If there’s one puzzle about the admittedly pretty settled Rangers selection Steven Gerrard is picking these days, it’s the structure of it.
A few months now of this current formation and to this day there seems to be division/confusion over what it actually is.
When it first emerged as the preferred choice, Ross McCrorie and Ryan Jack appeared to be partnering in midfield, with Ryan Kent, Scott Arfield and Daniel Candeias supporting Alfredo Morelos as the main system.
Evidently, this was a 4-2-3-1 and it worked mostly fairly well, albeit was a work in progress.
Since the signing of Glen Kamara, though, and even in the weeks leading up to it, the lines have become a bit more blurred and we see various contradictions over whether or not it’s a 4-2-3-1 or in fact a 4-3-3. The case for the latter has definitely increased but there’s certainly discrepancy and frankly, the shape in the match does seem to change.
So which is it primarily?
Well, it does all seem to rest on Ryan Jack – when he was explicitly in defensive midfield, he and McCrorie worked in tandem, doing the gritty work together deep to leave the fancy stuff to the Ryan Kents and Daniel Candeias’s of this world.
In fact, they did it rather well, and it peaked against Celtic as both Jack and McCrorie had colossal matches. However, that match did see the start of Jack advancing forward more regularly – he did score, after all, and since then, his adventure forward has continued to progress.
Which is where the 4-3-3 then arrives. McCrorie (Now Kamara) sitting as the DM, Jack in front of him as the CM, and Arfield in the AM position with Kent LW, Candeias RW and Morelos through the middle.
There is, of course, a big problem here – if Arfield is not on his game, and let’s face it, he wasn’t yesterday, Rangers are hamstrung by a 4-3-3 without a vital part of its system. And furthermore, Arfield isn’t anything like the best attacking midfielder around – he’s a central midfielder who can score with runs into the box – creative and visionary he isn’t.
Ryan Jack has certainly improved in that area a grand amount in the past month or two, but we’re less sure about this as a long-term solution.
Stevie seems to have settled, for now, on a system which sees a 4-2-3-1 when the opponent has the ball, with Jack in particular retreating, and 4-3-3 when Rangers are on the offence.
Ultimately? Rangers still need their lockpick for a 4-3-3 – their attacking midfielder who can stay fit and open doors. Graham Dorrans isn’t the answer, nor is Steven Davis. Arfield is a fine attack minded central midfielder but he can’t thread needles. Yoann Gourcuff could but then that would be a punt.
But the end point is the formation – is it 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, both, or have we in fact got it hopelessly wrong?
You tell us.