Wednesday, 2 January 2019

What's just changed for Steven Gerrard?



As all Bears continue to bring in the new year with more than a hint of optimism off the wave of post-Old Firm victory, we do find ourselves reflecting on how a solitary 90 minutes of football at Ibrox has changed absolutely everything with regards the title race, the league, and the level of this Rangers squad.

Rarely can we recall where one match appears to have seismically altered the shape of the title race this early in the season, in the sense that while Celtic continue, rightly, to be favourites, Rangers’ outstanding display both performance-wise and tactically on Saturday shows that Steven Gerrard’s men won’t let Brendan Rodgers have it all his own way.

But just what was it about this match exactly which nailed it so perfectly for the home side?

As we know, December had been a mixed bag, and indeed, Gerrard’s overall Rangers record is thoroughly average with a 50% win rate – with dismal results last month against Aberdeen and Hibs among others, it had hardly been great preparation going into the Old Firm derby, and few had much expectation of a win, despite Celtic’s own underwhelming form.

And yet, something had changed – from the first whistle, while Celtic flirted with some neat play early on, one weak drive goalward was all they could muster in the final third, and it was evident Rangers wanted it more, fought harder, drove harder, and increasingly dominated the match from around 15 minutes onwards.

It is true what James Tavernier said, if the players couldn’t get up for this one, there was no point them coming in for work at all, but it goes further than that.

Tactically this match was dead on – Jack, Arfield and McCrorie absolutely crushed Celtic’s midfield, never giving them an inch to breath, and that, on top of excellent defensive displays from Joe Worrall, James Tavernier and Andy Halliday (with a decent shift from Connor Goldson too) stifled any hope the visitors had of getting anything from the game.

But this points to more than just player performances – yes, Broony is still trying to find his way out of Arfield’s back pocket, but it was the system which nailed Rodgers – quite simply he was as much beaten all ends up by Steven Gerrard as his players were by Rangers’ counterparts.

High compression, never giving Celtic’s defence any room to play the pass out, stifling midfield and cutting off Lustig and McGregor (the latter being their best player, incidentally) from making any major damage – Steven Gerrard came stunningly of age in this one, setting his team out not only pressing high and constantly, but knowing when to break, when to sit back, and when to game manage.

We’ve been critical of Gerrard’s (numerous) mistakes as Rangers manager – after all, a 50% win record suggested room for improvement.

But if this tactical display from himself was an indicator of his chances of future success as a Rangers manager, he has truly learned, just as we hoped, and while he will still make errors in the future, we now know the potential is there for sure.

Steven Gerrard has done something no Rangers manager has succeeded in doing since March 2012 – beating Celtic in 90 minutes.

This IS how we measure our Rangers managers. And now it’s up to him to take this forward and use it for the rest of the domestic campaign.

It won’t be plain sailing, far from it, but the groundwork is there now, and without any doubt this Rangers team is the closest we’ve had to the real level since 2012’s exodus.

It’s getting there.

9 comments:

  1. Subbing Candeias with Coulibaly was spot on too - McGreggor and Christie were beginning to cause trouble late on. Apart from not tracking back on one occasion, Coulibaly stopped their left wing working

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    1. Must have been at a different match from me.that left wing was exposed when Candeias went off.Coulibaly looked like a headless chicken.thought it was a terrible choice of sub but after seeing the tackle from Brown on Candeias it was correct

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    2. Candeias was running out of steam i thought. I love him and he was terrific in protecting Tav, but McGreggor's off-side goal happened when he was on the pitch, not Coulibaly. Candeias is the number one pick on the right, but he had run his race, and the tactical switch was made in good time.

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  2. The Gap is Closing 👏🏻👌🏻💙
    And like was said on the night we beat Fiorentina in 2008...

    RANGERS ARE COMING!!!

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  3. If Ranger can find a way to break down those dull defence oppositions then the title is in the bag, Kilmarnock, Livingston, Aberdeen away and the rest. Once we score 1 or 2 then it will end with 4 or 5.

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    1. Starting to up our game away from home.need to kill off teams early.couple of signings and precontracts in January would be progress

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  4. Gerrard has put a new lease of life into the rangers team and the win against them is the best performance

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  5. I don’t have stats. But on how many occasions did we play with both Arfield and Jack? We need to dominate midfield. I am no a great fan of MacCrorie in midfield. Early in season Ithought Coulibiy might do job. With no Dorrans and Jack and Arfield often injured or suspended we have struggled. Candeias has been excellent but we have missed Kent. Middleton is a good youngster but that’s all. If everyone is fit we don’t need big purchases in this window. We have a long way to go but Stevie is getting it right.

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  6. Agree with Gers Global. The reason we dominated Celtic and had so many chances, is because they never parked the bus. We saw this success in Europe as well. But when we come up against the lower teams, they have it tactically correct to get points from us. Tight man for man marking, park the bus and counter attack.
    Psychologically, beating Celtic is massive for us. Now we have to be shrewd in the January window and bring in players that can get passed the parked buses.
    We also need to improve in burying our chances, because that has cost us points this season also. Winning the league is not just about beating Celtic, we have to find consistency against the rest of the league too.

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