Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Rangers And The Mysterious Case Of Dropping Points

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Kenny Stewart
Chief Football writer for The 4th Official. Always honest and won't shy away from the truth.

I’m one of those glass half full kind of guys. I’ll always try to see the positives in any dilemma. That’s especially so with Rangers, particularly after the last ten years where troubles and meltdowns have been the norm more often than not.

Winning the league last season seemed like a watershed. A point where we could put the past behind us. As I say, I’m an optimist more often than not.

Last night Aberdeen came down to Ibrox and walked away with a share of the spoils. The third time that’s happened at Ibrox in the previous four games.

Six points dropped at home. Needless points at that. Rangers should have had both previous games they hadn’t won at home won out the park by the time both Motherwell and Hearts equalised. No ifs, buts or maybes. Playing well and not winning can happen, so I wasn’t overly irritated at that point.

That changed last night though. Two down to a mediocre Aberdeen side with injuries at the back, forcing them to play a makeshift back five. After a quarter of an hour.

Shambolic defending from our own gifted the Dons an early goal. Shortly after, Scott Brown lost his marker (Tavernier) so easily and bulleted a header into the bottom corner to make it an uphill task. This is an Aberdeen team that had won one game in their last ten.

I actually couldn’t believe what I was watching, to tell the truth. That’s the eighth time Rangers have conceded the first goal of a game in twenty matches.

That gives any team a mountain to climb. Going two down when a team turns up to play for a point makes it even more challenging to break a side down when they’re playing with five at the back and with ten men behind the ball.

Rangers got straight back into it on the twentieth minute when Morelos headed in from a Tavernier free-kick.

From that moment on, I expected Rangers to kick on and take the game by the scruff of the neck. That didn’t happen. I’ve no idea what the stats were, but it’s one thing having plenty of possession; it’s what you do with the ball that matters.

Going in at halftime a goal down, I feared the worst. My main concern here is that it isn’t taking much to score a goal against this Rangers team at the moment.

Rangers aren’t defending well. The Rangers midfield doesn’t create enough. Rangers strikers aren’t scoring anywhere nearly enough goals. Rangers had one shot on target in the second half last night, and that was a penalty kick, rightfully given when ex-Ger David Bates had a hold of Fashion Sakala’s shirt and wouldn’t let go of it.

Losing too many goals and not scoring anywhere near the amount you would expect from any half decent Rangers team should be starting to ring alarm bells for all fans.

They got what they deserved out of that game last night. No more, no less. A point was all they could muster against with all due respect, a bang average Aberdeen team at home.

This season is beginning to remind me of Steven Gerrard’s first two season’s sides. Weak at the back and misfiring in front of goal. That’s a perfect recipe for being inconsistent.

What’s galling me most is there’s not a single player in those Aberdeen, Hearts or Motherwell teams that would get anywhere near our starting eleven.

Now here’s the thing. Football can and does change very quickly, but Rangers and Gerrard need to rectify this immediately. It is nowhere near good enough.

I’d like to see our manager start with his best eleven. I’d like to see a bit of pace in that team. It was crying out for inventiveness and speed in that second half. Why our manager waited till seventy eight minutes to change it has irked me big time.

I’ve been saying it for ages; this Rangers team misses Ryan Jack more than any other player. It’s no coincidence that since February, the performances have been getting gradually worse with the sporadic half decent show once every other game or so.

Ryan Kent is a big loss. His pace is essential to this team when it’s attacking. He drags the team up the park and forces defences to sit deeper. Filip Helander being injured while Nikola Katic is away on loan while Jack Simpson not being strong or good enough is also leaving us well short of cover in the backline.

This team needs freshening up. Changes have to be made, and at least Steven Gerrard knows it.

I would like to see Gerrard pick his best eleven and play it. Tavernier has had a really poor season so far, and Nathan Patterson should be hammering the manager’s door down to make his case for a starting place.

Connor Goldson has been average at best. Barisic hasn’t hit the levels he can, but for me should be playing week in week out here.

Steven Davis, although needing rested due to his age, must play as often as possible. Lundstram has been decent in recent weeks but seems prone to the odd woeful performance, aka last night.

Kemar Roofe
GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – OCTOBER 21: Leon Balogun of Rangers celebrates with team mate Kemar Roofe after scoring their sides first goal during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Rangers FC and Brondby IF at Ibrox Stadium on October 21, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images) The 4th Official uses images provided by the following image agency: Getty Images (https://www.gettyimages.de/) Imago Images (https://www.imago-images.de/)

I’m not sure Morelos and Roofe can play in the same forward three, so maybe get them playing much closer together in a two.

I am no tactician, but for me, this is quite fundamental. The 4-3-3 isn’t working, and the 4-2-3-1 isn’t much better. Something needs to change, and soon or this Rangers team will continue to drop plenty of points.

Steven Gerrard said something just before the season started where he stated that other teams and managers get used to how teams are set up. He mentioned that the formations we play might need altering. Well, now is that time for me anyway.

This team is predicable at right now. They have plenty of the ball but in the main are doing little with it while being incapable of keeping the back door shut.

As I said, football changes very quickly. This team won the league by a monstrous twenty five points last season, and during the close season, our closest rivals lost umpteen players while having to bring almost a brand new team in.

They’re now on a run. They’ve reduced the gap to just two points, so make no mistake here, there’s a title race on, and by the looks of it, it’s going to be a close run thing.

We’ve had the easier fixtures in the first quarter, well on paper anyway, so we now face plenty of tough away games.

Jack and Kent back should make a big difference but what’s grinding my gears here is there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Rangers squad is miles better than any other in the SPFL.

Time to show it. Last night was like Aribo on his own versus Aberdeen for large parts of it. It isn’t good enough, and I’m not too sure if some players are hiding or taking the easy option, but it’s time for all of them to man up. Start doing what they’re good at, and that’s working as a unit.

The gaps between the middle to the front are so obvious, and that’s not helped when midfielders are taking the ball at the edge of their own D time after time after time. Goldson and Balogun are perfectly capable of bringing the ball out. Gerrard must tell them to stop pissing about passing it square for the best part of a minute every time they have it.

Goldson has to mix it up. The continual arrowed long diagonal ball to the left is now becoming way too predictable and easy to defend against.

Kamara has to show more. He’s a top player, and he must work harder than he is at the moment, as it’s noticeable that he’s on the periphery of a lot of games right now.

I’m hoping things turn quickly and Rangers can get on a run. Football is a strange game, and all it takes is an instant for everything to be turned 180.

Two points clear after the first set of games, and being an optimist, there’s no doubt it could be a whole lot worse. But let’s be honest, the room for improvement is vast.

Now it’s on to the second set of fixtures and with so many games coming up, what I’m looking for is consistency in the performance, creativity, and to start taking our chances when we get them.

I still fancy us strongly to get over the line come May, but Rangers are in a battle to the end by the looks of it. Start games much quicker than they are doing, take the game to the opposition and fight from the first whistle. Just waiting for things to happen isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s see where we go from here, but I have concerns in the same way as the entire fanbase.

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