After returning back to Glasgow with two solid performances in France, Rangers continued their pre-season preparations with two matches in quick succession. In Motherwell they faced off against a side with lots of young attacking talent, but also a side that have caused Rangers a number of tactical battles in the past. Three days later Rangers would welcome Coventry City, who had also experienced an abrupt end to their 19/20 campaign with the closure of League 1. They however enter the new season as a promoted side to the English Championship, so will be looking to use the pre-season to get a jump on their opponents who have just completed their league season.
For a full match reports and some excellent pre and post-match content be sure to head over to Rangers FC official site for full coverage HERE.
In this piece I will highlight several tactical factors that were of interest in each match, both from an individual and collective perspective. I have added my audio commentary to each video to explain those areas I have analyzed.
Rangers 4 – 0 Motherwell
Motherwell used a build pattern that attempted to draw Rangers into a higher pressing position. From there they would look to expose the spaces on the outside of Rangers defensive shape with direct passes into full backs positioned on the sidelines. Rangers handled this coverage well and remained connected throughout.
Rangers Defensive Transition / Counter Pressure:
A big part of Gerrard’s game model is his use of transitions, which is evident in the profile and performances of the attacking players. While they have shown themselves to be strong in the attacking phases, they were particularly strong in defensive phases of transition, pressing Motherwell quickly and preventing them from advancing forward.
Tavernier Roles and Responsibilities:
In France we saw lots of attacking build up play down the left hand side, primarily through the use of overloads and quick combination play. From there the right side was then used to expose the spaces on the opposite side of the field (weak side) and create space for Tavernier to advance forward into. In this match we saw a departure of that build up play, and quite often Tavernier was charged with carrying the ball forward, a role we had become accustomed to in Gerrard’s first season in charge.
Breakdown In Build Up Play:
Motherwell press in a compact 4-1-4-1 shape, so the Rangers build patterns altered slightly from those used in France. Against both Lyon and Nice they often began with a pass wide to Barisic and from this point a diagonal entry pass into Kent or Morelos would kick start their attack play. In this match the focus was to have the center backs start play from a deeper position with the task of finding Hagi or Kent in the spaces behind the opposition midfield line. As we’ll see in the next video, there were a number of times these patterns played into Motherwell’s press and quite often resulted in a turn over in possession.
Good Attack Play:
While there were some structural breakdowns, there were also lots of periods of play that the coaching staff will be happy with.
Rangers 2 – 0 Coventry City
Build Up Play Breakdowns:
Coventry provided a different test for Rangers in this match, in that there lines of pressure were less trigger based as they sought to position themselves higher from the start. Coventry would press with two strikers and had a midfield who often worked on a man for man press. Their back line at times would hold 5 players, but were aggressive in their positioning as they looked to compact their pressing shape with the midfielders and forwards in front of them.
From here Rangers had to solve the problem of finding an open man in central areas to link wide to their full backs, but also find space that they could have central players turn and penetrate forward and allow the narrow front three of Hagi, Kent and Morelos to play in the final third. Here we look at the moments where breakdowns occurred, but also examine why they happened.
Good Attack Play:
While there were some breakdowns in approach play, we did see many moments of quality in the match. Typically these happened when the central players could find an open platform to build forward and combination play could take place in the final third.
Quality Combination Play:
Given how many players Coventry positioned centrally it was always going to be tough to break that down, however there were lots of flashes of quality from Rangers front three and creative midfielders that their staff will no doubt be happy with.
Four very different opponents this pre-season, but four outcomes that the staff will be no doubt very happy with. Zero goals conceded and ten goals scored is a good metric for any side to build upon, especially headed into a league campaign that will require Rangers to give themselves every possible advantage right from the first game.
I still harbor concerns about the sides build up play, especially in how they break down opposition lines of pressure. It’s evident that there is a breakdown in understanding of how the players position themselves prior to a pattern of play taking place, especially when they are numerically matched and unable to find the spare player in the overload. I’ll be interested to see if the staff address this in the coming matches.
Overall the side will go into the opening day of the season against Aberdeen in good form, with an opportunity to kick off the campaign with a good performance and three points.