Gerrard that has evolved throughout his time in charge. They ruthlessly exposed the spaces given to them by Celtic, which illustrates a tactical understanding that displays a versatility in the final third.

Corner Kick Threat

In a similar vein to Celtic, Rangers also carried a threat from set plays throughout the match. Here we look at the movement variation that they utilized to free space for Katic & Goldson.

Final Thoughts

In contrast to their opponents, Rangers defensive structure worked to compliment their attack. Their overall play was well structured and they managed to balance the conservatism needed to stay defensively compact with using quick transitions to exploit their opponents weaknesses.

About the Author

Picture of Alistair Bain

Alistair Bain

Alistair is a native of Hamilton, Scotland and is an A License qualified coach who has 20 years of experience within the football industry. Currently residing in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alistair's resume includes a variety of roles across football clubs in Scotland, England and the United States.

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