Rangers finally returned to action today with a slightly underwhelming win over Finnish champions HJK. Naturally the usual disclaimer of ‘it was only a friendly’ applies but nevertheless Ibrox Noise takes you through seven things we learned by full time.
1: Rangers’ defence can go from resolute and watertight to sieve-like at the drop of a hat. For all its superb shape and functioning against Celtic, today’s back four looked like they’d just met. No communication, everyone slow to react and generally a pretty poor display at the rear will have given manager Steven Gerrard a depressing lack of positive problems.
2: The formation was absolutely incoherent – marketed as a 4-3-3, packaged like a 4-4-2 but ended up being a one-dimensional 4-2-2-2 with zero width. We knew there would be an issue accommodating a front two and it bore out that way.
3: Steven Davis, albeit slightly wasted in a bizarre defensive midfield positioning, nevertheless excelled tremendously and raked wide balls out with ease while working hard to support the rear. He looked absolute class and frankly better than the player who left. Sure, it was only a friendly but he looks 100% the part.
4: HJK were grossly underestimated by many who assumed a ‘backwater’ league like the Veikkausliiga couldn’t possibly produce a half-decent side and Rangers would roll them over. Not a bit of it. They were a fine side with potent attackers and they gave Rangers a lot of problems.
5: Jermain Defoe looked very rusty at best – obviously the lad will need time but his 22 minutes of game time this season showed and the ex-England international will need matches to get up to speed. But this creates the problem as mentioned in #2.
6: Scott Arfield did his ‘goalscoring midfielder’ application no harm at all with his latest in this one – he’s not a creative player at all, but he can score, and his potency in the box is becoming a useful tool.
7: Nikola Katic showed how inept Rangers have been from set pieces and corners in his absence – literally the first corner with him on the pitch and Rangers scored from it. There has been a real lack of goals from dead balls under Steven Gerrard (and earlier) and Katic is one of the few capable of netting from them.
There’s probably a tonne more – what ones came to your minds, readers?