Bonnie After Clyde but Stung by Thistle

In recent days, thanks to an
eventual first away victory of the season against Clyde,
conversation among Rangers fans has been of a slightly more trivial nature with
a significant topic of discussion being the chosen attire of the manager. With
Ally McCoist recently opting for a tracksuit while on the sideline instead of
the traditional suit and tie generally expected of Rangers managers, there has
been some frivolous debate about which one fans prefer. Polling it, I found the
majority literally did not care one iota. However, the point is this particular
avenue of interest made a change from the usual arguments about the side’s
inability to win away from home; mainly because, as mentioned, having prevailed
at Broadwood, Rangers had finally broken the hoodoo.

Indeed, the first half was some
of the brightest stuff Rangers have played on their travels this season, and
while the defence looked anything but rigid, the midfield and attack worked
relatively well and certainly created chances. Indeed, 2 of them were put away
and a few more were wasted. It was a tentative sign that perhaps a modicum of
progress had been made, and while the second half was really quite poor (staple
fare for matches on our travels) the first half was encouraging.
So it was with a little
confidence that the side welcomed SPL outfit Inverness
to Ibrox in the Scottish Communities league cup, and indeed fielded a
reasonably strong team. After convincingly destroying high-flyers Motherwell in
the previous round, hopes were fairly high Rangers could reproduce that
quality, and with Andy Little, Dean Shiels and Lee McCulloch up front, the
Govan men effectively had an SPL quality strikeforce. Lewis MacLeod, Kyle
Hutton and Ian Black made up the engine room in a 4-3-3 formation designed to
be conducive to attacking play.
Unfortunately, ICT failed to read
the script and ran out completely convincing 3-0 winners, making the home side
look rather abject in the process. Queen of the South aside, Rangers have
generally looked pretty able at home against ‘lesser’ opposition – last night
was the first time the weaknesses have been cruelly exposed by a decent team.
Once again, bewilderingly,
manager McCoist left both Fraser Aird and the league’s best player Barrie McKay
on the bench. Both have been a breath of fresh air this season, with McKay
clutching at his chance with aplomb, and apparently holding down a first-team
slot with complete conviction. So it was bizarre to see he and his fellow youth
player Aird again ditched to the bench when both have been so bright.
There has been a notion from some
that McCoist is ‘keeping him fresh’ particularly in the case of McKay, to avoid
such a young player burning out. Pity this lacks the ability to hold water
given MacLeod, of similar age, has been nigh-on ever present this season.
So it was with a sense of
disappointment, frustration, confusion and slight anger that the side not only
failed to produce any real quality in the middle to front, but, glaringly,
continued to look so meagre at the back. Defence has been a sticking problem
all season, and appeared last night to be reaching a crescendo. To describe the
4 at the back as poorly-organised and nearly kamikaze would only be painting
half the picture. The central partnership of Ross Perry and Emilson Cribari can
only be viewed as two-badly parked bicycles ungamely lodged against a
lamp-post, desperately trying not to fall over on a blustery day. There is zero
cohesion, understanding, or positional sense in defence between these two, with
the Brazilian in particular looking frankly appalled at playing his football in
Perry is a ghost of the promising defender he was last season, and appears to
be unable to handle being a first team player, while Cribari lacks any basic
defending nous and is one of the poorest defenders I can recall plying his
trade at Ibrox. This defence was hugely responsible for yesterday’s defeat, but
it was not the only issue.
A further problem is the
misfiring midfield. The flat bank of 3 in Lewis MacLeod, Kyle Hutton and Ian Black
completely lacks creativity. Effectively there are 3 similar CMs playing in
tandem – one slightly more defensive in Black, but the other 2 are practically
the same player. None, bar arguably MacLeod, are putting in anything like a
useful shift in the middle and it means midfield is failing badly to supply the
attack with ammo. A midfield trio only works when each plays a separate role. Barcelona’s midfield is
magnificent due to the DM in Busquets/Song who holds, the CM in Xavi who playmakes
and feeds others, and the AM in Iniesta who ventures forward. Each perform a
specific role and it is the model for a 3 in the centre.
With all the wingers Rangers have
(Shiels, Templeton, Aird, McKay) it seems pretty curious McCoist is not
deploying a 4-4-2 formation to make use of the players he has. It will not
solve the defensive shambles, but it will lead to a more fluent flow of
football given the players would all effectively be in position. This is not to
ignore the first half V Clyde – briefly the 4-3-3 was working. But in the past
2 matches, only 45 minutes were of reasonable quality. The other 135 were
frankly dismal.
McCoist has a lot to think about.
With the win over Clyde the pressure on him
has reduced a great deal, and a win against Alloa this weekend in the Scottish
Cup would aid yet further. But for this to transpire, a change in system would
certainly help.
Unfortunately, he cannot teach
Cribari how to defend.