Can Rangers switch formation?


If we overlook the increasing division regarding Mark Warburton’s position at Ibrox, and get back to plain football, the most commonly-asked query among fans is why the boss persists with a formation that clearly is not working.

Warburton has advocated 4-3-3 his entire managerial life, and has robustly defended it in his time at the helm. And to his credit it worked fairly well in the Championship, with his Rangers side coasting to promotion with room to spare.

The problem is fans’ accurate insistence it does not work in the SPL, and results and displays have borne that out. Rangers have looked static, idea-less, and incredibly predictable, seeing many supporters to press for an essential change in formation to a more traditionally-Rangers-esque 4-4-2.

This formation was used to great effect by Souness, then his successor Sir Walter, before Dick Advocaat flirted between it and 4-3-3, only for Eck to switch more permanently to 4-4-2, before PLG’s ill-fated insistence on 4-3-3 led to his demise as Sir Walter returned on his horse and restored the more familiar setup.

Even Rangers under Super in 2011 used 4-4-2 to great effect until Steven Naismith got injured and it all unravelled horribly. So surely Mark Warburton is willing to try something a bit different?

Well, there is a slight problem with Rangers going to 4-4-2. Nine of the positions are fine; the traditional back five, the striking partnership up front and the two wingers.

Rangers can easily field any four-man defence, with McKay or Forrester on the left wing and Windass or O’Halloran on the right, with Garner and Miller or Dodoo up top.

The problem emerges when Warburton looks at his midfield pool to pick his central midfield. Thinking back to Ally, he had Steven Davis and Mo Edu – the creative but strong attacking midfielder in the Irishman who could still defend a bit, and Edu, the tough enforcer who broke things up and attacked a bit.

Back further and it was Barry Barry and Albertz, or Van Bronckhorst, or Reyna. And for the slightly older Bears among you Ian Ferguson (and Derek Ferguson) with Trevor Steven filled Rangers in the middle.

Now back to the present day; Halliday, Holt and Crooks. Those are Rangers’ options right now. It is not even so much the quality of the players, and none of these stand out on that front as it is. But the simple fact none of these guys fill the attributes criteria for either of the slots needed in a two-man midfield. None are playmakers, none can put their foot on the ball and dictate flow, and none are known for being Ian Ferguson-type enforcers.
The only real candidate Rangers have is permanently injured in Jordan Rossiter, and even then it is an option which does not convince.

The problem ultimately is Warbs’ summer business. The man signed and built a 4-3-3-based squad and did not intend to use any other system – he truly believed he would be able to concoct a group of players that could handle the SPL in that formation, and was not interested in a plan B.

Hence while Rangers have the players for a 4-3-3, obviously, the more appropriate 4-4-2 is far harder to implement with the personnel Rangers have. Many might say what about a 4-2-3-1 and yes, there is a chance of that, but it critically requires Rossiter’s fitness to sit in front of the back four alongside another, and the only candidate to partner him is Crooks who clearly needs time. Neither of these are guaranteed and as such Rangers cannot gamble. The only other player Warburton can use there is Halliday and however long he ultimately plays in defensive midfield zones, he will never be a good defensive midfielder.

Then there is 4-1-4-1 but it still relies on one of Crooks or Rossiter being fit or in form, neither of which is a reality right now.

And this is the base problem; Rangers are built for a 4-3-3 – the only solution under Warburton is a new approach in January with some patriarch leaders in midfield who can give the option for a 4-4-2 or indeed other formations (this argument is separate to the one from fans demanding a better defence and strikers). Warburton put his eggs in the 4-3-3 basket but it has not worked in the SPL, and he needs other options if he is to prove myself and others wrong about his ability to manage Rangers.

It is in everyone’s best interest that he succeeds.


  1. An excellent and thoughtful insight into what is glaringly absent from today's shambles.After the Tynecastle game it should be glaringly obvious that MW has lost the dressing room. It has to be one of the most disappointing displays by any Rangers team.The lack of skill, guile, fight and guts, whatever you want to call it, character is demeaning of the jerseys. If we cannot afford skill then for heaven's sake find us a team of guile and guts. Hearts have them in abundance. No Tippy Tappy shite from them. Football isn't for choirboys so get them out of Ibrox. And that goes for Tippy Tappy managers too.Why the hell was Dodoo taken off? And did you see Rossiter stuffing his mouth with pies in the duggout.Sums up this feeble excuse for a Rangers team.There were eight or nine players on the park for Rangers who looked like they didn't want to be there. Fine let's get rid of them. Bring back Walter Smith for the rest of the season at least. He will get an immediate reaction. If not NOTHING will change if Warburton stays. And it will just prolong the agony.

  2. No harm in changing formation but I just don't think anything will work the players brought in the summer are Jst not good enough, every single player brought in in warbs rein has at least a couple of weaknesses which top players don't have, there's not a player that you say great signing very consistent solid performer, they all have to many off days but to be honest a think it's because there up against tougher opponents. I fink the consistent favouritism showed to the likes of tav,waggy,foderingham,McKay,kearnan at times when they Wer awful has maybe made him loose some of the dressing, the like of forrester,ohalloran,hodson constantly getting over looked wen more often than not coming off the bench playing well n getting us out of jail then get over looked again. Then see this changing the same subs in the front 3. Why!! We can't get into the last third to create anything need sumone to play a proper number 10 role having shots from outside box,beating players,getting the box so we have a better chance of scoring goals always out numbered in there by 4:1 . Sorry but warbs time is up dreading sat, hearts game n manky mob game team is so mediocre it is unreal.

  3. Ibrox noise a wee question for you.If as you say warburton was to go who would be your choice to be the next rangers manager??Our next manager if warburton doesn't work out has to be imo a manager who can manage a massive club,institution and has to have a very good managererial pedigree!!I've always said and i still say we judge everything when the season is over!!However,if warbs left or was sacked,we can't bring a work in progress manager in,as our next manager.We would need a big time manager ie.chris coleman,sam allardyce,jurgen klinsmann,harry redknapp,wee billy davies etc.All these managers imo are capable of being manager,of a club the size of ours and with the expectations of the fans!!So for you ibrox noise and any other bear out there,who would be your choice and why???

  4. keeper.
    Doesn't command his box at cross balls.
    Tav- can't defend going forward fine ,caught out for 2 goals last nyt.
    Kiernan- can't head ball, to slow, poor positioning always caught out with balls over the top.
    Wilson-again can't header a ball,to slow, poor positioning.
    Wallace- not kicked a ball this season again leaves us wide open with getting to far forward.
    Halliday- getting played out of position, mediocre at best.
    Holt- championship level player.
    Crooks- very slow,2nd to every ball, didn't know Wer he was playing.
    Miller- the only player this season I would give pass marks too. Playing out of position not a winger!
    Forrester- not a winger, should be playing behind strikers in number 10 role, in and out team constantly needs a chance of a run of games.
    Dodoo- very weak no strength Jst not powerful enough for the hard Scottish game . Good when he doesn't have to much time to fink.
    For me if a player is playing out of position,in n out team retrospect of form. Consistently playing even under lengthy spells of bad form, keep making same mistakes. It's all down to the management in my eyes

  5. Whilst I agree we weren't at our best last night, I certainly wont push the panic button just yet. It's clear from the AGM, we are officially now playing for second place. The board, manager and players have gave up the fight when we still have over half of the season still to play!! The manager and players have no urgency, heart or belief in themselves to compete at this level and that has been exposed since we beat shelic in the semi-final. I find it absolutely astounding that RFC from board level to a player, have gave up already and accept 2nd and 3rd is what we are fighting for. Now, personally, I would have settled with second place at the start of the season, but I never expected us to struggle so much in the early part of the season, both home and away. The management and players DON'T learn from their mistakes as they make them game after game. I'm hoping for a few quality signings in January, and get rid of those who are just not cutting it. We badly need to change our attitude into a fighting spirit on the park. Pains me to say,,, We are surrendering this season!!!

  6. A wee tad inaccurate wi the past comparisons bud mcleish played 433 mostly and successfully cos he had the players to do it,lovenkrands arvaladse and cannigga his favoured front three ,w smith in his second stint mostly played with 1 up top ,certainly against Celtic and in Europe ,433 requires better than average midfielders ,better than average forwards ,we have none which is why it doesn't work ,we have id say ok frontal players if we were change to 442 although id guess we be short a poacher unless dodoo can adapt ,but I don't think back to middle apart from Wallace we have 1 player good enough for a rangers 1st team that can compete with them at the top ,not mentioned bt king and co sat back and let him spend the little they gave him on this rubbish to the tune of 3 mill ,when king himself stated he believed it would take 30million to compete wi them at the top and also stated he would provide it before he seen the books I might add ! So while I share the view warbs is not the one we need,Ifear no changes will come I also fear unless we can shake ashlys grip the very meager investment will continue

    • Is a change in personnel needed, or the manager ?

      If personnel, then I fear the worst, because of the 'exclusives' today : allegedly, Teixeira is being lined up for a loan move to Rangers in January.
      Traynor has obviously sent the press releases out, calling him a Porto 'star' (he's never played a game for them), and pointing out that Porto are in the CL, so he's a 'European CL star' (again, irrelevant as he never features for them). Furthermore, he's a 'dynamic goal-scoring midfielder playing at the highest level', and an 'ex-Liverpool star'. He made a grand total of 2 appearances (and no goals) for Liverpool, and his 'dynamic goal scoring' came on loan out at Brighton, where he scored 6 goals in 32 league appearances.
      I mean, who the hell is responsible for actually proof-reading and some critical analysis of this nonsense, or do the journalists just copy/paste Traynor's press releases ? As soon as anyone does a few seconds of work in research, it becomes obvious that the player is being 'bigged-up' out of all proportion.
      Notably, when he left Liverpool in the summer, he was described as an 'Anfield flop'
      How to read a Traynor press release / newspaper article :

      European star : has a passport, may have taken the tour of the Bernebau
      Experienced : knees/hips/ankles/something knackered
      ex-Liverpool/ManUtd/City star : made a couple of appearances, not good enough for them, so out on his ear.

  7. If we don't change the manager immediately I fear that we won't qualify for Europe and losing the potential revenue from Europa League participation will cause a lack of investment in the first team. This will lead to it taking even longer to regain our rightful place as Scottish champions. We desperately need a change of management to someone in the Sam Allardyce mould.

    We are also crying out for a share issue that will dilute Ashley's shareholding and provide the funds for a decent manager to build a squad capable of a credible title challenge. If I was Dave King I wouldn't trust that tippy tappy embarrassment with another penny of Rangers money. Warburton must be sacked now!

  8. What a joke you lot are, see when we finish second at the end of the season everyone of you will be shouting warbs is the man, it's not the team that are surrendering it's the fans.
    Yes the teams not world beaters what did u think he was going to be able to assemble in the short period he had and little money
    There are some good individual players there that just need a wee bit longer to adjust, a turn over of approx 21 players and we're still 3rd….Whats wrong with you lot
    It's a rebuilding job for a reason, we spent 4 years in the wilderness nd what because we done it before we're going to be able to stroll upto the spl and dominate…No way, I see what warbs is trying to do and I believe it will come together
    Please ibrox noise keep this comment and re post it at the end of the season when I'm proven right…No surrender

    • Sean I think you are missing a point on Warburton.I agree there are some good individuals players but their abilities are being negated by deplorable tactics and a denial of giving some better players an even chance to hold down a place in the first team.
      Hodson was playing brilliantly until one hesitant clearance got him dropped and unseen for weeks. How many goals gets thumped in from our right back position with Tavernier 20 yards away. Tynecastle was another example of his woeful defending. Joe Dodoo wins a game, appears at the start of the next one. Does hit the back of the net and is hooked. I think a blind man can see that players really don't know the system asked of them. I think for many their confidence is shot with the manager chopping and changing.
      For me Hodson should be an ever present with Garner and Dodoo slap bang in the middle. Garner is a demon in the air.Garner and Dodoo were very unlucky not to have one apiece the other night but they need to play every game together.
      For many reasons we need new tactics that play to our player's strengths and Manager Warburton is definitely not the man for the job.

  9. None of this current crop could live with the likes of Ian Ferguson – a true legend. But on the main issue, there seems to be no inclination for Warburton to change. He is unable to adapt his tactics on the course of a game and must go. The acquisition of Barton, if it was his idea, is enough to justify Warburtons departure .

    As for McCoists failure to help dilute Ashley's influence, then the former should be stripped of any legendary status he has

  10. Is Terry Hurlock available?! I reckon, even at his age, he would show more passion!
    You have to want it like it's the end of the world otherwise…
    This team right now? They sound like a sigh…
    Hoping for change.

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