If there is one thing that Rangers might’ve lacked in over the last eight years, it’s a pragmatic approach to tactics, lineups and formations.
Under McCoist we were subjected to a strange kind of hoofball 4-4-2/4-3-3. The notion that “we are Rangers” was supposed to be enough to carry us through every game. Look how that turned out.
Next in the door was Mark Warburton. A man that when asked what Plan B was, responded, “to do Plan A better.” That’s all well and good if you’re sporting a team of relative superstars. Which is what Rangers had in the Championship where Warburton excelled.
The players couldn’t quite compute his tiki-taka-esque football when we got to the top division. The fans also wanted something a bit more gung-ho. It wasn’t working. But more than that, Warburton was too stubborn to change his patient 4-3-3. Everyone else had him sussed.
Then along came Pedro. Another proponent of the popular 4-2-3-1/4-3-3, I don’t think Caixinha even knew what his best XI was. As such, Pedro’s Ibrox reign was over almost before it began. His time at Ibrox also left a damaging legacy at the club.
What did those three managers have in common?
What each of these manager’s Ibrox reigns have in common was an inability to change formations, to change tact, when things were going against us. We were too easy to read, from the starting XI to the tactical set-up.
Yesterday against HJK Helsinki, Gerrard started with a 4-4-2 diamond, or a 4-1-2-1-2. This accommodated Alfredo Morelos and new signing Jermain Defoe, whilst giving Ryan Kent a free role. It poses a very interesting option for Rangers.
Gerrard shifted back to the conventional 4-3-3 in the second half. This is the formation with which we have had most joy this season. It is perhaps the one Gerrard and his backroom staff will work on the most.
We have also played a 5-3-2/3-5-2 this season. It’s been slaughtered by supporters at times but it is a modern formation and one Gerrard clearly sees a value in playing. It may well just be the case of practising it – the idea of Tavernier and Barisic tearing up the right and left with Defoe and Morelos up front is tantalising.
Progressive, pragmatic approach from Ibrox staff
What we have now isn’t just a system and concept that works. But we have three formations that the team are continuously working on and tweaking. We’re evolving all the time, growing and learning. You can’t feel that same stubbornness of previous regimes. Things are progressive under Gerrard, before, our bosses were often too proud.
We also have players which can play across these formations. And the backroom staff are perpetually on the hunt for more. That always helps.
It’s a progressive and pragmatic approach which is making us a very difficult team to read. In more time it’ll also make us a very difficult team to beat.