Defending the…defence?


Yet another article on Rangers’ defence. It really is borderline nauseating is it not; a topic that has been broached to death.

And yet, we have to admit it remains a valid and worrying subject.

2015. May. Rangers have just been morally crushed by condemnation of another year in the Championship. All season long fans consistently complained about the Mohsni, McCulloch and McGregor defence; it leaked 39 goals and that was a major component of Rangers’ failures.

2016. May. Rangers have just cruised to a Championship triumph under Mark Warburton, playing glorious football and winning the league comfortably. All season long the defence has, however, looked flaky at best, and the final stat of goals shipped? 34. Only five less than under McCoist, McCall and McDowall’s disastrous season combined.

This pre-season has seen only one new centre-back come in, and despite the rhetoric to the contrary, there appears no evidence another is on his way.

However, let us try to look beyond the numbers and analyse why Warburton’s Rangers’ defence is just such a complete shambles. Because, harsh words they may sound, it is.

The biggest problem Rangers have is Mark Warburton’s tactics; blunt truth is he plays from the middle to the front, and prioritises eight positions on the field, rather neglecting goal and the back two.

This tactic, when it works, is wonderful – it is the same system Pep’s Barcelona used to use; to press high and defend with possession. It barely matters if you have no defenders, if you have the ball it is immaterial. And Xavi, Iniesta et al used to be grand masters of keep ball, exhausting opponents by making them chase shadows.

The side effect was the vulnerability to counters – any side who could sit back, soak up, and hit on the break got real joy from facing the Catalonians (think Atletico Madrid) – and any side who executed their own tactic against them destroyed them with it (think Heynckes’ Bayern).

But mostly it was too much for 95% of teams they faced.

That is why Rangers soared in last season’s Championship. Despite simply not having a defence, that domination football overpowered opponents.

The problem is arises with the link between midfield and aforementioned defence, against the better sides. Rangers simply do not have a system in place to deal with pressure. The backline is just left to scramble when opponents counter, and knowing this weakness was a problem, Warburton put Barton more or less as an auxiliary defender – I have rarely seen a defensive midfielder play so deep.

The lack of defensive tactics made the options limited – instead of having a set system in place to deal with opponents’ possession deep in Rangers’ half, Warbs tried to resolve it with sheer numbers – and while Barton’s efforts were worthy, especially in the second half, it sacrificed his midfield influence, reducing him to defending and rarely creating. Indeed, as the match wore on, he lost the ball more often.

Rangers’ complete lack of defensive focus has not really been a problem until now; with the Ibrox men up against teams capable of regularly doing a ‘St Johnstone’, that lack of solidity between midfield and defence is going to be an issue.

Many believed the absence of a real proper defensive midfielder was the problem with Rangers’ backline last season, but it was not. It is the system, a system which inherently invokes risk, but the lack of harmony between the middle two and basically anyone else is a huge concern.

There is, naturally, time to resolve this, to tinker with the tactical approach – that is why Warbs gets the big bucks. But in 13 months nothing has manifested itself as a convincing rearguard and trustworthy defensive unit, so it will take a seismic shift in thinking to develop one.

Many fans of course have defended the opening performance and result, by citing how it is only the first game; funny how the same fans allowed last season’s opening 6-2 demolition of Hibs at Easter Road to vindicate everything about the team and the defence. Just when it suits of course…

But the truth is that WAS a good indicator as to how the season would go. Rangers were comfortable league winners despite their vulnerable rearguard.

Here is hoping Saturday’s result was not.


  1. Warburton is unfortunately a one trick pony with no flexibility in his tactics which will all regret as the season matures. We could all see last year defence was a big issue and needed strengthening and he has not done it. A big powerful striker was another requirement that he has failed to get

  2. Listen! what we all need to do is focus on the solutions and 100% sure that is what Frank, Mark and in particular big Davie are doing and also certain they will get this right. IMHO we want to watch this type of football it is wonderful to watch at times – this is almost an entirely new team give them a chance FFS. Guaranteed Frank et all have brought in some kids that the Famous Glasgow Rangers will sell on in due course for a HUGE profit etc – lets all try to be positive hear get right behind the team……. WATP

  3. Well it's as plain as the nose on ur face the defence is pish, Surely to God M&D can see it and will address it in the next few weeks.
    Also Crooks at 6'3 out after a foot Op has been a big blow as he would have made one Hell of a different defence. So him and a new CH with Wilson 3rd choice or all 3 playing in a 5-3-2 would change things completely IMO

    Thats all we have been bangin on about but no one listens to uswhats the bleedin point,
    We are piss poor at the back & it needs to be sorted out as you say MR Warburton gets big bucks for this so he should sort or [ dare i say it] go!

  5. I think people focus on one thing or the other in defence of their points.

    My argument is yes, Warburton's system means we are vulnerable at the back and yes we need a defensive midfielder and to close down quickly from the front. The defence will always be at risk of being exposed however, like with any position, you can strengthen it as much as possible.

    Wilson has proved himself a fairy poor defender. Kiernan has proved himself to be terrible. They are not up to Rangers standard no matter how you try and twist it and having 2 good defenders, while not solving the risk of exposure inherent to an attacking style of play, will go some way to providing some solidity and defensive strength those times we are hit on the break. Amoruso, Moore, Bougherra, Cuellar, Weir all of those players were simply far better than what we have now and with even one of them in place we would have a far stronger back line.

    We may not be able to pull in players like that be but we can surely find someone, ANYONE, better than the 2 we have, along with Clint Hill who looks anything but reliable.

    • Agreed. But it looks like we are only set up to do scouting in England at the moment and there isn't value for money there.

      Sooner Frank gets the overseas scouting up and running we should get some good defenders in who have the technical ability Warbs needs.

  6. Lets see how Warbs changes things tonight… We should be good for 3 or 4 goals and hopefully no injuries.

  7. Dear God … i wonder if some of you actually support Rangers, one draw and you are moaning like fuck….we lost games at the end of last season because the season was over…they struggled to get going again once it was over. If you ever played football you would know how easy this happens. Try being supporters rather than bleed the confidence of our players.

    • AG,

      Spot on my friend. I will refer back to my numerous posts from last year. The bigger the team (as in stature) the better Rangers were. We started poorly with St Johnstone, battled Kilmarnock and smashed Dundee. The defence was outstanding against Celtic, however I concede the point that top defenders to not switch off against lesser teams. I am keeping the faith, I was very disappointed with some of our fans on Saturday, this is us back in the top echelon of Scottish football, yet some people booed. Have we forgot we nearly never had a club. Let's get a grip, trust the best manager we have had in years and back the team.


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