New Rangers manager Steven Gerrard was asked on the first day of the job what style he would play.
He immediately dismissed the question both by BT’s Darrell Currie and the press conference at Ibrox by suggesting it wasn’t a priority at that time.
And that’s true – unveiled as the manager, the new boss had other commitments with Liverpool and aforementioned broadcaster to honour, as he essentially still does until Friday when he officially begins the biggest job of his life.
But nevertheless, one does really have to wonder what formation and style Gerrard might be in favour of.
Over the past few years Rangers fans have suffered as stubborn manager after stubborn manager refused to shift their philosophies – Ally’s reign, while endowed with two titles/promotions, was punctuated by a stubborn refusal to drop poor players, and a dreadful inability to give youth a real chance. His style was generally 4-4-2 but its limits became apparent in the Championship when he just did not have the players to deliver consistency.
Then Mark Warburton came in with his ludicrously stubborn 4-3-3. For 10 weeks Rangers fans thought the man was the best thing since sliced Warburtons, only for a dismal win at Dumbarton to be followed up with a devastating gubbing from St Johnstone – while promotion was still secured, the fact Hibs and Hearts both did the same thing with less resources and a lot more panache undermined the Bread Man and he’d been found out – he was destroyed in the SPL.
Next up Pedro and his equally stubborn 4-2-3-1, before he was followed up by someone else who has thankfully been almost entirely forgotten by all and sundry.
The point? To survive in the SPL, you have to be flexible – you cannot stick to one arrogant system and expect it to work. Even the great Uncle Walter did not glue himself to the one system. He often varied between 4-4-2, 4-3-3, and for bigger matches was happy to adapt different systems around a solo man up front with lots of defenders.
So what do we think Gerrard is most familiar with? In the latter years at Liverpool he played in mostly a 4-3-3 under Rodgers, with either Torres or Sturridge etc as the middle man while Coutinho was a wide man.
But he played in a variety, including 3-5-2 and 4-4-2, plus the good old 4-2-3-1.
In short, Gerrard’s choices of formation as much as personnel will be interesting – if our new manager is to be a success, he must learn from the recent past at Ibrox that there is nothing wrong with 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 etc, but there is a problem religiously sticking to them if the players aren’t good enough.
After all, Celtic have been 4-3-3 under Rodgers (of course) and swept the league. But then they have half decent players for it, as opposed to Rob Kiernan and Joey Barton.
We sense Stevie Ger will be his own man, and rather than being any sort of ‘protégé’ of Rodgers, will want to do things a bit differently.
After all he said in his own book:
“I’ve never been able to say this in public before but I was seriously concerned that we thought we could blow Chelsea away. I sensed an over-confidence in Brendan’s team talks. We played into Chelsea’s hands. I feared it then and I know it now.”
There is little doubt Gerrard deeply resents Rodgers for how that title was taken away. Yes, Gerrard did make a big mistake, but the loss to Chelsea did not lose the league – the draw at Crystal Palace was the real killer, and that had nothing to do with any mistake from Gerrard. So if anything he will be champing at the bit to get revenge on the man.
But he will want to do it by his own rules and his own ideas – and we are fascinated to see what they’ll be.