Sunday, 29 July 2018

Fifteen (yes, 15) things we noticed against Wigan...

Rangers’ final summer friendly before the entirely competitive action begins in earnest next week saw a comfortable win in a surprisingly tetchy afternoon at Ibrox where three goals and a few talking points were the name of the day.

Ibrox Noise takes you through the key issues we think we saw:

1: Rangers’ shape continues to evolve and sharpen under Steven Gerrard. The 4-1-4-1 has well and truly been abandoned in favour of a 4-3-3 for now, and it’s working quite well. The shape looked more coherent, less unnecessarily fluid, and players looked like they knew their roles, for the most part. Decent.

2: After being critical of management for playing 19-year old Ross McCrorie in defence last season, Steven Gerrard oddly slotted 19-year old Kyle Bradley in defence. And sadly the youngster drowned – in fairness to Gerrard he saw the problem and hooked him off at half time, but this was a sore one for the Academy graduate and he is not ready for this level yet. His heart was not in doubt, but his awareness, concentration, composure and reading of the game was completely underdeveloped for this kind of level. Whether he is good enough the youth coaches are better judges than us punters, but he certainly isn’t mentally ready just yet.

3: Greg Docherty had a mixed match – a disjointed first half in which he struggled to get involved at all, he improved massively in the second. He was playing in the advanced midfield position of Ryan Jack of recent weeks, and he barely touched the ball. The second half, however, was a massive step up from him, showing a bit more of what we know he can do. It may have also been due to…

4: The removal of young Bradley and introduction of colossal Croat Nikola Katic for the second half. This stabilised a slightly dysfunctional first half display and the midfield started to impose themselves much more. Almost like they trusted the rear with Katic far more.

5: Umar Sadiq enjoyed a very decent debut. A giant of a boy, he works hard, gets in good positions, and while he looks cumbersome, has neat touches and surprisingly good ball control and composure. We still can’t quite tell if his goal was his or an OG, but either way, a productive start. And it’s helped…

6: Alfredo Morelos a lot – the Colombian has had a rocket up his backside these past two matches and looks much hungrier, much more in tune, and while he still has his moments, he looks energised. He now knows there’s a real threat to his position in the form of the Nigerian, and he’s raising his level. Another fine goal for the ex-HJK man.

7: Andy Halliday, on the other hand, was pretty disastrous at left back. While Jon Flanagan didn’t have his best in Croatia, it was in a different league to the bombscare in the form of one of our own. LB just isn’t his position, and against an enterprising Wigan side, he was exposed almost as much as…

8: James Tavernier. Rangers’ captain continues to divide fans down the middle – his attacking play and assists rightly get praised, but his defending is starting to become a desperate problem. Always out of position, always outpaced, Tavernier seems to beat fullbacks with his legs in the opposing half, but their attackers frequently get the better of him. A dichotomy.

9: Glenn Middleton put in another outstanding shift. Rangers’ best player, the youngster has the lot, and looks like he has the ability to play for the country of his birth never mind Scotland. Pace to burn, trickiness, composure, a deadly cross and heart of a lion, this teenager is becoming something special and we have to say his manager is managing him well. Not too much pressure, giving him the taste, without burning him out, Middleton has the ability to go to the top of the game. Rangers have a player here who, if developed correctly and managed with care, could be worth beyond £10M in the future. We have to congratulate Mark Allen for picking him up.

10: Ross McCrorie had a far superior game with Docherty and Ejaria in support, than isolated as he was in the previous formation. Hungry, involved, and breaking up lots of attacks, McCrorie was far happier with company than on his lonesome. And speaking of Ejaria

11: We can’t quite decide about this lad. He clearly has ability, with a fluidity on the ball and a decent workrate, but that’s two matches in a row where he’s only been seen fleetingly rather than having a real impact on the match. Probably isn’t thrilled with playing deeper midfield mind you, after all he’s more of a 10 than a sort of 6 cum 8. Definitely needs a bit of nurturing though.

12: As does Ryan Kent. A bit disappointing in this one, he was really rather quiet during his cameo – maybe he wasn’t in the mood, but we need our players in the mood for every match. Kent has quality – we’ve seen that, and he definitely has the potential to excite, as Gerrard promises, but equally he is very raw and needs a polish.

13: Speaking of polish, Jamie Murphy is very, very rough at the moment. Got a cameo and did nothing with it other than wasting a golden chance, the one-time Scotland cap’s form of earlier this year is a distant memory and he looks a shadow of himself. Call us cynical old fools, but ever since he signed the permanent deal he’s been completely AWOL.

14: Meanwhile Candeias picked back up in this one – back to his normal RW position, the Portuguese looked hungry, quick, and was eager to make an impression. He has serious competition for his slot now, but looks like he’s up for the fight rather than sulking.

15: And Josh Windass’ complete absence from the squad was interesting. Not much more we can say about that!

A lot to chew through. What ones did you good folk note?

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